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NGOs What do DFID wonks think of Oxfam's attempt to measure its effectiveness? Final (for now) evaluationtastic installment on Oxfam’s attempts to do public warts-and-all evaluations of randomly selected projects.
So while Oxfam’s results are interesting, more importantly the transparent process must be applauded. Theories of change are good for understanding the program, for schematics and great communication tools too. Do: Set one up and ensure everyone who needs to, knows the theory of change along with risks and assumptions.
Do: Put together a set of standard operating procedures for collecting information on process indicators.
Do: Write and revise and revise a standard operating procedure manual till you have it pat. Do: Have a management information system that also includes algorithms for quality checks and have a full time person doing data review. Do: Use rigorous surveys in implementation sites and in control sites (and get someone who knows how to do them.
Do: Use and write a field operations manual, write standard operating procedure manuals for data managers that contain range and logic checks for data, and, encourage double data entry. Do: Ensure that everyone in the delivery chain understands and sees this template the same way. Evidence is required for policy making but most policy makers are looking to affirm (and not inform) their opinions (as a recent article in Time says.
Change the institutional incentives: Oxfam is on its way, but will program managers on the ground really adopt this culture change or will it continue to be top down? This is a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of ‘From Poverty to Power’.

Map of observed admissions compared to expected (according to age and sex profile of patients).. Funding: This project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in addition to support from Dr Foster Intelligence (DFI) and an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (1851 Royal Commission). Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
This Briefing Paper summarises ODI’s work on understanding how policy processes operate in the real world, as part of its mandate to inspire and inform policy and practice that lead to the reduction of poverty. The paper condenses five years of work into six key lessons that are essential to any researcher or organisation wishing to generate evidence-based policy change, and an eight-step approach for policy entrepreneurs wishing to maximise the impact of research on policy. Research to Action (R2A) is a website catering for the strategic and practical needs of people trying to improve the uptake of development research. About UsResearch to Action (R2A) is a website catering for the strategic and practical needs of people trying to improve the uptake of development research, in particular those funded by DFID.
We have structured the site and populated it with material that we think will be immediately useful to this audience, but also to development researchers in general who would like to be more strategic and effective in their communications. Implementing agencies rarely make an impassioned plea for evidence and rigor in their evidence collection, and worse, they hardly ever publish negative evaluations. But as I read these documents, it was deja vu… In the initiatives that used quasi-experimental methods I was struck by Oxfam’s acknowledgement that they didn’t know the ‘why’ of some of the results. What can an organization do to answer questions I (and it) have and not wring its (collective) hands regretfully later? Additionally anevidence-based theory of change can help you decide where you need most investigation, where a process evaluation is sufficient, where a counterfactual analysis of outcomes is required and where a simple tracking of indicators is useful. This should contain information on frequency of collection, identify data sources (clinics, households, schools), specify respondents (teachers, nurses, women, children…) and clearly elucidate methods for calculating indicators (even for simple indicators such as enrollment rates).
Systematically documenting implementation factors, and putting together a protocol which contains questions that are relevant to informing all stages of the evaluation.

This post perhaps reveals more about the rigid (yes rigid, not rigorous) thinking of the evaluationistas (?) than the NGOs it parodies and preaches to. Its really to try and address the often seen frustration *within* organizations as they deal with multiple reporting demands simultaneously, whether its reporting impact and effectiveness, sustainability, process monitoring indicators, cost effectiveness and efficiency or perceptions of (different) stakeholders. ODI’s Research and Policy in Development programme (RAPID) helps other organisations, and ODI itself, lock together high quality applied research, practical policy advice, and policy-focused dissemination and debate. For the ones that used qualitative methods (the humanitarian portfolio, citizen’s voice and policy influencing), I kept asking myself, how much did they do better by? Here’s my five point list for what all NGOs should think about before setting up an M&E system (or even after setting it up).
There should be a list of performance monitoring indicators that speak to different sectors (four in the case of Oxfam). This is where participatory methods, focus groups, observational scrutiny, process research should come in, and also inform your theory of change. The goal of the commentary to really present something operationally useful to not just NGOs but organizations.
You are absolutely right in this sense that the predominant trend in this context has become reporting, although I dont think its limited to demonstrating value for money.
RAPID also ensures organisations have the skills, capacities and networks necessary to engage successfully in policy discussions. Asking and understanding why will always come second in this world of glorified accountancy. The whole field of evaluation has otherwise become unwieldy with different demands being made at different points in time.

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