From Evidence to Action: Measuring Impact to Improve Development Decisions

In June, TechnoServe and the Center for Global Development convened a public event to discuss key questions affecting billions of aid dollars and the ability of development initiatives to deliver on our missions: How do we translate our data into better prospects for the world’s poor?

There is a lot of development data out there – initiatives across organizations collect regular metrics to gauge their efficacy and impact. But after the project ends and results are finalized, how is this data translated into better development decisions – and better outcomes? Surprisingly, while development donors and implementers talk a great deal about creating lasting, long-term change, outcomes are almost never measured once the project ends, complicating the sector’s ability to improve upon our work or to ensure its sustainability and scalability by making data-based management decisions.

In June, TechnoServe and the Center for Global Development (CGD) convened an impact forum to address this gap, and to discuss key questions that affect our ability to improve livelihoods for the world’s poor: How do we compare cost-effectiveness across a wide spectrum of projects? What would development look like if long-term impact studies were a part of every project design? How do we leverage rigorous findings of impact to scale successful projects?

These are conversations that we have long held within TechnoServe. We are proud of our impact, and believe that investing in rigorous approaches for measuring impact, including randomized controlled trials and external impact audits,allows us to stay accountable to our promise to be the most effective catalyst and partner for market-based solutions to poverty – both for the enterprising women and men we work with, and for the donors who make our work possible.

Moreover, we want to ensure that our work is not just impactful, but that it’s also sustainable and cost-effective. That’s why we are keen to undertake ex-post evaluations (where we’ve revisited projects years later to document lasting improvements for the farmers and entrepreneurs we worked with) and we calculate a return on investment for each project, assessing the dollar value we’ve helped our clients earn for every dollar we spent.

But while we can certainly learn from our successes and failures in order to improve how TechnoServe supports the people we work with, moving forward as a sector to identify the most effective and sustainable approaches to reducing poverty will require a much broader base of data and knowledge than is currently available. Which is why we partnered with CGD to get the conversation started.

Through panel and debate-style sessions, representatives from TechnoServe, CGD, and a diverse set of donors, development practitioners, and corporate entities – including the U.S. Agency for International Development, AB InBev, and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, among others – tackled these questions and came together around a call to increase investment in measurement.

Speaking on a panel, TechnoServe President and CEO William Warshauer called for this event to be only the start of a crucial conversation within the development sector. Emphasizing TechnoServe’s continued interest in advocating to put improved measurement on donors’ agendas, he said, “There’s still a real gap between the rhetoric and reality [of impact evaluation] so I’m really looking forward to the continuation of [these] discussions, so we can continue to close that gap between evidence and action.”

Listen the full event here, including a debate featuring three expert viewpoints on the best models for bringing a successful project to scale.

And learn more about TechnoServe’s investment in external evaluations.