I recently read an interesting article that sets forth strategic options for increasing the effectiveness of impact assessments, not just from a methodological standpoint, but also in terms of implementation.
The article specifically deals with China and the valuable experience of the Rural Education Action Project of Stanford University, which is collaborating with the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy.
Beyond details relating specifically to China, it is worth considering the article’s five strategic propositions and how they could be applied to other geographical areas such as Latin America. The propositions are as follows:
1) Numbers do not lie. Experimental or quasi-experimental methodologies are the best way to establish causality. For example, the results of a randomized experiment can establish if a policy is achieving its intended results and whether it can be used to transform a pilot project into a larger scale project.
2) Seek collaboration. It is critical to enlist a broad network of experts to assist both in designing and implementing the project.
3) Ensure political relevance. Impact assessments should not only be politically acceptable, but also suitable for use by policy makers to modify existing policies or propose new ones.
4) Proceed in small steps. An incremental focus can be very effective. There are many examples of projects that started at the pilot level and were later transformed into initiatives affecting large populations.
5) Reach out and disseminate. The general public needs messages with minimum technical detail. Similarly, the policy implications of an impact assessment must be communicated to politicians in language that is direct and concise. This can be achieved through outreach publications, training programs, and the use of mass media.