By Leticia Donoso
Putting together a development project is both exhilarating and exhausting. Sometimes, when the negotiation stage is behind us, the project is being implemented, and all that’s left to do is the final reports, we are obligated to take a retrospective look back and ask a basic question: What was the development objective we were trying to achieve? What result were we trying to obtain? And finally, did we improve the lives of the population we were trying to serve? What did we learn?
The best way to assure ourselves that we have a response to these questions is to formulate them well before it is necessary to submit project completion reports. More specifically, it is essential to formulate the questions when we design the project. Knowing clearly what type of project is going to be financed and what actions are going to be taken and why are key aspects to be able to evaluate a project and learn from it.
Since 2011, the Inter-American Development Bank, through its Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness (SDP), has taken on the challenge of strengthening project evaluation capacity in Latin America and the Caribbean. To date, the IDB has led more than 45 workshops on the design of impact evaluations, working through the process from the design steps for the project up through implementation in order to strengthen project evaluation frameworks. This initiative has come to fruition thanks to the joint efforts of IDB evaluation specialists and external academic consultants who support the project teams in this important task.
One event that has become one of the most important courses offered by the IDB is Impact Evaluation Design Week. Last fall, in response to an invitation from the Caribbean Group Country Department (CCB), nine IDB evaluators arrived in Kingston, Jamaica to facilitate an English edition of this workshop directed to more than 65 participants from The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Suriname. The week-long workshop allowed IDB and government counterparts to prepare the design of an evaluation for each of the 10 IDB operations selected for the course.
The 10 participating projects were nominated by the IDB Country Offices in each of these countries, and they cover a variety of sectors, including road repairs in Barbados, strengthening security in Jamaica, and improvements in maternal and child health in Guyana, to name just a few. IDB staff and government counterparts joined forces to apply the lessons learned to their projects. At the end of the week, they put forth impact evaluation proposal adapted to the specific circumstances of their operations.
Participant Latoya Clarke of Jamaica stated that she felt better able to apply the methods learned in her own work, including IDB tools (such as the Evaluation Portal) that she had not even previously known about. Other participants noted that the practical learning approach gave them an opportunity to work with an experienced team of evaluators on real-life cases.
In addition, as is typical of these courses, the specialized IDB staff who led the workshop learned even more than the participants about the diversity of the portfolio of projects in the Caribbean, ranging from an intelligent traffic light system that will help citizens save 40 percent in gasoline consumption to apps designed to report crimes in order to improve community policing.
After what was a very intense week, the teams presented their design proposal and received feedback and comments from their colleagues and instructors. In sum, the workshop represented an opportunity to construct an impact evaluation case, and to reflect on the development results that the projects aim to achieve and on how to go about measuring those results. This in turn, continues to build a culture of evaluation in our region and increase the body of knowledge that we need to adopt evidence-based public policies.
About the author
Leticia Donoso works as a consultant on impact evaluation in the Inter-American Development Bank at the Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness.