AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Aug/18

7

Assessing the Feasibility of Conducting a Retrospective Impact Evaluation by Larry Dershem, Ashley Bishop, and Brad Kerner

Greetings! We are Larry Dershem (Senior Advisor, Research & Evaluation), Ashley Bishop (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Advisor), and Brad Kerner (Senior Director, Sponsorship Program) working for Save the Children (SC), which is an international relief and development organization that seeks to ensure children survive, learn, and are protected internationally and in the US.

A retrospective impact evaluation (RIE) is an ex post evaluation of an evaluand to assess its value, worth, and merit, with a special focus on examining sustainability of intended results as well as unintended impacts. However, due to resource constraints, international development donors and organizations cannot afford to conduct many RIEs, limiting our ability to truly understand longer-term outcomes and impacts after the closure of a program. Save the Children’s sponsorship programs are currently investigating the feasibility of conducting RIEs in order to optimize learning from scarce resources.

With invaluable consultation from E. Jane Davidson (RealEvaluation) and Thomaz Chianca (independent consultant), we developed a RIE Evaluability Scoping Guide to assess the feasibility of conducting an RIE. The RIE Scoping Guide assesses 24 issues categorized into the following four dimensions: 1) Internal Stakeholder Support, 2) External Stakeholder Support, 3) Availability of Evidence & Documentation, and 4) Context. After program staff review, discuss and score each of the 24 issues, a tally of the scores indicate which of the four feasibility categories best describes the feasibility of a RIE.

RIE Feasibility Categories

RIE Feasibility Categories descriptions

To date, five sponsorship programs implemented for 10-years, and ended 5 to 9 year ago in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Ethiopia, have been assessed. All five programs are either “Adequately Evaluation Ready” or “Fully Evaluation Ready”; therefore, in the next year SC plans to commission at least one RIE. The RIE Scoping Guide will be presented during a demonstration session at the AEA 2018 annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, October 28 – 3 November.

Lesson Learned:

  • To avoid confusion, be clear with program staff that an evaluability assessment of a program is NOT an evaluation of a program.
  • For program staff to clearly asses the evaluability issues under the 4 dimensions, each issue should have a short description and set of questions to be answered.

Hot Tips:

  • Having specific dimensions and issues that are critical for a RIE to be feasible after a program has ended allows staff to incorporate these issues into the program from the beginning.
  • SC has established an optimal window of 5-10 years after completion of a program to conduct a RIE which allows for longer-term impacts to occur but not too long to limit the number of confounding factors.

Rad Resources:

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