WE Week: Nils Junge on Promoting evidence-based policy making in international development

Hello! My name is Nils Junge and I’m an independent consultant conducting policy analysis and evaluation on international development issues, including poverty reduction, water sector reforms, and environment. I often use Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA), an approach pioneered by the World Bank, for assessing the distributional impacts of reforms.

I’d like to share some tips on how to increase your evaluation’s relevance, and even promote policy dialogue, when working abroad.

In my experience, multilateral donors are often happy for evaluators to conduct their work in a way that increases its relevance, and even promotes policy dialogue and uptake of reforms, but international evaluation work comes with some challenges:

  • You may be finding yourself serving two masters – the client who commissions the evaluation (the donor) and the intended primary user (the government), with different levels of interest in the findings;
  • Navigating the inevitable cultural and linguistic differences, which may have a distancing effect; and
  • Getting counterparts to share data may be difficult.

Hot Tip #1. Build trust with country counterparts. This is critical to maximizing the impact of your work. Trust comes through frequent meetings, demonstrations of reliability, and openness, e.g. share your methodology, questionnaires, and preliminary findings. If the policy or program you’re evaluating is controversial, expect there to be adversarial stakeholders. Talk to them, too!

Hot Tip #2. Encourage formation of a working group, composed of government, civil society, and private sector stakeholders. The group would meet several times to oversee the evaluation, receive the results, spread the word to their respective organizations, and (ideally) feel some ownership over it.

Hot Tip #3. Your outsider status can be an advantage. While you may be unaware of cultural nuances, you will be seen as detached from the country’s politics. Your distance from local is often valued by counterparts.

Hot Tip #4. Just because you don’t see the impact, it doesn’t mean you haven’t made a difference. Remember that no matter how hard you try, the influence of your evaluation will remain largely outside your control, given the many competing factors which determine policy. A lot evaluation work involves seeding ideas, many of which only bear fruit in the long term.

Rad Resources: Check out the Guidance Note: Enhancing In-Country Partnerships in PSIA and explore the World Bank’s webpage. Although specific to the World Bank, many of the lessons and discussions have broad applicability.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from WE Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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