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impact assessment

Evidence for better-informed decisions and more inclusive policies

Simona Palummo's picture
 Arne Hoel/World Bank
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
Why do we need evidence?
 
The sustainable development agenda adopted by world leaders in September 2015 set a series of ambitious goals to end poverty, ensure equal economic growth, and tackle climate change by 2030. Rising inequalities, especially in developing countries, remind us that if we want to achieve these goals, we need more inclusive policies which consider the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
 
Policymakers are constantly trying to identify better solutions to address global challenges, and that implies considering different policy options, and making a choice that can benefit each group of the population, which sometimes is extremely difficult. Even well-designed policies might have adverse impacts, particularly on the poor and the most socially excluded groups. That is why we need evidence to support better policy decisions, and that’s when Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) gets in the picture. What is exactly PSIA? The World Bank defines it as “an approach to assess the distributional and social impacts of policy reforms on the well-being of different groups of the population, in particular the poor and vulnerable.”

Impact Assessment Meets the Market

David McKenzie's picture

Rigorous impact evaluations are one of the most important tools we have for understanding “what works” in development. Impact evaluations compare the outcomes of a program or policy against an explicit counterfactual of what would have happened without the program or policy. This kind of evaluation has been gaining more recognition recently, particularly since Esther Duflo, a professor at MIT and a pioneer in this field, received the prestigious John Bates Clark Award. But her work and that of others in the field has focused primarily on health and education. That is starting to change, with finance and private sector development finally getting their due.

In a recent overview paper, I examine why impact evaluations have been slow to occur in the areas of finance and private sector development, and provide examples of successful cases where it has occurred. I suggest key barriers to their use, including (1) a lack of experience with these methods by operational staff working in these fields; and (2) a perception that many of the policies being implemented are not amenable to evaluation.