I am writing from Seoul, where I participated in the Economic Development and Impact Evaluation conference organized by the Korea Development Institute. Korean officials at the conference had a consistent and forceful message: aid works.
Listening to the officials, it was hard not be convinced. Korea, once a recipient of foreign aid, now grants aid to others. Officials at the conference said they saw their story as proof that aid can help a country turn itself around and emerge into the league of wealthy nations. And now, officials said it is time to give back to the world by being an active donor.
Like a growing number of donor nations, Korea recognizes that impact evaluation as a critical component of their platform as a donor. This is forceful and positive news. We have long said that learning what works is necessary to make sure aid is effective. Impact evaluation, of course, is also about ensuring – or promoting – good governance. For many developing countries, the public sector is the key delivery method for services, ranging from education to health and jobs training, and so when we talk about what works, we are also talking about what makes for good, effective governance.
At this conference, I heard a consistent message: Korea needs to expand its research capacities in the area of impact evaluation to match the expansion of its aid program. To support this process, the Human Development Network of the World Bank will co-sponsor a one week training workshop on impact evaluation with the Korea Development Institute the week of December 6. Following the well-established model we have used to train close to 2,000 people on impact evaluation methods, the workshop will involve participants from Korea and from a range of East Asian countries.
Meanwhile, back at conference in Korea, I also attended sessions looking at impact evaluations of education and health programs. It is very rewarding to see some of the Bank’s work being presented, including the study of teacher incentive programs in India’s Andhra Pradesh, which will be presented by Karthik Muralidharan; and the pay for performance in health scheme in Rwanda, presented by Paul Gertler.
Both of these evaluations approach some of the critical governance issues, such as how to improve incentives for performance to public sector workers, that developing countries face. The projects illustrate how we can build an evidence-based approach – as opposed to a faith-based approach – to governance reforms. It was gratifying to see how interested participants at the conference were in our new impact evaluation work.