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Improving Democracy Assistance: Building Knowledge through Evaluations and Research
personnel on the ground to assess the feasibility of actually implementing in practice the evaluation methodologies outlined in the previous chapter. The first part of this chapter presents the results of those field visits. The second part provides responses to the most commonly raised objections that the committee and its field teams heard expressed about the use of randomized evaluations in DG programs.
Before turning to the details of what the field teams found, it is important to highlight a clear and consistent message that came through from all three field visits. All three teams concluded, first, that the introductionof randomized evaluations into USAID project evaluation was both feasible andcost-effective in many of the contexts they investigated. They were unanimous that, where possible, adopting such methods would represent an improvement over current practices. Second, they reported that, for projects whererandomized evaluations were not possible, other improvements to USAID evaluation—for example, improved measurement, systematic collection of baseline data,and comparisons across treated and untreated units—also have the potential toyield significant improvements in the agency’s ability to attribute project impact. These issues are discussed in Chapter 7. Finally, the teams returned from the field energized by their interactions with mission staff and confident that a willingness, and even excitement, exists about improving the quality of project evaluations. The teams were also impressed with some of the work already being done as part of current project monitoring, in particular in the broadening of measurement strategies beyond project outputs to include an assessment of outcomes.
FIELD VISITS TO USAID MISSIONS
As a complement to the deliberations in Washington and extensive engagement with USAID staff and implementers, the committee felt strongly that its recommendations should be informed by a set of extended field visits to USAID missions. The committee therefore identified a set of missions, representing a diversity of regions, that were engaged in substantial programming on DG issues and were in the process of designing large, new projects in one of USAID’s core DG areas (rule of law, elections and political processes, civil society, and governance). From the list of missions provided, USAID explored the willingness of the missions to host the team and consider new approaches to project evaluation. After negotiating issues of timing and access, USAID and the committee agreed to send field teams to Albania, Peru, and Uganda. The field visits were intended to accomplish three main goals:
to better understand current strategies used for project evaluation, including approaches to data collection;