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Theme update – summer 2018

It’s been a busy start to 2018. Here, each of our technical themes gives us a quick insight into what their highlights have been so far...


Education theme continues to grow

Over the past six months, Itad’s Education theme has welcomed Maria Pomes-Jimenez as a principal consultant and Ignacio Torrano as an analyst. As a team, we are working on a number of interesting projects, the largest of which is our evaluation of the Global Partnership for Education’s country-level portfolio. We co-lead the evaluation, which includes 30 country case studies – read our inception report here.

In March, our theme lead, Rachel Outhred, presented a paper on the future of educational research at the Comparative and International Education Society conference in Mexico and published as co-author the UNESCO Institute of Statistics Handbook on measuring equity in learning. The handbook was accompanied by two blogs, including by the UNESCO IS Director and by the authors themselves on the Global Partnership for Education website.


Sharing knowledge on climate resilience

Our Climate Change theme has had a very busy six months, starting up an exciting new project with the World Bank and continuing to deliver work on a number of others.

As part of our work within the BRACED programme’s Knowledge Manager, we published two impact evaluations, one on ‘Measuring changes in resilience as a result of the SUR1M project in Niger’ and the other on ‘Measuring changes in household resilience as a result of BRACED activities in Myanmar’. Both were conducted using a quasi-experimental design that aimed to understand whether the resilience of the households, communities and organisations has been strengthened. Our work with BRACED will continue as it moves into BRACED X, which brings an additional policy-influencing aspect to the programme.

The theme has also been busy sharing learning with the wider resilience MEL community. We will be at the European Evaluation Society conference in October, convening discussions with resilience actors such as CIFF, GRP, Oxfam GB and Practical Action, so please come and see us if you’re there!


Thought leadership within Private Sector Development

Itad’s Private Sector Development theme has been busy working across a range of projects and methodologies. We recently completed our midterm evaluation of DFID’s West African Food Markets programme – this included a process evaluation and a series of baseline case studies using a realist methodology (our Realist Evaluation learning group will be exploring this in more detail over the coming months, so watch this space!). We also completed the Good Energy Foundation’s first-ever evaluation, looking at a multi-year programme focused on incubating climate-smart business to overcome poverty-driven deforestation.

We’ve been sharing lessons at conferences and participating in seminars. At the UKES 2018 conference, we joined Itad colleagues in discussions about using realist evaluation and on our experiences of being a ‘learning partner’. At the DCED Results Seminar in Nairobi in February, we shared learning on results measurement and market systems development.

We were a sponsor of SG2018 in Kigali in May, where we launched our ‘Savings Count’ report on current trends in savings in Sub-Saharan Africa, and facilitated a session with one of our MasterCard Foundation Savings Learning Lab partners, Care Canada, looking at lessons from their Power Africa project.


Expanding our anti-corruption work and helping development agencies work adaptively

The Governance theme recently completed an evaluation of DFID’s anti-corruption programming in the Caribbean, providing recommendations that will help inform future programming decisions and sharing learning on how building institutional capacity can contribute to reducing corruption. Following on from this successful assignment, and complementing our ongoing work on strengthening citizen’s resistance to corruption, we have recently been awarded a contract to evaluate DFID’s support to the Eastern Caribbean regional security system’s asset recovery unit.

The theme continues to be a thought leader in MEL for adaptive programming and recently delivered a webinar for the Swiss Development Corporation on this topic. We were invited by GIZ to present on problem-driven approaches at their annual governance and conflict symposium in Potsdam, drawing on our ongoing work for ARC, ECP and SPACE, and research we are carrying out on social and political action.


Supporting MEL across the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund

Itad’s Fragile and Conflict-affected States (FCAS) team has had an exciting last six months. We are now a team of eight full-time staff, having recently welcomed George Bowles, Libby Bligh and James Hodgson to the team, and we have mostly been focusing on providing evidence and learning support to the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) across more than 20 countries in Eastern Africa, Middle East and North Africa.

We are very excited to have just been awarded the contract to provide evidence and learning services to CSSF teams across North Africa. This builds on recent support to the North Africa Joint Unit in strengthening strategic fit across the portfolio, as well as an evaluation of BBC Media Action in Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

Our work for CSSF in Eastern Africa has continued to support CSSF teams across the region strengthen programme design including theories of change and results frameworks, develop innovative approaches to data gathering and analysis, and strengthen the use of evidence to inform decisions and learning.

We have also recently completed an evaluation of UNHCR’s role as Cluster Lead Agency for the Global Protection Cluster and are currently conducting the first-ever evaluation of the coverage and quality of UNICEF humanitarian action in complex humanitarian situations.


Convening discussions on learning in global health

The health theme recently broke new ground at Itad when we hosted a ‘Global Health’ open day, which brought together MEL practitioners to reflect on what the increased emphasis on ‘learning’ means for us all as evaluators. The day sparked some interesting discussion and brought together programmers, evaluators and consultants from across our network. It was great to see so many people making the trip to Brighton – read our blog to find out more.

We’ve continued to consolidate our work in sexual and reproductive health. The Adolescents 360 evaluation has completed their baselines in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria – you can find them all on our dedicated A360 evaluation landing page, which features the reports, summary infographics, blogs and more.  We are also working on two evaluations for the ELMA Foundation, focussing on paediatric and adolescent HIV treatment and care – find out more here. Our global evaluation of UNICEF’s approach to health systems strengthening is in its second year, and our final findings will be available from January 2019 onwards.


Understanding global gender planning

Itad’s Gender theme is working on a number of projects aimed at strengthening programming for the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

Our evaluation of UN Women’s Contribution to Governance and National Planning is a global corporate evaluation that explores UN Women’s achievements in the area of gender-responsive budgeting and gender-responsive policy and planning at global and country levels. We’re looking at 17 countries and have conducted case studies in five – Albania, Ecuador, Palestine, Timor Leste and Uganda – as well as looking at UN Women’s influence on global normative frameworks more widely – we’ve completed the inception and data collection phases, so we’re now knee-deep in data analysis!

As part of our work within DFID’s Gender and Adolescence Global Research (GAGE) programme, we are measuring the cost-effectiveness of interventions to empower adolescent girls. Our recently-produced think-piece called for a bespoke value for money assessment approach to grapple with the realities of quantifying value for money in women and girls empowerment.  We’re also about to kick off a new piece of work intended to inform GAGE – something with a completely different focus – a synthesis of international experience of working with men and boys to enable girl’s empowerment.

We’ve been putting the final touches to two key Voices for Change (V4C) knowledge products, the Attitudes, Practices and Social Norms (ASPN) Survey endline report which presents the attitudinal and behavioural changes occurring amongst young people in the programme’s four target states, and the programme’s contribution to these changes.  As one of a handful of longitudinal surveys exploring changes in social norms, it is a unique piece of work, which we hope will inform future efforts in this area.  In addition, we’ve finalised a paper which summarises the results achieved by V4C – where we’ve done well and where we’ve done not so well.  It draws on the APSN, but also a rapid qualitative study into how change has happened through V4C.  It offers important insights into how social norms change can be generated at scale.  Both papers will be available in the next few weeks on the V4C and Itad websites, so watch this space!


Exciting new work and expansion of the Social Protection and Livelihoods theme

The WASH team recently started work on ‘ASWA II’, a contract over four years to provide independent monitoring and verification services to DFID of UNICEF Accelerating Water and Sanitation for All (ASWA) programme extension. We will be monitoring UNICEF’s performance across 10 countries in the coming years, which will supplement our ongoing support to DFID on monitoring and verification under the WASH Results Programme (WRP).

In a few weeks’ time, Joseph Thompson will join the Social Protection and Livelihoods (SP&L) theme as an analyst. He has a WASH-related academic background and in his new role, he will be supporting both our SP&L and WASH projects.

We have had a great start to the IFAD- funded AVANTI project. In up to 20 countries, the project is set to assist government ministries working in agriculture and rural development self-assess their M&E capacity and develop work plans to improve their ability to measure against the SDGs. You can find out more about this project at the AVANTI website.

The endline evaluation report for the Adaptive Social Protection programme in the Sahel (part of our work on BRACED) was well received by DFID and it is currently being used to inform the design of the follow-on programme, in collaboration with the German and French aid agencies.


Impact Investing theme launched!

Since January 2018, the Impact Investing theme has been very busy with the delivery of our growing portfolio of work.

We officially launched the theme in May 2018, where we reported on some status updates in the portfolio for our Argidius Foundation evaluations, the Dutch Good Growth Fund baseline-endline evaluation and the CDC Longitudinal Study on mobilising private capital. Since then we have launched the Nesta Impact Investments Impact Strategy Audit report and completed two further evaluations for Argidius Foundation of non-financial intermediaries’ support to small growth businesses: GrowthAfrica and Intellecap. Now that the portfolio delivery is calming down a little, we are working towards building new client and partner relationships for our next phase of work, so please do reach out to us if you are a potential client, organisational partner, or consultant looking for solutions in MERL for innovative finance and impact investing!


Understanding organisations and their impact

Our Organisational Effectiveness theme has had a busy start to the year, with lots of interesting work under our four key workstreams:

Organisational learning and performance management. Under this workstream, we evaluate, design and support the implementation of organisation-wide systems that generate high quality and timely evidence that informs decision making and supports adaptation and improvement. We recently completed an evaluation of the Norwegian Aid Administration’s Practice of Results-Based Management, to understand how RBM works in practice within the aid administration and explore what impact it has on how resources are allocated and on the organisations that receive grants.

Evidence-informed decision-making and research impact. Through our monitoring, evaluation and learning services we support funders and implementers maximise the impact of their research and help build the capacity of decision-makers to use evidence. Our evaluation of BCURE found that there are three ways of working that underpinned success in building capacity for evidence use – thinking and working politically, accompanying rather than imposing change and working at multiple levels of the system. Success also followed when BCURE managed to activate a combination of change processes that led to changes in skills, attitudes, behaviours and systems.

 Capacity development. We are using our understanding of the factors that need to be in place to support uptake and impact of capacity development initiatives to develop and apply M&E capacity frameworks to support advocacy organisations collect and use the information they need to assess performance, make decisions about their work and be accountable to their funders and stakeholders. Underpinning the capacity mapping and support is ownership by the grantees of their development – we accompany MLE development rather than drive it, and consider proportionality to ensure that our approach is appropriate to the capacity of the grantee. Recognising that MLE for advocacy is different from MLE for other types of programmes, we have developed a tailored, adaptive approach that reflects that need for MLE to enable rapid course correction, to inform professional intuition with good quality data and to be nimble to that it can be used actively to inform real-time decision-making to improve strategies.

Policy advocacy. Across a range of funder portfolios, we have developed and applied a robust approach for evaluating the contribution of advocacy initiatives to policy and financial outcomes. Through applying contribution analysis, we are determining the key factors in policy change and financial decisions for specific issues, and then building up a story of the extent to which the funder’s investments have made a contribution to these factors. This can help funders to focus their investments and can help advocacy organisations to focus on the tactics they are employing which make the biggest contribution to change.