The answer is not as straightforward as you may think. We had to figure it out whilst working on two evaluations for DFID, one of its gender policy – the Strategic Vision for Girls and Women, and the other of its Empowerment and Accountability policy. We needed to understand how these policies are reflected in DFID projects, and we also wanted to put the information in an online database, so that anyone who is interested can also see what DFID has funded in the two areas.
DFID has no way of identifying the full set of Empowerment and Accountability and Strategic Vision projects that it supports. Like many aid agencies, it does use a gender marker to identify whether gender equality is a focus of its projects, but as is often the case, it’s not used consistently, so the data is not reliable. The Strategic Vision for Girls and Women also has a more specific purpose, which isn’t exactly the same as targeting gender equality, so our first task was to come up with a way of identifying relevant projects ourselves.
The two policy areas of Empowerment and Accountability and the Strategic Vision for Girls and Women are complicated. In a nutshell, for DFID, Empowerment and Accountability means that poor people have a voice in decision making at all levels, choice through access to services, and the money and information, to take control over their lives. Meanwhile, DFID’s Strategic Vision seeks to empower girls and women, enabling them to have ‘voice, choice and control’. For the purposes of our evaluation, we also needed to add some other criteria for projects to be included or excluded from the database. For example, the two policies were launched in 2011, so we were only interested in projects that were active after this.
To populate our database, we searched all DFID projects that had been approved since 2010 – 2,379 in total. A team of 4 research assistants worked on this over 4 months, supervised by the evaluation team. DFID’s external database – Development Tracker, and internal database – QUEST – were searched, and we also recorded key information on the projects and uploaded documents. Another team of 8 research assistants worked on this over 9 months. All in all, a fair amount of people and lot of time was needed to find out what DFID has funded in the area of Empowerment and Accountability and Gender Equality!
We used EPPI Reviewer software to hold the database of 529 relevant projects, since it was specifically created for this type of job, is really intuitive and offers great support. Why not take a look at the infographics that show what DFID has funded under Empowerment and Accountability and the Strategic Vision, or explore the database yourself!
It may seem surprising that we had to complete such an enormous amount of work to find out the projects DFID has supported through its Empowerment and Accountability and Strategic Vision policies, but the challenges for DFID and other aid agencies in creating a nimble project management system are real. Policies often change, but it is much more difficult to modify an organisation’s internal management information system. This presents accountability challenges, as organisations cannot comprehensively say what they have done as a result of a particular policy commitment. However, we are pleased that in the case of Empowerment and Accountability and the Strategic Vision, DFID is now able to clearly say what it has supported and, using the database and infographics, you can see too!
Emily Richardson, December 2015
Visit our Macro Evaluations project page for more reflections from the team.