Have Development Evaluators Been Fighting the Last War… And If So, What is to be Done?

This article, written by Robert Picciotto for the IDS Bulletin (Volume 45 Number 6), argues that evaluators who wish to achieve high-quality evaluation standards must draw upon a range of methods and tools to complete the task. However, the article also contends that the use of the best methods will never compensate for poor strategy. 


"A research agenda is relevant only if guided by reasoned answers to two evaluative questions. First, the summative question: is the agenda soundly grounded on an objective examination of the state of the art? Second, the formative question: does it address emerging and legitimate policy concerns? Accordingly, this article is in two parts. Following a background section that sets the stage, the first half of the article addresses the potential and limitations of experimental methods that have come to dominate the development evaluation domain. The second half looks ahead: it draws the implications of a rapidly evolving international development context for the impact evaluation research agenda."


  • Setting the stage
    • Impact definitions matter
    • The past is not always prologue
    • It is time to move beyond the paradigm wars
  • The pros and cons of experimental methods
    • The potential of randomisation
    • The limits of experiments in society
    • The promise of pluralistic methods
    • Alternative approaches
    • Complexity and systems thinking
  • Towards a new development evaluation research agenda
    • Values should come first
    • Evaluation is not value neutral
    • Adapting to an emerging development context
    • Towards new metrics
    • Taking account of a new aid architecture
    • Shifting gears from aid evaluation to development evaluation


Picciotto, R. (2014). 'Have Development Evaluators Been Fighting the Last War… And If So, What is to be Done?', IDS Bulletin, Special Issue: Rethinking Impact Evaluation for Development by Barbara Befani, Chris Barnett and Elliot Stern, Volume 45, Issue 6, pages 6–16. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1759-5436.12109/abstract

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