As pressure increases on foreign aid groups to showcase the impact of their work, randomized control trials have become more common. And yet, evaluating impact using such control groups remains controversial — and it isn’t always a smart idea.
“Implementing organizations are increasingly being asked or being pushed by donors to measure impact, and often it doesn’t make sense for them to do so,” said Annie Duflo, executive director of Innovations for Poverty Action, one of the major nonprofits that conducts RCTs to measure the impact of development programs.
IPA will publish a toolkit later this year to help organizations decipher when they should — and shouldn’t — conduct RCTs. The “Goldilocks Project,” as it’s called, is meant to help institutions decide how to create a monitoring and evaluation plan that’s not too small or large for a program but “just right.”
The growing focus on measuring impact is a good thing, said Delia Welsh, senior director of IPA’s M&E initiative. Sometimes, though, resources are misallocated.