Democratic and participatory approaches to achieve impact

At present there is much emphasis on the rigorous pursuit of what works – which has been accompanied by a parallel discourse of donor agencies increasingly concerned with empowering ‘partner countries’ or ‘civil society’ to take ownership of the interventions which they support. Interventions however almost always produce winners and losers, with potential changes in power relations being seen as opportunities by some and risks by others. And while there are evaluation and scientific approaches that can help, the potential for participatory and democratic impact evaluations to help resolve these dilemmas is a significant challenge. In recent years, there have been advances in participatory statistics, as well as work on the use of more democratic spaces in which evaluative and other evidence is transparently deliberated (and acted upon).

The focus of CDI’s work is on:

  • Developing democratic and participatory approaches for assessing impact.
  • Learning how deliberative processes can be used to empower citizens to use evidence.

Latest publications

This panel discussion is supported by the Institute of Development Studies' Department for International Development Accountable Grant, with a view to continue a dialogue around the use and application of ethics in impact evaluation.

The event was hosted by the Centre for Development Impact (CDI), a joint initiative between IDS, Itad and the University of East Anglia. It builds on previous research conducted by the CDI to open up debate on ethics within the field of impact evaluation.

July 2016

The three core systems concepts – interrelationships, perspectives and boundaries – can be used for framing an impact evaluation (see Williams, this IDS Bulletin). But their use also has implications for the type of learning that an impact evaluation is likely to generate. Moreover, they can help to make the value base of evaluations more explicit. This article first outlines a typology for learning and elaborates on the implications for evaluation and the use of systems concepts.

January 2015

This was an interactive workshop – supported by the Institute of Development Studies’ (IDS) Department for International Development (DFID) Accountable Grant and the University of East Anglia (UEA) – with a view to opening up the debate on ethics in impact evaluation to a wider audience in 2015.

October 2014

Latest blog posts

In one of the most popular TED talks, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie argues that ‘The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story’. Although this comment is grounded in stories told in literature, the quote is equally relevant for researchers collecting and analysing data.

March 2016

In this third part of our blog series on ‘hot debates in impact evaluation’, we set out a number of areas in which we have ambitions to further our work at the Centre for Development Impact (CDI). These are areas that chime with broader debates, but we have yet to do significant research on. Here goes…

September 2015

Reflections from Chris Barnett on the recent and fascinating CDI event on the role of ethics in impact evaluation. 

March 2014

Latest news

Working with Wilton Park, the Centre for Development Impact (CDI) recently co-hosted a major international conference on 'New Frontiers for Evaluation'. The gathering brought together investors, evaluators, academia and civil society organisations to debate a new agenda for evaluation.

September 2015