Past Event

Balancing inclusiveness, rigour and feasibility to enhance the value of impact evaluation

18 February 2016 13:00–14:30

Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 9RE

The past ten years have seen a surge in interest and investment in impact evaluation in development. Bulletproof numbers must justify programme investments at scale, while credible explanations of observed changes are essential to influence national policy and local responsibility for greater impact.

Programmes with big investments, however, are growing more complex and political. Interventions are less standardized, stakeholders more diverse, influences more dense, problems more intertwined and systemic, solutions less straightforward, changes emergent and less predictable. Additionally, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are adding demands for greater inclusiveness and sustainability to those of effectiveness, forcing a rethink of impact evaluation.

In this seminar, Adinda Van Hemelrijck and Irene Guijt will present their findings regarding how impact evaluation can live up to standards broader than statistical rigour in ways that address challenges of complexity and enable stakeholders to engage meaningfully. Their findings build on their work with IFAD and the BMGF to develop a Participatory Impact Assessment & Learning Approach (PIALA) that can meet standards of rigour, inclusiveness and feasibility. PIALA draws on five important design elements: a systemic Theory of Change (ToC) approach, multi-stage sampling centred on ‘open systems’, participatory mixed-methods, participatory sensemaking, and configurational analysis.

The approach was piloted in two IFAD-financed government programmes in Vietnam and Ghana. Trade-offs occur in every impact evaluation aiming to produce greater value and meet different needs of learning, reporting and advocacy. The PIALA pilots show that these can be reduced and turned into win-wins by thinking out of the mainstream box and building sufficient research and learning capacity. 

This seminar is part of the Centre for Development Impact seminar series and is open to the public.


Adinda Van Hemelrijck works as a freelance consultant on design, evaluation and learning around impact in collaborative settings in international development, while also pursuing a PhD at IDS on challenges of rigour in impact evaluation of complex development. Her present work is with IFAD and BMGF (Ghana, Vietnam, BIH, global), UNICEF and WHO (Pakistan, Laos, regional), Oxfam GB (Myanmar), and IIED (global).

Until February 2012, she worked at Oxfam America as an advisor assisting regional offices and partners with designing and managing collective impact assessment and learning frameworks for rights-based programs and innovation projects (East Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America).

Irene Guijt (PhD) has worked in international development for 25 years, combining her degrees in agricultural engineering and communication to inform practice and academic thinking. She undertakes research, system design, facilitation and advisory work on learning-oriented knowledge processes, and is known for her innovative thinking on monitoring, evaluation and organizational learning in rural development.

Recent work includes pioneering a stories-at-scale approach SenseMaker in international development for (impact) evaluation in East Africa, Latin America and Asia on issues including girls’ empowerment, inclusive business, accountable democracy, water service delivery, and youth leadership. She is active in global evaluation capacity building through the BetterEvaluation platform and working on theory of change for transformational development with Hivos. She has pushed debates on the politics of evaluation as co-convenor of the Big Push Forward, including co-editing the book ‘The Politics of Evidence and Results’. 

For the past six years, she has co-organised annual ‘Hot Topics in M&E conferences’, with the Centre for Development Innovation in Wageningen, with 2015 focusing on ‘M&E for Responsible Innovation’. She has just joined Oxfam Great Britain as their Head of Research. 


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Programmes and centres
Centre for Development Impact

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