Impact evaluations

When analysing the impact of programmes and projects in strategically important thematic areas, the SDC relies on scientifically based impact evaluations.

Impact evaluations examine the causal relationships between actions and their effect. For the purpose of impact evaluations, a double case study is conducted, in a similar fashion to studies in the medical area:  the assessment of the programme impact on a beneficiary target group is matched with and compared to the assessment of a second group, similar in terms of region, age and social conditions to the first group but not benefiting from the programme. This approach helps to identify external factors that exert a parallel influence on the expected effects of action and to take them into account while evaluating the programme impact. 

The insights gained can be used in a targeted manner for strategic decision-making and adjustment to ongoing programmes or for the development of new programmes. Findings may be extended and applied to other contexts and programme approaches and may, for example, be integrated into cooperation strategies with specific countries. 

This avoids the expansion of programmes when the effects observed are not (or only to a small extent) attributable to the programme activities alone. 

The utility of impact evaluations is therefore undisputed.

Graphical representation of how impact evaluations can be used to determine external factors in the impact analysis.
Graphical illustration of the benefits of impact evaluations. © SDC

The SDC is reinforcing the use of impact evaluations in Swiss development cooperation at a number of levels: 

  • carrying out more impact evaluations of SDC projects and programmes;

  • using the findings of impact evaluations carried out by other development cooperation organisations;

  • promoting impact evaluations among Swiss NGOs. 

In order to promote impact evaluations among Swiss NGOs, the SDC and the Center for Development and Cooperation at ETH Zurich (ETH NADEL) have launched the ‘Impact Award’, a competition of evaluation projects that is held every few years. The best submissions benefit from co-financing and scientific support in their implementation.