Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about impact evaluations
1. What are the objectives of impact evaluations in the GEF Evaluation Office?
Impact evaluation in the GEF Evaluation Office seeks to determine the long-term effects of GEF support, how these were achieved and what can be done to strengthen them. Such evaluation work is part of the overall exploration of the results achieved by the GEF and has a strong focus on learning lessons from experience. Results-management systems of the GEF and its implementing partners have a major emphasis and knowledge base on the outcomes achieved by the end of GEF financial support to projects. This information is of great importance, but does not tell us whether the long-term global environmental benefits, to which the GEF is expected to contribute, have been or are likely to be achieved.
2. What is the approach undertaken by the GEF Evaluation Office?
Impact evaluation has several major schools of thought and the Evaluation Office has adopted a “mixed method” approach, which draws on the strengths of each. It has undertaken work of an experimental and quasi-experimental nature, as well adopting a core methodology, which is based on a “Theory of Change” approach.
3. What was the process from the development of the theory-based approach to impact evaluation?
4. How was the approach mainstreamed into the Evaluation Office work?
- a detailed fieldwork-based impact evaluation of the GEF portfolio of support to the Phase Out of Ozone Depleting Substances in Countries with Economies in Transition. This covered activities in eighteen countries
- a set of ten semi-detailed fieldwork-based evaluations of projects completed some years previously, using a new theory-based methodology developed by the Evaluation Office known as the Review of Outcomes to Impacts (ROtI)
- an analysis of the entire cohort of more than two hundred projects included in OPS4, based on the same ROtI methodology, but implemented as desk reviews, based on project terminal evaluations or completion reports and other available documents.
This three-tiered approach was found to be effective at addressing one of the fundamental difficulties of impact evaluation, namely the need to address both internal and external validity of evaluation evidence.
5. What are the differences between desk ROtIs and field ROtIs?
The field-Rotis bridge this gap to a considerable extent, by providing field-based evidence of impact on a number of projects in a cost-effective manner. The three approaches together were found to provide a clear initial picture of progress towards impacts of the overall GEF-portfolio, the details of which can be filled in over time through additional full impact evaluations, whilst keeping the overview provided by the ROtI approach. This overall stream of theory-based work continues to be supported by a number of explorations of impacts achieved, using experimental and quasi-experimental approaches.
6. What are some of the key findings that emerged from the Impact Evaluation work?
- the GEF portfolio has made a number of substantial and verifiable contributions to achieving its intended global environment objectives
- the initial results of these contributions can be clearly identified at the time of completion of GEF projects, the great majority of which successfully deliver their intended outcomes in order for the short to medium-term outcomes of projects to deliver or contribute to their intended long-term global environment impacts, many activities need to continue after project completion.
- projects which are most successful in terms of impacts have ensured that the systems and resources necessary for the continuation of activities are already in place and functioning before project completion
- the continuation of activities is ultimately dependent on strong long-term national commitment to achieving the environmental objectives.