While in 2000, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) recorded less than 40 new impact evaluations related to development and poverty, by 2012, the impact evaluation repository of 3ie was publishing over 400 impact evaluations a year. Whereas for many years, impact evaluations were focusing on health questions, the number of impact evaluations has been steadily increasing in other sectors since 2006, in particular in agriculture and nutrition (Cameroon et al., 2016).



At the same time, impact evaluation has become something of a buzzword in development co-operation. Major organisations are creating entire funds and policy priorities in their name, while many practitioners are left in the dark about what impact evaluations actually are and how they are used. Several large development agencies have therefore released primers and guidance documents to address this disconnect (see for example SDC, 2017).

Impact evaluations first of all benefit the poor.


The lack of clarity around the concept, combined with the high cost of impact evaluations in terms of both time and money, have resulted in considerable backlash, even resentment, towards impact evaluations – especially in their most famous (or notorious) form, randomised controlled trials (RCTs).