Programs & Projects

Advancing the Use of Developmental Evaluation at USAID (DEPA-MERL)


Overview

Developmental evaluation was created to evaluate innovative programs that operate in complex environments and are thus expected to adapt over time. The Developmental Evaluation Pilot Activity (DEPA-MERL) under the U.S. Global Development Lab’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Innovations (MERLIN) program at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is testing the effectiveness of developmental evaluation in the USAID context. The DEPA-MERL consortium consists of Social Impact (prime), Search for Common Ground (Search), and the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan. As part of the consortium, Social Impact and Search are implementing developmental evaluations while WDI’s role is to serve as an evaluator and assess the effectiveness of developmental evaluation within and across pilots.

In collaboration with DEPA-MERL team, WDI seeks to answer the following three research questions for each developmental evaluation: (1) How is developmental evaluation effective in the USAID context? (2) What are the barriers and enablers to implementation of developmental evaluation in the USAID context? (3) What do key stakeholders consider to be the value (added or lost) of conducting a developmental evaluation compared to traditional evaluation approaches?

The Work

This project currently includes the following developmental evaluation pilots:

1. Family Care First in Cambodia (Nov 2016 – Mar 2018)
DEPA-MERL conducted a developmental evaluation with Family Care First (FCF) in Cambodia, in service of FCF’s goal of increasing the number of children living in safe, nurturing family-based care.

  1. A Study of the Family Care First in Cambodia Developmental Evaluation
    Executive Summary | Full Report | Annex
     

  2. Final Report from the Family Care First Developmental Evaluation
    Full Report
    Developed by Search for Common Ground, this report documents the implementation of DEPA-MERL’s developmental evaluation pilot with the Family Care First Initiative in Cambodia

2. USAID Global Development Lab (Feb 2017 – Dec 2018) 
This ongoing pilot examines USAID’s uptake of innovations.

In addition to the pilots, the consortium also provides guidance based on learnings to date for organizations, managers, and evaluators that seek to implement the developmental evaluation approach. See this resource: USAID Developmental Evaluation in Practice- Tips, Tools, and Templates.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of WDI and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. This article was produced by the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in collaboration with Social Impact under the Developmental Evaluation Pilot Activity (DEPA-MERL), Contract Order Number AID-LAB-C-15-00002, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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