Impact Assessment

Added value of using the DCED Standard in Bangladesh from a donors’ perspective, Andreas Tarnutzer and Rubaiyath Sarwar, 2013

    The overall objective of the consultancy was to explore whether the investments of SDC, DFID, CIDA, EKN (and soon Danida) in Bangladesh into the development and application of the DCED standard were meaningful and resulted in relevant added value for project design, steering, monitoring and evaluation by the funding agencies. More specifically, the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of the DCED Standard was to be assessed in achieving better results measurement and value for money on the basis of two concrete project examples, Katalyst and Samriddhi.

    Summary of results
    Three core points emerged from the qualitative analysis: all relevant organisations and resource persons agreed that the introduction of result chains was indeed a major step forward towards more realistic project designs as well as better monitoring and steering systems; it was also agreed that it can help communication of complex projects and explaining causality to decision makers; and the issue of attribution of reported impact in general and situating the project's influence within wider systemic changes are the main current challenges for projects in general and the Standard in particular.

    In term of whether the Standard does produce the envisaged added value, the following conclusions are drawn. In terms of improved project designs, the assessment is positive, both for proving results as well as for improving project management - however, the latter function was more in the forefront in interviews. In terms of improved project steering, the assessment is again positive; both projects have taken several important strategic decisions based on their MRM system. In terms of improved donor portfolio steering, the Bangladesh example shows that donors do not utilize (or at least underutilize) this potential. Compared to standard M&E systems, utilising the Standard has been a clear improvement for projects, but not yet for donors; attribution for projects and aggregation for donors remains a struggle.

    An overall assessment of the effectiveness of the Standard is positive for the 'improve' function in projects but less so for the 'prove' function where (apart from attribution and aggregation) the donors so far have not made use of its theoretical potential. The reasons for this 'underutilisation' can only be guessed; a probable hypothesis would focus on aspects like (i) staff in country offices not fully familiar with the Standard, (ii) the fact that the Standard is presently only being applied in a very limited number of projects in most country portfolios, as well as (iii) reporting requirements from headquarters that are not consistent with the outputs of the Standards' MRM system.

    The efficiency of operating the Standard cannot really be assessed. While both projects report gains, the efforts to set up and operate the system are considerable, and double reporting is still required for different donors and the government. Consequently, also no 'quantified' final statement can be made as to whether the Standard has provided more value for money.