Every day, Estelle Raimondo and her colleagues at IEG assess the work of the World Bank Group, to extract lessons on what works and why with the goal of improving our development effectiveness. In this series we flip the script—and put the evaluators under the microscope.

What attracted me to evaluation is its use of interdisciplinarity to answer complex questions. It means knowing data analytics, the sectors we're studying, the organization.

Estelle Raimondo, PhD, describes herself as quite the rare animal to have been formally trained in evaluation. It is still emerging as a specialization. 

“What attracted me to evaluation is its use of interdisciplinarity to answer complex questions. It means knowing data analytics, the sectors we’re studying, the organization.”

When prodded about what led her to her career choice, Estelle responds just like an evaluator might: “There is never one cause to one effect!” 

Instead she cites three things that compelled her. That the field was so multidisciplinary drew her in; a book, Albert Hirschman’s Development Projects Observed, was a key inspiration; and a first hands-on experience in evaluation, in Bihar state in eastern India, that confirmed to her that she had made the right choice. 

“In Bihar, I tried to understand problems through the eyes of affected communities and assess how a livelihood project was resolving their issues. Being able to boost the impact of this project, by extracting lessons, I felt evaluation was a good fit for me.”

​The value of evaluation

Like all evaluators, Estelle sets out to tackle complex questions with the aim of delivering answers that are actionable. 

“Independent evaluation brings extremely valuable insights on what the Bank Group achieves or doesn’t achieve, and why,” she says. “But we don’t just produce research, we really try to be pragmatic in how the Bank can increase its development impact.”

When asked if she ever finds evaluators to be misconceived by development practitioners, she chuckles. 

“Sometimes we’re mixed up with auditors, or people who are here to judge and rate, and to some extent we may do a bit of that. But really our work is concerned with tackling development challenges, by bringing rigorous evidence to the Board, to operational teams, and to management.”

​The motors of motivation

Estelle lights up when asked what she likes most about her job. One of the greatest motivators is working with her team.

“As evaluators we are really lucky because we work in teams. Sometimes researchers are on their own, but we really are trying to solve tricky questions together.”

In her capacity as a Methods Adviser at IEG, Estelle also support teams beyond her own.

“I try to promote innovations in methodology. It’s quite creative and involves bringing new methods to IEG.”

Another thing that excites her is the opportunity to interact with all levels of the Bank Group, from the Board to operations, getting a cross-cutting view of the organization that she finds simply “riveting.”

We conclude that although she may be a rare breed of evaluators at the World Bank Group, she is undoubtedly in her natural habitat.

Estelle Raimondo joined IEG in 2016 as an expert in evaluation methods. Before joining IEG, she was an evaluation specialist at UNESCO and a policy researcher at the George Washington University (GWU). Estelle holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Evaluation Research from GWU, a Masters in Economic Policy from Sciences Po and a Masters in Economic and Political Development from Columbia University. Her first book is: Dealing with complexity in development evaluation: a practical approach (2015, with M. Bamberger and J. Vaessen; SAGE Publications). Read Estelle’s latest evaluation, on how the World Bank helps countries reshape social contracts.