The purpose of the independent evaluation function at the World Bank is to assess the performance of the institution's policies, projects, and processes (accountability) and to learn what works in what context (learning).
As the scope of World Bank operations and its portfolio of products have grown, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) has continued to develop and adapt its approaches to evaluating development effectiveness. These approaches include assessing outcomes against stated objectives, benchmarks, standards, and expectations, or assessing what might have happened in the absence of the project, program, or policy (counterfactual analysis). For example, private sector investment projects are mainly assessed against absolute economic and financial performance criteria and the extent to which they contribute to private sector development. Public sector projects are assessed in relation to their relevance and the efficacy and efficiency with which they achieve their development objectives. Across projects, IEG looks at the patterns of what works under what circumstances.
IEG's evaluation approach reflects and is harmonized with internationally accepted evaluation norms and principles, such as the quality standards for development evaluation of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, the good practice standards of the Evaluation Cooperation Group, and the norms and standards of the United Nations Evaluation Group.
IEG adheres to a multi-layered quality assurance model, which includes in-depth review of intermediate and final evaluation products by internal (IEG) and external peers. A Methods Advisory Function was established to promote internal knowledge sharing on evaluation design issues and methodological innovation.
IEG employs a number of different evaluation instruments which differ in terms of methodology and scope.
To assess the Bank’s performance and identify lessons for improving Bank operations across projects with regard to a particular theme, sector or corporate process, IEG every year conducts a number of major evaluations. These are multi-level, multi-project evaluations which rely on elaborate mixed methods designs that usually combine synthetic analyses at the overall portfolio level with in-depth analyses at country, project or other levels of analysis. Within the framework of major evaluations, IEG employs a range of methodological approaches such as (e.g.) portfolio analyses, structured literature reviews, surveys and case study analyses. Data sources include internal (WBG and IEG) data, external data sets, internal and external (to the WBG) documentation, and interviews with different groups of stakeholders. Evaluation design, including (e.g.) issues of scope, delimitation, sampling and other data collection and analysis issues are discussed in (peer reviewed) approach papers.
Country Program Evaluations look at how well the WBG achieved its objectives over a period of up to 10 years for selected individual countries. Within a CPE, IEG assesses Bank performance primarily on the basis of contributory actions the Bank directly controlled. For each of the main objectives, the CPE evaluates: the relevance of the objective; the relevance of the Bank’s strategy toward meeting the objective, including the balance between lending and non-lending instruments; the efficacy with which the strategy was implemented; and the results achieved. Evaluators also assess the degree of country ownership of international development priorities, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, and Bank corporate advocacy priorities, such as safeguards. CPEs employ similar methods as IEG’s major evaluations.
IEG undertakes Evaluation Insight Notes (EIN) to generate new insights from existing evidence that address knowledge gaps and contribute to enhanced operational learning. An EIN draws from existing knowledge in an efficient and timely manner applying synthesis approaches. Questions can focus on, for example, effectiveness, the qualities of especially well or poorly functioning operations, and the best evidence available on types of approaches. EINs systematically organize evidence from disparate IEG evaluations, validations and other work, and can be supplemented by additional existing studies. An EIN may also reuse existing background material from published reports, such as country case studies and interview notes to help deepen understanding of existing findings. New evidence gathering is not within the scope of EINs.
At completion of each Country Partnership Framework (CPF), the WBG team prepares a Completion and Learning Review (CLR). The CLR is a critical input in the design and implementation of the next CPF. IEG conducts a desk-based review of the CLR and provides an independent validation and rating of the CLR. IEG’s submits the CLR to the Board in time for its discussion of the new CPF. In producing a CLR Validation (CLRV), IEG uses a shared methodology with WBG. It involves looking at what was achieved in terms of the stated objectives, how well the WBG designed and implemented the program, and the alignment with the WBG corporate strategy. IEG’s validation of the CLR provides an independent rating on two key dimensions: the CPF’s development outcomes and WBG’s performance.
To assess the Bank’s performance and identify lessons for improving Bank operations at project level, IEG undertakes a validation process for 100% of the World Bank’s Implementation Completion and Results Reports. The IEG Implementation Completion and Results Report Review (ICRR) is an independent, desk-based, critical validation of the evidence, content, narrative and ratings included in the World Bank’s Implementation Completion and Results Reports (ICR). The review is conducted within 180 days of the submission of the World Bank’s self-evaluation Implementation Completion and Results Report to IEG. Based on the evidence provided in the ICR and an interview with the last task team leader, IEG arrives at its own ratings for the project, based on the same evaluation criteria used by the World Bank project teams. IEG’s ICRRs serve as an independent validation of the results in the ICR and contribute to both learning and accountability. Related document: Guidelines for Reviewing World Bank Implementation Completion and Results Reports: A Manual for Evaluators
Also at the project level, IEG conducts Project Performance Assessment Reports (PPARs) for approximately 20% of the Bank’s project portfolio based on the review of self-evaluation reports prepared by Bank staff. Project Performance Assessment Reports (PPARs) are independent field-based project evaluations, and may be conducted at any point after a self-evaluation (ICR) has been completed. While they formally follow the same rating criteria as the ICRR, PPARs are evaluations rather than validation exercises, and they rely on a much broader set of evidence. PPARs rely on a mixed methods approach which usually includes (but is not limited to) literature review, portfolio analysis and a country mission, involving site visits and semi-structured interviews with different stakeholders.
Apart from the above, IEG also conducts other evaluative studies such as (systematic) reviews.
IEG has launched a new series of publications on evaluation methods, called the IEG Evaluation Methods Series. As a first product of this initiative, we are pleased to announce the publication of “Evaluation of International Development Interventions: An Overview of Approaches and Methods”, a guidebook for evaluators and other evaluation stakeholders.
This guidebook provides an introductory overview of a range of methods that have been selected for their actual and potential use in the field of international development evaluation. For each method, a detailed guidance note presents the method’s main features and procedural steps, key advantages and disadvantages, as well as its applicability. Each guidance note includes references for relevant background readings (basic and advanced) as well as references to other additional resources of interest. The choice of approaches and methods and the associated guidance are by no means definitive and IEG plans to periodically update the guide as evaluation practices evolve.