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Improving Development Effectiveness through R&D: Dynamic Learning and Evaluation

Author

Listed:
  • Nathan Fiala
  • Cormac Mangan

Abstract

Research and development (R&D) is a common process in for-profit organizations. Despite the benefits, it is not routinely practiced in nonprofit organizations, in part because it is difficult to identify the effects of programs that are designed to involve individuals over long periods of time. This paper presents a process by which organizations looking to affect social outcomes can learn from their programs in both the short- and long-run in order to develop the most cost- and impact-effective programs. We call it Dynamic Learning and Evaluation (DLE). DLE is a multi-arm experimental approach to program development that encompasses all stages of the design and implementation process. It combines a clear model of the causal chain of a program with high quality monitoring and impact evaluation. During the initial program development, organizations randomly apply multiple implementation designs and test them against each other using qualitative and administrative data. Once the organization determines a combination of designs that hold the most potential, they then implement these designs in the field and estimate impacts using participant data collection processes. The organization then uses the results to inform the next round of program implementation. They repeat this process over multiple designs for the life of the program and organization. At no point in the lifespan of the organization is this learning process stopped: programs are continually updated using systematic and objective methods to improve their design and impact. We present this process in detail.

Suggested Citation

  • Nathan Fiala & Cormac Mangan, 2013. "Improving Development Effectiveness through R&D: Dynamic Learning and Evaluation," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1325, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1325
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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.427954.de/dp1325.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-455, June.
    2. James J. Heckman, 2010. "Building Bridges between Structural and Program Evaluation Approaches to Evaluating Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 356-398, June.
    3. Andrews, Matt & Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 234-244.
    4. Campos, Francisco & Coville, Aidan & Fernandes, Ana M. & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2014. "Learning from the experiments that never happened: Lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 4-24.
    5. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-64 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Research and development; program development; non-governmental organizations; development strategies; impact evaluation; monitoring and evaluation;

    JEL classification:

    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship

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