The Impact Evaluation Network (IEN) of the Latin American and the Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) is an initiative that aims to advance the state of knowledge and expertise regarding impact evaluation of different policies in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. The Network, which has been active since 2007, aims to promote impact evaluation methodologies, increase capacity building, and bridge research and policy in the region.
With the transition to market-based systems, many countries are designing and implementing social policies targeted to specific populations, e.g. social protection for the poor, job training programs for youth and the unemployed, agricultural development programs for farmers. Decision-makers, donors and taxpayers are interested in knowing whether these programs are successfully providing expected benefits. Rigorous assessment of these initiatives may lead to improvements in their design and implementation, which in turn, foster accountability.
Programs were first evaluated for effectiveness in the United States, where researches applied strategies to measure the effect of welfare and job training programs. Since then, similar strategies have been increasingly employed in developing countries. Scientifically sound evaluations are crucial for generating political support for the continuation or expansion of the programs. These evaluation findings may also inform policy makers in other nations about effective alternative policy solution. Evaluations offer a public good that justifies funding and with resources beyond those available domestically. There are several international institutions devoting resources to impact evaluation.
However, the need for serious impact evaluation at the policy making level is not yet uniformly accepted. There are many programs that remain not evaluated or they are evaluated using techniques that do not reflect best practices in impact evaluation. Rigorous evaluation of these programs would be informative for similar and new activities.
Activities aimed at promoting impact evaluation methodology in terms of capacity building and bridging research and policy in more disadvantaged Latin American and Caribbean countries are important to closing the gap between state of the art evaluation techniques in developed countries and their application throughout the region.