Measuring results: a priority

For some years SDC has been basing its activities on the results and effectiveness of its investments. However, in evaluating development cooperation, its impact at different levels needs to be considered, not just the activities themselves. In such a dynamic context, measuring effects is a real methodological challenge.

In a globalized world, SDC is just one of many players influencing the development of a country or region. Given the complexity of societies and multiplicity of players involved, and the influence of political circumstances, it is often difficult to demonstrate direct causal relationships.

This makes it more difficult, though not impossible, to analyze the effectiveness of cooperation programmes. The way in which projects are managed is fundamental to their subsequent evaluation. Good planning and proper monitoring are therefore necessary. In preparing its projects and programmes, SDC also defines objectives, evaluation criteria and monitoring procedures in order to verify whether the objectives have been achieved.

Tools and methods

The complex relationship between cause and effect may be illustrated using the “chain-of-results” method. With development or humanitarian action projects, this is a good way of establishing a causal link between planning (set and approved objectives) and results (services provided and their effects).

The results of a programme are assessed at three levels:

  • immediate results (outputs);
  • effects obtained (outcomes);
  • impact (of the project or programme)

Outputs are the goods, equipment or services resulting from an intervention. Analysis of outcomes and impact is intended to measure the effects of an intervention, medium or long term, positive or negative, direct or indirect, intentional or otherwise. When you dig 300 wells, what matters is the improvement in the living conditions of the local people, not the number of holes dug.

When a project/programme is planned, the chain of results stems from hypotheses that cannot be fully controlled. However, it is important to manage them as much as possible in order to avoid unanticipated negative effects, or to mitigate these as quickly as possible should they arise. However, it is not always possible to claim with certainty that a change is the result of the support provided, given the dynamic context, the number of players involved and the host of factors influencing a project.

SDC intends to pursue its commitment to further improving its methods for monitoring and evaluating the results of development. It seeks to observe the effectiveness, relevance and impact of its interventions on the beneficiary groups concerned.