Frequently Asked Questions

IA Basics

What is impact assessment?

Impact assessment is the process of identifying either the anticipated or the actual impacts of a development intervention, on those social, economic and environmental factors which the intervention is designed to affect or may inadvertently affect. Impact assessment can be applied at both the project level, and at the strategic (policies, programmes, plans) level. Ex ante impact assessment takes place before an intervention is approved and forecasts the potential impacts as part of the planning and design of the intervention. Ex post impact assessment identifies actual impacts during and after implementation, to enable corrective action to be taken if necessary and to improve the design of future interventions. Indicators of impact can also be integrated into existing management information systems so that information about progress towards desired goals can be made available to staff immediately. In this way the impact assessment process feeds into internal monitoring and evaluation for ongoing learning. The key findings of impact assessments should be shared with the stakeholders involved to increase programme-level learning. Impact assessment should be regarded as a dynamic process and not as a series of static reports. For more information see “Basic Impact Assessment at Project Level” and, for information about strategic impact assessment of policies, plans and programmes see “Strategic Impact Assessment and Enterprise Development”.

What does impact assessment aim to achieve?

Impact assessment has three different, but interrelated, objectives:

· Accountability and transparency: to provide evidence about the achievements of interventions and their costs.

· Improving programme/project effectiveness: to produce recommendations about how present and future performance could be improved

· Policy development: to generate guidance about how government and donor policies could be reformed so as to facilitate more successful interventions.

Each of these objectives is likely to shape the design of an impact assessment in different directions. In the past, impact assessment has tended to be donor-led and to focus on “proving” impact. More recently there has been a move towards “improving” impact and using impact assessment to set up or develop sustainable learning systems. Impact assessment can only contribute to lesson learning if the information is used as a basis for asking intelligent questions about project implementation and how it can be enhanced. When policy development is an important aim it is particularly important that the results of impact assessments are promptly and widely disseminated. For more information see Basic Impact Assessment at Project Level.