Guest blog: Robert Picciotto on randomised control trials

My recent blog on randomised control trials led to enthustiastic comments about Robert Picciotto’s recent paper: Experimentalism and development evaluation: Will the bubble burst?.

I am delighted that Robert agreed to explain the main ideas in this guest blog. Robert (“Bob”) was previously Director General, Evaluation, at the World Bank and is now a Visiting Professor at King’s College, London.

Robert Picciotto

Probing the paradox of the RCT craze in international development

The growing popularity of randomised control trials (RCTs) in the international development domain is not accidental. It reflects tensions within an economics profession humbled by the failure of standard development recipes.  It is also the result of a well funded campaign aimed at raising the bar in development evaluation quality that has unfortunately backed the wrong horse.  Continue reading

Misusing randomised control trials

Building schools in Burkina Faso

I just reviewed two impact evaluations of education projects in West Africa. Both were required by the same major donor. Both were carried out by the same high-end US consultancy. Both used what they call the ‘gold standard’ of randomised control trials (RCTs).

Both seem to have been a shocking waste of time and money – because they used the wrong tools for the job.  Continue reading

Getting beyond impact

Some interesting developments in the debate about measuring impact, in particular around Social Return On Investment (SROI) – and some lessons from microfinance.

A new report by the Third Sector Research Centre, comments that SROI “leaves ample room for judgement”, that it is not a good basis for comparing different organisations and that it “provides a weak basis for understanding how and why impacts occur”. Oh dear. Continue reading