Evaluation & Adaptive Learning

Results for Development (R4D) conducts research that places our partners at the center of the learning process. Our approach to learning helps partners ask targeted questions about their program activities, get answers at the right time, use this information to facilitate continuous program improvements, and strengthen local capacity for continued monitoring and evaluation success.

The Challenge

Monitoring, evaluation and research have the potential to increase the effectiveness of social impact programs. However, these methods are often used for accountability — to determine whether impact was achieved — at the end of an activity, rather than prioritizing practitioners’ questions about how to improve during the activity. At the same time, global development actors are deepening their commitments to locally led development. This shift requires new approaches to generating data and evidence.

The Opportunity

Change agents want to build their own evidence that supports continuous improvement of their programs and activities. Meanwhile, funders seek to understand which approaches to localization are working while reflecting and amplifying the experiences, preferences and voices of the people they intend to serve. R4D’s approach to learning partnerships can advance the use of relevant and timely evidence where we collaborate with decision-makers to answer questions about program design and implementation and to promote a culture of continuous learning.

Our Approach

R4D’s Evaluation and Adaptive Learning (EAL) team helps our partners figure out early what is working and pivot when appropriate, all while strengthening their ability to embed learning in future work. When R4D engages local partners, they define the research activity based on their needs. They use and trust our insights because they are answering questions they care about using methods that are feasible. R4D also engages funders and international agencies to develop and evaluate their approaches to supporting local actors. This leads to increased — and sustained — impact. R4D’s Evaluation and Adaptive Learning practice helps our partners to:

  • Understand the problem. We collaborate with partners to understand their goals and desired outcomes, what information they need to inform their work, and where they have areas of uncertainty or known challenges. We use creative approaches to facilitation to help change agents define actionable learning questions.
  • Test for the solution. We build measuring and evaluation (M&E) systems that generate the evidence needed to intentionally answer partner questions. We help them pick the right mix of M&E methods to test solutions to design challenges and inform their future learning.
  • Learn and iterate. We support a continuous cycle of learning through a commitment to strengthening partners’ abilities to embed learning in future work. In addition to working with partners to center their learning priorities, we also design and implement explicit capacity strengthening activities focused on training partners on evaluation and adaptive learning.

R4D's Work

Examples of how we’ve engaged in learning partnerships with implementers, policy actors and funders to use data and evidence for learning include:

  • R4D is working to shift USAID’s approach to monitoring and evaluation to better center implementers’ questions, needs and interests — and to help improve development activities during implementation. R4D leads a consortium of organizations to design and test innovative learning approaches through the Rapid Feedback Monitoring, Research, Evaluation and Learning (RF MERL) mechanism through pilot engagements in several countries.

USAID launched RF MERL to co-create and co-design development solutions that innovate on traditional monitoring and evaluation approaches. RF MERL is intended to improve rapid learning and adaptive management in the design and implementation of USAID-funded activities and addresses the lack of systematic testing and availability of timely evidence to inform ongoing activity improvement. It does this by embedding RF MERL approaches into activity design and implementation.

Though our health facility survey showed that amox DT availability was increasing alongside greater demand for the medicine, there was no robust data on whether health care providers were accurately diagnosing pneumonia patients. R4D worked with the Tanzanian government and local partners to conduct a clinical study and found that only 1 in 5 children with pneumonia was correctly diagnosed as having the disease.

To address this challenge, R4D, in collaboration with Tanzania’s Ministry of Health (MOH), piloted behavior change communication interventions in 39 public health facilities to improve provider diagnosis of childhood pneumonia and prescription of amox DT to treat it.

  • The R4D-led Frontier Technologies (FT) consortium is coaching tech innovators to take a test-pilot-learn approach to developing technology that can positively impact international development and humanitarian work. The approach helps innovators learn which technologies are best suited to particular contexts, what support is needed to scale innovations, whether an innovation is meeting the demands of the community it is intended to serve and if not, how to adapt it accordingly.

R4D’s EAL team leads the Evidence workstream, distilling learnings from across the pilots and producing portfolio-level learning on these diverse investments. For example, the EAL team led a series of ‘deep dives’ on thematic areas that touched on a number of pilots such as climate, electric vehicles and humanitarian response. These insights help us better understand the program’s overall impact as we look back and help us identify frontier technologies to test within these sectors as we look ahead.

  • R4D supported USAID’s Family Care First Cambodia (FCF) initiative in raising awareness of the potential harms of family-child separation in residential care institutions. This multi-stakeholder initiative worked with over 26 local organizations to develop and test interventions aimed at discovering and advancing solutions to reduce the number of children growing up outside of safe, nurturing family-based care.

At first, there was relatively little known about how to create behavior change among communities and donors to move away from residential care institutions. In response, FCF partnered with R4D through the Rapid Feedback Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (RF MERL) mechanism to generate evidence on the effectiveness of behavior change communication activities. R4D used formative research, lean testing and structured experimentation to determine which campaign elements were effective in changing behavior.

The results were critical to helping local organizations develop, test and revise approaches to their behavior change communication campaigns, while strengthening their capacity to embed research and learning into future program design.


Global & Regional Initiatives

R4D is a globally recognized leader for designing initiatives that connect implementers, experts and funders across countries to build knowledge and get that knowledge into practice.