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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC Quality Assurance. Impact hypothesis, poverty focus and results orientation. Laurent Ruedin, Flash Learning Event impact hypothesis, Bern 2.4.2014. What is an impact hypothesis?. Nothing new !!

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFASwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC

Quality Assurance

Impact hypothesis, poverty focus and results orientation

Laurent Ruedin, Flash Learning Event impact hypothesis, Bern 2.4.2014

what is an impact hypothesis
What is an impact hypothesis?
  • Nothing new !!
  • Impact hypothesis is :
    • the thread of a planning document (ProDoc, credit proposal, country strategy …) which defines the logic that connect the different parts: context analysis, lessons, expected outcomes, strategic orientations
    • a plausible narrative that explaining the logframe (resp. results framework) and making the contribution logic and expected results chains explicit - up to the level of final beneficiaries -
  • an approach to results oriented program management that encourages learning and critical thinking based on a shared analysis of changes / progress
  • There is no unique definition, no prescribed methods, but a consensus on the basic elements.




  • Impact hypothesis is not only about impact … but also about outcome, results and change
  • Synonyms frequently used at SDC:
    • Theory of change,
    • Wirkungshypothese
    • Change hypothesis (fragile context and CSPM)
  • Boundary terms / notions
    • “Risks and assumptions”: the right column of the logframe. For a good logframe, the impact hypothesis is constituted by the relations between the elements of the left column (impact / outcome/ outputs) and the one of the right (risks and assumptions)
what is the added value of an explicit impact hypothesis
What is the added value of an explicit impact hypothesis?
  • As a narrative, it can be shared, discussed, analyzed in a critical way and checked during an evaluation
    • a narrative is easily shared with other actors even with very different cultural background and expertise
    • this makes it easier to integrate different perspectives and knoweldge, as for example thematic and context expertise
  • IH is complementary to logframe/RF as a results oriented program management tool:
    • it allows to go beyond the linear logic of the logframe, showing the links between the elements, highlighting meanings and making sense
    • it takes the form of a plausible arguments combining qualitative and quantitative elements,
    • it provides a useful framework against which to track and report results




links between ih and the results agenda
Links between IH and the results agenda?
  • Reporting results = reporting progress in the realization of IH
  • Primary aim of results oriented strategic monitoring is steering M&E = reality check of IH and if required adapt
    • quality is never perfect at entry and complexity / unpredictability need to be managed in a pragmatic and progressive way
    • reflective practice and learning: IH encourages reflections on the strategic orientation at different stages of the PCM
  • Participation, partnership and contribution logic
    • a logframe is supposed to be developped in a participatory way (key element for quality at entry)  main stakeholders shoud agree on the IH
    • focus on outcome, contribution to country results, mutual accountability: the IH should be revisited with partners during joined results analysis
how and when using ih
How and when using IH?
  • Planning: logframe and IH elaborated with stakeholdersKey stages: planning workshop, consolidate IH
  • Monitoring / reporting: assess progress against Logframe analyses results (quanti + qualit) with partners, Key stages: annual report workshop,
  • Monitoring / evaluation: check the degree of realization of IH and their plausibility, recommendations for adaptationKey stages: TOR, feedback WS & debriefing of evaluation
  • Steering decision: if IH doesn’t realize IH & logframe need to be adapted in an argued and transparent way change in strategic orientationKey stages: Management response to evaluation or AR

Key messages 1

Key messages 2

Key messages 3

Example: Annual report

what about the links with poverty and transversal issues gender and gov
What about the links with poverty and transversal issues gender and gov?
  • Avoid « trickle down assumption »: the way programs will influence the livelihoods of poor people cannot be kept implicit and should be checked from time to time
  • IH describe outcomes at people level and how they link with changes at organization level
    • links with other dimensions of poverty,
    • outreach,
    • differentiation according to gender + other discriminations (inclusion)
  • Most important results are transformative include changes in power and relations, IH helps to track this type of changes
  • IH take into account a diversity of perspectives on stakes, changes and causes of changes (link with BA, stakeholder analysis)
quality criteria for impact hypothesis
Quality criteria for impact hypothesis:
  • tell about plausible cause effects of the main results chain
  • relate to other stakeholders (state, civil society, private sector, other donors) and their role; making the intervention’s contribution logic explicit
  • describe the main outcomes:
    • on both levels: population and organizations / systems and show how these are linked
    • in a differentiated way (disadvantaged groups /gender)
    • making clear which poverty dimensions are addressed
    • reflecting power and changing power relations
  • link to selected key development issues identified in the context analysis, such as root causes of poverty, factors for lacking access to basic services, mechanisms of discrimination
  • make explicit the transformation of the fragile situation to be supported
example ih recontruction is not an exact science
Example: IH recontruction is not an exact science
  • Version 1: Through strengthening capacities of local governments and enabling an inclusive and active participation by the civil society - particularly including women, ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups - , local government and the private sector will be hold accountable. Thus service delivery improves and becomes more need based. This leads to greater internal stability and more conducive regulatory frameworks, which ultimately contributes to improved wellbeing of Macedonian citizens.
  • Version 2: Through strengthened democratic law making, capacitated local governmental authorities and a vivid civil society that holds local and central government accountable, Macedonian citizens get better access to improved, equal, equitable and non-discriminatory services, which contribute to their well-being.
  • Version 3: By supporting decentralization : enhanced participation of citizens holding local admin to account, strengthening local government in service delivery throughout the ethnic and geographical scope, strengthening civil society: as a watchdog in service delivery and rule of law and in strengthening interethnic relations (social integration) and enhancing democracy through a parliament playing its role, Macedonian citizens - in particular those who had low access or were discriminated against - will enjoy better quality public services, trust their government and actively engage in democratic participation
sdc guidance logframe key messages
SDC Guidance Logframe (key messages)
  • Consensus building and decision-making: It provides an opportunity to build consensus and ownership around shared objectives and approaches to meet these objectives among SDC and its partners. It also serves to reach agreement on expected results between the operating unit and relevant decision makers within SDC.
sdc guidance logframe key messages1
SDC Guidance Logframe (key messages)
  • A logframe does not allow to represent the overall complexity of a development / humanitarian intervention, but presents a simplified logic of the intervention. However, the logframe is not a “stand alone”. More detailed reflection on the theory of change behind an intervention is expected in the Project Document, such as the formulation of hypothesis on the effects of lower level results on the higher level of results (also presented in the Credit Proposal). Cause-and-effect linkages usually move “up” a logframe. However, there may also be horizontal linkages among results of the same level: such interdependence between outputs or outcomes should also be elaborated in the Project Document.
sdc guidance logframe key messages2
SDC Guidance Logframe (key messages)
  • The logframe is also a key reference for monitoring progress and results during the implementation of the project/program) which informs program management decisions (e.g. adjusting program activities, rethinking intervention strategy). The logframe of an SDC supported intervention is used as key reference for results-oriented reporting in the end of phase report.
  • Cause-and-effect relations in a logframe are based on plausible hypothesis, not on hard evidence. It is part of the project’s responsibility to check these hypothesis during project/program implementation and ifnecessary to adapt
  • Adaptation of the logframe may be necessary during project implementation. Changes / adaptations of the logframe are to be managed in a transparent manner and agreed upon between SDC and involved partner(s).
annual report
Annual report


Usefulness of IH

IH as reference frame to select and interpret data in order to synthesize in a contextualized, understandable and plausible way the most important reported results of the CS domain

Are progress corresponding to the expected? Is the IH still realistic ? Or are adaptation required?

Argued adaptation and implications for the following year, focus on those with strategic relevance  guidance through the management response of head office

  • Results statement
  • Rating of results achievement
  • Implications and planning priorities for the following year (steering)