If an aid agency is to use its funds economically and effectively, it needs to know more than what the effect of its action on the target group should be. It also needs to ask itself the following questions on a regular basis:
Are we doing the right things?
- Are we improving the situation of the target group?
- Are we contributing to the achievement of overarching goals?
- Are we setting the right priorities?
Are we doing things properly?
- Are we achieving our objectives?
- What have we done well, and what not?
- Have the target group’s expectations been fulfilled?
How can we do things better?
- What should we do differently in future?
- How can we have a greater impact with the same inputs?
- How can we achieve the same impact with less inputs?
A systematic impact assessment helps to find answers to these questions. It is a good basis for an organisation to learn from its own experiences,
steer projects by results, and legitimise its actions.
There should also be clarification of what the impact assessment findings are going to be used for. The requirements of a good impact assessment system will vary depending on whether it is meant to prove something, improve something or find out something. It also makes a difference whether a specific effect (outcome or impact) needs to be clearly attributed to one activity, or whether it is enough to make a case for the plausibility of the specific project or programme’s contribution to achieving the objective.
For an impact assessment system to be implemented properly, all the participants must be clear about its purpose and its usefulness from the very beginning. Transparent planning, with broad consultation and the involvement of partners, helps to break down resistance, as well as increasing people’s sense of responsibility for the project and assisting their willingness to carry it through.