New evidence: Dutch development cooperation is effective

4 September 2015

Thanks to a unique international evaluation consisting of ten research studies the performance of Dutch NGOs has been proven effective. Prior to the previous round of financing NGOs, the Dutch government asked for an evaluation of the effectiveness of development cooperation programmes. NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development safeguarded the scientific quality of the research for this evaluation. On 2 September 2015 the final reports were presented to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Bart Romijn, director of Partos, the Dutch association for NGOs working in International Development.

Picture: - CGIAR Climate, Flickr Creative Commons

This unique evaluation consists of ten research studies incorporating the outcome of the programmes of 64 Dutch development cooperation organisations. The evaluation was held as part of the Dutch funding system for development cooperation (Co-financing II: MFS-II).

This evaluation is unique because of its sheer size and its complexity. The work of dozens of Dutch NGOs has now been jointly evaluated. This approach is new in two ways: the evaluations are supported by scientific evidence and independent researchers carried out the evaluations.

As an independent partner, NWO–WOTRO Science for Global Development commissioned and organised the research. “Careful and accurate peer reviews by the best experts in the world confirmed the scientific quality of the evaluation,” explains Wiebe Bijker, chairperson of the Steering Committee.

The overall research project consists of ten extensive research studies. The reports present important results, useful findings and new insights.The programmes of the development cooperation organisations are carried out in many different countries around the world. Several countries and programmes were selected for this evaluation by an independent selection procedure. A total of eight countries were investigated, each on the basis of a number of projects and conducted by international research teams. In addition, two overall research studies were carried out: one study on the impact of lobbying (the ILA report) and one overall study incorporating the findings of all the eight separate country reports (the synthesis report).

According to Wiebe Bijker: “The Dutch NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs have every right to be proud of this thorough evaluation and particularly of the fact that scientific evidence confirms that Dutch development cooperation is generally effective.”

Research goals and conclusions

The main objective of the evaluation was to answer this key question: ‘Are the programmes that are funded by MFS-II effective, efficient and relevant?’ At the same time, the evaluations had to contribute to learning from and further improving the interventions. Because of the complexity of MFS-II an additional goal was to improve the evaluation method.

There were a number of limitations in this research study. Such as the very tight timespan of only two years of measuring the effects. It is difficult to demonstrate social changes (for example the strengthening of civil society organisations) that have been achieved in such a limited period of time. Secondly, the synthesis report recommends that the start and end of the evaluations should coincide with the start and end of the development cooperation programmes rather than choosing a fixed start and end time for the evaluation.

The ILA-team concludes that the traditional notion of lobbying as in influencing policy makers does not do justice to the sheer complexity of the network. Neither does it take into account the multitude of actors and factors. The innovative method of the ILA-team also took into account the flexibility and representation of interests of actors, the wide variety of contacts and connections – also in the long term – and the multiple layers of connections and goals by working with a Theory of Change for each programme.

Dutch NGOs united

With the co-financing system II (MFS-II) as many as 67 Dutch development cooperation organisations united in 20 alliances receive funding to help them combat poverty in development countries. An important condition from the Dutch Ministry in awarding the funding was to have the work evaluated. In order to meet this demand in the best possible way, 19 alliances set up the Dutch Foundation for Joint Evaluations (SGE). Bart Romijn, director of the sector association Partos is the chairperson of the Foundation for Joint Evaluations. On 2 September 2015 he presented the reports to Christiaan Rebergen, Director General of International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Source: NWO