Causal Design partners with international development clients to provide rigorous independent program evaluation, expand cultures of evidence within organizations, and join them in efforts to relieve human suffering and end poverty.
Causal Design is best known for designing and implementing rigorous impact evaluations in complex environments, utilizing a variety of experimental, quasi-experimental, and mixed methods to answer specific cause-and-effect questions about an intervention. Causal Design’s impact evaluations help our partners 1) identify impact that is directly attributable to the program; 2) understand which implementation methods did or did not contribute to the programmatic objectives, and 3) learn, adapt, and make critical management decisions. We specialize in randomized control trials (RCT) and where an RCT is not possible are adept at designing and implementing quasi-experimental methods such as propensity score matching, difference of differences (and triple difference), or a regression discontinuity design. Causal Design works closely with partners to leverage methodologically sound data collection instruments to ensure that research questions are answered and that our partners can make informed evidence-based decisions. In most cases, we recommend that Impact Evaluations be complemented by Cost-Benefit or Cost-Effectiveness Analysis
Causal Design brings niche expertise in using Growth Diagnostics to identify the most pressing barriers to economic growth, and then prescribe policy reforms aimed at addressing these issues. This approach acknowledges that each country and context is different, and consequently yields country-specific and/or sector-specific recommendations, ensuring scarce resources are best targeted to maximize impact and cost-effectiveness. The Causal Design approach takes it one step further, adapting principles of Growth Diagnostics to glean new insights from data using differential diagnostics to identify binding constraints—our work has covered initiatives as diverse as agricultural transitions amidst climate change to women in executive leadership in the MENA region. This powerful tool, in the hands of Causal Design economists, yields deeper, more actionable insights with more grounded, focused recommendations.
Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Capacity Building
Causal Design excels at monitoring and evaluating programs, but our mission is to make evidence-based programming affordable for NGOs, practical to field workers, and digestible to policymakers and the general public. We work extensively with partners to transition them to results-based M&E systems and develop their internal capacity to conduct M&E. We have developed a strong train-the-trainers approach that not only enables us to pass on cost savings to our partners, but also equips local professionals with new skills and new potential. We’ve provided tailored trainings around all phases of the M&E process, including data collection, management, analysis, survey design, and administration—and have ultimately helped our partners build cultures of impact.
We believe that investments during the design phase of the project cycle are fundamental to a program’s ultimate success. Causal Design’s approach to program design begins with a review of existing literature to design an evidence-based theory of change. We then work closely with our partners to design an intervention, aligned to international best practices, to increase the likelihood of success while maximizing impact and minimizing cost. Causal Design provides a range of flexible services ranging from reviews of a partner’s program portfolio, to designing pilot programs to be rigorously evaluated, to complete design of large-scale development programs. Throughout the design process, we will utilize a range of tools including qualitative means of assessing the appropriateness and cost-benefit analysis while we draw from our experience with the rules and regulations of the major development donors.
Causal Design possesses unique expertise in applied political economy analysis (PEA) for program evaluation. We understand that partners and programs are embedded within complex environments, interacting with myriad forces—social, cultural, and political—that are not readily observable but likely have an impact on project outcomes. Our PEAs can be used for many purposes: to inform a project’s theory of change, assist in the design of more sensitive data collection instruments, and to ground impact, process, or performance evaluations within a more detailed context to yield insightful and actionable recommendations. We typically carry out PEAs as either a stand-alone deliverable, designed in consultation with partners to address specific questions or to precede and inform more complex evaluations.
Program Performance Evaluations
Causal Design has conducted performance evaluations around the world, in diverse contexts ranging from Cambodia to Zimbabwe to Pakistan and beyond. Our performance evaluations target the heart of program implementation, helping partners understand where programming is hitting the mark—or where it is falling short—against determined targets. We most frequently organize performance evaluations around OECD-DAC evaluation criteria (impact, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, coherence, and relevance), but also design and conduct performance evaluations to address specific client questions. While a typical performance evaluation might entail a suite of methods, Causal Design harnesses sophisticated qualitative inquiry and analysis to specifically address issues of sustainability, coherence, and relevance in the specific context where a program operates. Causal Design’s approach to performance evaluation offers clients a detailed window into often subtle forces that bear on program implementation and follow-through and, by extension, outcomes.
Cost-Benefit Analysis / Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (CBA / CEA)
Causal Design has developed novel ways of utilizing CBA and CEA tools to not only provide technical insight into program effectiveness and efficiency, but also to provide comparative insights into which services or elements of a program yield the most value for households—and which the least. Combined with a common definition for “effectiveness,” donor and implementation partners can trace their expenditures and impact and make informed decisions about how best to move forward. Most recently, Causal Design used CBA/CEA to determine which interventions of a multi-dimensional resilience program in Nepal not only resulted in positive coping strategies, but which also provided the most value for households based on both program and household expenditures.