USAID Evidence Summit

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The Evidence Summit on Promoting Broad-Based Economic Growth was part of a commitment by USAID to support evidence-based policy and programming. Learning outcomes from the summit — in conjunction with the existing economic growth strategy for the agency — will feed into an agency-wide policy or strategy document on the subject of inclusive/broad-based economic growth.

The Evidence Summit was organized by the Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research within the USAID Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL/LER) to support evidence-based policy and programming regarding Broad-Based Economic Growth. The Summit was designed to engage internal and external thought leaders at USAID, field missions, implementing partner organizations, the academic community, and other key stakeholder organizations.

The event included many different types of sessions—individual presenters, facilitated panels, Q&A, breakout sessions and a small group discussion—and covered several growth-related topics, such as agriculture, climate change, education and gender. Below you will find screencasts of the various summit sessions.

Key Questions from the Summit


  • What distinguishes countries that have achieved broad-based growth from those that have not?
  • How do sector-specific trends, policies, and programs contribute to broad-based growth?
  • Based on the evidence discussed, how can USAID effectively integrate these findings into agency policy, strategy, project design, and partner engagement?
  • What 'unanswered questions' remain? What are the key priorities for future research and evaluation?

Event Resources


“What Social Protection Programs Effectively Contribute to Broad-Based Growth?”
Presented by: Michael Carter, University of California, Davis; Laura Rawlings, The World Bank; Hassan Zaman, The World Bank

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“What Kinds of Agricultural Strategies/Policies Lead to Broad-Based Growth?”
Presented by: Thomas Jayne, Michigan State University; Clemens Breisinger, IFPRI

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“To What Extent Have Paths to Growth Included or Excluded Women?”
Presented by: Rekha Mehra, International Center for Research on Women

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“Evidence from Country Experience”
Presented by: Milo Vandemoortele & Henri Leturque, Overseas Development Institute (ODI); Kunal Sen, Institute of Development Policy & Mnaagement, University of Manchester; Steve Radelet, U.S. Department of State

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“What is the Role of Financial Service Policies and Programs in Contributing to Broad-Based Growth?”
Presented by: David Roodman, Center for Global Development; Kate McKee, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor

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“Keynote Address”
Presented by: Martin Ravallion, The World Bank

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“What do we know about the linkages between growth and poverty?”
Presented by: Aart Kraay, The World Bank; David Sahn, Cornell University

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“What education policies and strategies lead to broad-based growth?”
Presented by: Lant Pritchett, Kennedy School of Government; Elizabeth King

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“Broad-based growth, Climate Change, and Natural Resource Management”
Presented by: Diane Russell, USAID; David Wheeler, Center for Global Development

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“Closing Remarks”
Presented by: Nancy Birdsall, Center for Global Development
Nancy Birdsall’s closing remarks at the USAID Broad-Based Economic Growth Evidence Summit were very thought-provoking. After discussing the differences between growth, inclusive growth and persistent growth, she focused on her recommendations for USAID’s scope and priorities. In Birdsall’s opinion, the Agency should focus on helping people (as measured through indicators like the Millennium Development Goals). She further mentioned that USAID has less comparative advantage and experience in nation-building—the building of “capable, legitimate, responsive states.” Instead, she suggested, AID should leverage its experience on the ground and in the field, which is critical, and its decentralized structure to improve the effectiveness of donor support. She ended with a call for honest communication with Congress about setting realistic expectations and a larger commitment to evaluation, not only of USAID activities but also in helping countries evaluate their own programs. During a robust question and answer session, Birdsall also agreed that development need not only be about helping people or nation-building; building the middle class is also an important goal that USAID can support.

Click below to listen to Nancy Birdsall’s closing remarks


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Transcript of Nancy Birdsall's closing remarks

"'Ground Truth' Panel"
Presented by: John Graham, USAID; Mary Ott, USAID; Jolyne Sanjak, Millennium Challenge Corporation
The purpose of the “ground truth” panel was to have practitioners compare the evidence they heard presented at the Evidence Summit with their on-ground experience.
The first panelist, Jolyne Sanjak, spoke about the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s “great experiment” of evidence-based development. She presented on the ways that MCC uses indicators, data and other evidence in their due diligence, planning and design processes. Beneficiary analyses are used to determine potential project impacts for the poor. Her recommendations for USAID and Summit participants were threefold. First, strengthen the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Feed the Future Initiative by incorporating MCC-like constraints analyses. Second, include cost in the discussion. Third, put more energy and resources into data collection via impact evaluations and joint programs with researchers.
Mary Ott began the second part of the panel by reminding everyone that many of the shortfalls people remember about USAID are on their way to being corrected. Ott urged the Agency to participate in more fully in research, collect findings and incorporate them into policy and programming. More specifically, she highlighted the importance of baseline surveys and made a distinction between funding studies and supporting research where there is more rigorous methodology and an open-ended focus.
Opening with a joke about economists and their tendency to assume, John Graham, the final panelist, reiterated his colleagues’ calls for more research and a closer tie between the development industry and academia. He went on to say that the three big take-aways he’d be returning with him to Ethiopia were pro-poor growth, focus on smallholders, and urbanization. These were all topics that he and his team are just beginning to deal with and he believes that there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered. In Ethiopia, his project has done 14 impact assessments which often showed surprising results. In one instance, an expensive and widespread emergency livestock vaccination program impact assessment found no impact. By comparison, the relatively easy commercial destocking impact assessment found a 40-1 benefit/cost ratio. Graham ended the panel by calling on the Summit participants to not only base project design on evidence, but to make a commitment to learning and work it into a feedback loop.

Click below to listen to the John Graham, Mary Ott, and Jolyne Sanjak "Ground Truth" Panel


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Transcript of the John Graham, Mary Ott, and Jolyne Sanjak "Ground Truth" Panel



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