Towards a concrete term and methodology for evaluating the impact of university development aid consistent with human development (Spanish)

  • Authors:
    María José Vázquez de Francisco, Pedro Caldentey del Pozo, José Juan Romero Rodríguez
  • Publication:
    Full Academic Paper. HDCA Conference.
  • Year: 2013


With the onset of the crisis, impact evaluations seem to have spread, mainly as a mechanism for accountability to program stakeholders, within the framework of aid effectiveness, but also for other purposes, such as testing innovations for replicating actions, testing their usefulness in complex or risky contexts, being accountable “downwards” (to the beneficiaries of the actions) and contributing to learning.

The very definition of the term impact poses problems, not only in terms of concept, but also in terms of timing. This question [the when] is not trivial, since the validity of the methodologies chosen [the how] for impact assessment will depend to a large extent on the determination of the time frame in which the effects are being studied.

Another key question is what an impact assessment is intended to measure [the what]. If we are talking about measuring the effect of a development action, the first thing to do is to determine the development paradigm being used. Since the 1990s, it seems clear that the paradigm generally accepted by development organizations is the Human Development Theory and its capabilities approach. Later, in the early years of this century, the paradigm was expanded with the concrete definition of core capabilities and multidimensional poverty. All of these paradigms are based on human spectrums whose evolution and change take years to become evident. Moreover, this evolution does not only depend on the concrete development actions that a few organizations try to carry out in impoverished countries. These are complex processes, with their own dynamics and affected by a myriad of endogenous and exogenous variables.

To pretend to use impact measurement methodologies (very often not very respectful with the dynamics and adaptation times to the changes of the communities with which the cooperating institutions work) to evaluate processes, merits a reflection on the convenience, adaptability and validity, even the ethics, to measure what is really to be measured.

ETEA’s model of university cooperation, inserted in the university paradigm of the Society of Jesus – the so-called Ledesma-Kolvenbach paradigm – based on the pillars of utility, justice, humanity and faith, constitutes a contribution to aid models aligned with human development. The evaluation of 25 years of ETEA’s university cooperation with the UCA of Nicaragua (1987-2012) could serve to review the implications and conditioning factors of impact evaluation methodologies and to analyze their capacity to measure their effects on development processes.

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