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Development impact evaluations, and randomised control trials (RCTs) in particular, have boomed since the early 2000s albeit with large differences in growth patterns from one donor to the next. These studies have prompted renewed interest in development economics research and have improved donors’ project evaluation quality standards. They have produced an array of new knowledge, some of which has made a huge impression and fuelled strong policy decisions. Yet this “new” method, which has made something of a sea change to the practices of traditional donors and development partners in general, has not emerged without controversy. Impact evaluations have stirred up heated debate over methods and use in academic and donor circles. This issue presents the state of play with these debates, especially the points of international consensus, and proposes options for a reasonable use of this tool. It also addresses less prominent questions and recommends their inclusion as considerations in the definition of donor strategies.

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