USAID has focused on the need for data-driven decision-making as a result of the 2016 Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking and the 2017 report it produced, “The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking.” This report, as well as the agency’s 2018 update of its operational guidance, ADS 201, increasingly strengthened the linkages between the evidence USAID produces about its strategies, projects and activities, and decision points in the USAID Program Cycle. 

One example of how the Institute for Development Impact (I4DI) is partnering with USAID to support this direction can be found in the Institute’s implementation of a technology-enabled learning agenda process with the Women + Water Global Development Alliance (W+W Alliance), a five-year (2017-2022) collaboration between USAID; the Government of India; Gap, Inc.; I4DI; CARE; Water.org; the Institute for Sustainable Communities; and the International Center for Research on Women. Together, these organizations are leveraging their complementary strengths to improve and sustain the water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions of women and communities touched by the apparel industry in India. 

From 2017-2021, I4DI, as the consortium’s monitoring, evaluation and learning partner, led the development of the project’s learning agenda to outline the critical decision-making and respective data needs from the baseline study, and developed knowledge products and strategic facilitation approaches to enable consortium partners to make adaptive data-driven decisions. 

As part of this process, I4DI was committed to sharing data across partners to build trust through transparency and accountability. I4DI facilitated program strategy reflection sessions to help both local and consortium partners be active participants in the decision-making process to develop the project’s learning questions – or what key questions around women and water the project sought to answer – as well as decide the strategic approach for how the program was to achieve change. These sessions further enabled local partners to provide contextual insight to ensure well-informed and relevant interpretation of the data. Through discussing the programmatic approach, articulating assumptions, and building synergies across the Women + Water Alliance partners, this process strengthened ownership and relationships between partners for their individual components as well as their common goals. 

I4DI’s baseline survey process, which collected data to answer the articulated learning questions and validate the program theory of change, was then implemented across 1,000 households in Maharashtra and Madya Pradesh states in collaboration with local data collection partners RD Gardi Medical College in Madhya Pradesh and Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences (DMIMS) in Maharashtra. These partners ensured that the data collected were contextualized, relevant, reliable, rigorous and right-sized. I4DI then developed a user-friendly interactive report used for decision-making sessions and aided in further data dissemination through these?blog posts,?infographics and a microsite?on?GlobalWaters.org.

Then, using the interactive report, I4DI facilitated a decision-making process in which the prime awardee Gap, along with consortium partners, identified significant gaps between the baseline data and the theory of change. These challenges prompted major strategic shifts in the program design including the decision to bring on another partner. 

This linkage of formulation of learning questions and theory of change; oversight of data collection; and facilitation of decision-making based on the data enabled senior project leaders to make well-informed decisions. As the project’s Deputy Chief of Party noted, “I4DI is an incredible partner in the development space. The team helped us capture and summarize complex local data in a digestible and interactive way that allowed us to make informed decisions on where we needed to prioritize our efforts, bring stakeholders along to best understand the realities on the-ground, and how to slice and dice data in a way that can bring different stakeholders along the journey of our work. Using their super user-friendly microsite allowed us to easily pull content depending on a meeting we were attending, a presentation we were giving, or using as a working tool to plan for strategic decision alignment. In addition to the microsite, I4DI was a great thought partner to us to summarize data, lessons learned, and next steps in order for us to share those learnings on knowledge management platforms like Global Waters which was critical for our effort to broadly showcase our impact.”