Tucson, 10 November 2023 – Multi-faceted development programmes target poor people in complex realities. For this reason, development agencies need to embed targeting as a value throughout the project cycle, from project design to implementation, and ensure adequate resources are made available in terms of time, staff and funds. Fabrizio Felloni, Deputy Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), and Jeanette Cooke, IOE Evaluation Officer, underscored the importance of addressing this need during the international conference titled ‘Targeting of the poor’, on 8-9 November 2023.

The Initiative for Agency and Development at the University of Arizona hosted the conference, co-organized with IOE, at its premises in Tucson, Arizona. The event provided a forum for presentation and discussion of the cutting-edge applied evaluation research on targeting of the poor and ultra-poor. The line-up of participants and discussants featured practitioners, technical experts and academics from international financial institutions, United Nations entities, Government agencies, universities and think tanks. 

The conference’s academic leads were Tauhidur Rahman, Associate Professor at the University of Arizona, Mr Felloni and Dr Indran A. Naidoo, IOE Director. Mr Felloni represented IOE in-person during the event. In particular, Mr Felloni offered introductory remarks, following which he delivered a presentation alongside Ms Cooke during a session titled ‘How to know better what works in targeting:  lessons from a multi-country evaluation of targeting challenges and practice’. Mr Felloni also participated in the final  panel discussion titled ‘Targeting of the poor’, while Ms Cooke acted as a discussant in a session titled ‘Evidence from traditional and new targeting approaches: Evidence from Norway’, led by the evaluation office of NORAD.  The typology of programmes reviewed, included development projects as well as national social protection programmes.  A keynote speech by Professor Price Fishback, Regents Professor at the University of Arizona and one of the top scholars in the USA on the history of social security, provided an overview of the history of social protection programmes in high-income country and their lesson learnt and implications for similar programmes in low-income countries.

Throughout the two-day event, participants reiterated that effective and efficient targeting of the poor is a critical step for successful anti-poverty and social protection programs, particularly in rural areas. However, they also recognized that targeting of the poor is challenging, especially in developing countries. This is because poverty status is dynamic, with people and households move in and out of poverty, multidimensional, since it involves income, nutrition, human and social capital, among other dimensions, and challenging to measure.

In its first evaluation synthesis note titled ‘Targeting in IFAD-supported projects’, IOE confirmed that targeting poor rural people is central to IFAD’s mandate and to realizing its comparative advantage. Presenting the report during the conference, Mr Felloni and Ms Cooke explained that IFAD’s comparative advantage is its engagement in targeting poor rural people. This distinguishes it from other financing institutions. Moreover, IFAD has piloted and increasingly adopted targeting innovations in and alongside its loan programmes. Nevertheless, target groups are sometimes unclearly defined or defined in multiple ways in the Fund’s interventions.

Against this backdrop, the IOE report notes the importance of a distinction between target groups and the principle of inclusion. Target groups are those that the project is mainly intended to benefit. Inclusion is a principle that can be applied across project interventions and addresses the issues of access and equity. Project design and implementation can make core activities more inclusive, instead of creating parallel components for unreached groups as separate target groups.

Many discussants who intervened during the conference also noted that, traditionally, anti-poverty and social protection programs have relied on household consumption expenditure survey data to identify the poor. However, such surveys are expensive and suffer from various measurement errors. As a result, a significant amount of interdisciplinary literature has emerged on alternative methods of targeting of the poor, including studies that utilize qualitative and quantitative techniques, case studies, randomized experiments, and impact evaluation studies conducted by international development institutions.  The conference also reviewed the importance of process evaluation, in order to assess policy and organizational capacity and incentives for targeting, at the donor agency and national government agency level.

Today, alternative methods of targeting have been proposed and utilized, including means testing, proxy means testing, geographic targeting, demographic targeting, self-targeting, and community-based targeting.  The conference also discussed opportunities and limitation of using GIS-based imaging and related meta-data for geographic targeting, as well as to complement large sample surveys that assesses targeting effectiveness, with examples from Central and South America.

A selection of academic papers discussed during the conference will be considered for publication in an edited book.

 

For further information, please contact Alexander Voccia [here]

 

RESOURCES

  • To access the presentation delivered by Mr Felloni and Ms Cook, please click here.

 

IOE 20th ANNIVERSARY

  • To access the brochure ‘More than a journey | 20 years of independence, please click here.
  • To access Fabrizio Felloni’s interview on the evolution of independence of IOE, please click here.
  • To learn why independent evaluation makes IFAD a more credible institution, please click here.

 

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