Final Friday Funny for 2011 – the Christmas Gift Aid Critique

Antipodean Holidays

It’s been a busy year, and we’re about to head off for our sunny, Antipodean Christmas break. Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions on the blog and when we have met face to face.

We’ve both had heavy project reporting commitments this year which have limited our capacity for blogging – the Friday Funnies have quite outweighed more serious blogs.

Next year we’re planning to share emerging thoughts as we work on new books – Jane on commissioning evaluation and Patricia on evidence-based policy and practice. We look forward to discussing these issues with you.

To finish the year we wanted to share this brief evaluation of Christmas Gifts, from From the Development Research Institute (DRI), New York University via Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella.  We enjoyed it all except the scurrilous reference to fruit cakes, which are a greatly revered gift in the Antipodes.

Lack of Rigorous Methodology: Regrettably, this evaluation had to proceed without the required Randomized Controlled Trial on Christmas Gifts, which failed to be completed as planned. Project managers did a poor job explaining the advantages of RCT participation to the Control Group.

Lack of Targeting: The Christmas Gifts aid program was not sufficiently well-targeted to the poor. Recipients of Christmas Gifts indiscriminately included well-off regions, groups, genders, and individuals.

Lack of Efficient Modalities: The Christmas Gifts appeared to consist largely of in-kind aid. This contradicts abundant evidence of best practices emphasizing cash transfers as superior to in-kind aid. There was some evidence of #SWEDOW (“Stuff We Don’t Want”) in-kind transfers, the worst possible kind of aid, usually involving fruitcakes.

Lack of Efficient Timing: Contrary to the recommendation that aid consist of an even, predictable flow, the Christmas Gifts program is mostly concentrated on one day, with a few unpredictable lags ranging from a few days (“late deliveries”) to months (“handmade gifts”).

Lack of Net Flows: Evaluators found Christmas Gift recipients engaged in behavior that frustrated the aid program, with Recipients acting as Donors to their own Donors, reducing their own net aid intake. They explained their counterproductive behavior with non-standard concepts such as “Tis more bless’d to give than to receive.”

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