6. Comparative and economic evaluation


Academic references to outcomes theory: Duignan (2009d)*

It means that they can more easily decide which programs or organizations to fund.

When making such comparisions, you need to be sure that you're comparing like with like.

Being able to accurately compare the effect of one program against another is the decision-makers Holy Grail.

Major problems can arise when comparing programs which are easy to evaluate versus those which are hard to evaluate - an absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.

Three types of comparision are described below.


This is where measures of progress on the steps or outcomes within a program's outcomes model are compared with other programs or organizations. The comparision can be at the high-level outcomes level or at lower-levels of the outcomes model. The benchmark is most powerful when it is examining controllable indicators (outcomes theory building-block two).

Meta analysis

In this comparision, a large number of quantitative impact evaluation results which provide an effect-size are aggregated. This gives an average estimate of the effect-size of a particular intervention. This is a more accurate estimate of effect-size than that from any one study. This figure can then be used to compare the effectiveness of new interventions or replications of an earlier intervention.

Economic analysis

In this type of comparison, program effects are translated into dollar values ultimately for comparative purposes. Cost-effectiveness is where the cost of achieving a particular effect is estimated. Cost-benefit is where the overall costs and benefits are estimated and combined to calculate a net effect of the program.

List of economic evaluation designs

* This particular reference can be cited to refer to the material on this page.