Making sense of impact: a methodological framework for assessing the impact of prizes

J. Vaessen*, E. Raimondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In recent years, debates on impact evaluation of development cooperation have flourished. There has been a marked increase in statistical impact evaluation exercises, most notably randomized experiments, and at the same time, many evaluations with a focus on impact have relied on alternative methodological approaches. The diversity in methodological approaches can be explained by differences in epistemology, characteristics of the evaluand and of the evaluation context. Broadly speaking there are two approaches: impact evaluations that rely on statistical design and/or multivariate analysis with statistical controls as a basis for attribution; and impact evaluations relying on systematic argumentation guided by some type of causal theory of change. Contribution analysis is an example of a heuristic framework that fits in the latter category and this article relates this approach to an evaluation of prizes awarded by UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). It discusses the intervention logic underlying UNESCO prizes and the corresponding framework for empirical assessment that in part reflects the institutional context and constraints. Finally, we discuss how the evaluation can provide the basis for a full-fledged impact evaluation of a prize using contribution analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-347
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • contribution analysis
  • impact evaluation
  • prizes


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