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Counterfactual Impact Evaluation (CIE)
What is it? In its simplest form, Counterfactual Impact Evaluation consists in comparing the outcomes of interest of those having benefitted from a policy or programme (the “treated group”) with those of a group similar in all respects to the treatment group (the “comparison/control group”), except that it has not been exposed to the policy or programme. The comparison group provides information on “what would have happened to the members subject to the intervention had they not been exposed to it”, the counterfactual case.
The case for CIE is based on the need to collect evidence and determine whether policy objectives have been met and, ultimately, whether the resources were used efficiently. These answers feed back into the design and implementation of future interventions and budgetary decisions. In light of this, the European Commission is committed to making impact evaluation part of a policy implementation life-cycle. This is for instance the case for the 2014-2020 European Social Funds Programme.
DG EMPL guide on CIE
In 2013 the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusions has produced a DG EMPL guide on CIE, intended for Managing Authorities and other bodies responsible for the implementation of ESF-funded interventions and programmes. The aim is to aid the design and commissioning of CIEs.