Conducting Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) to Evaluate the Impact of Land & Resource Governance Sector Interventions


Strengths, Practical Challenges, and Best Practice Guidance

Background Context and Study Purpose

Land and resource governance (LRG) interventions often aim to make land access more equitable and to strengthen individual, household or communal rights to land and natural resources. LRG tenure strengthening and land formalization programming at USAID has focused on a range of interventions, including individual titling of private land and mapping and certification of individual or communal customary land rights. Such interventions span several broad categories, including those focused on land use planning and natural resource management, property rights and boundary clarifications, official rights recognition, land administration capacity building, awareness raising and sensitization on land rights and regulations, and legal, regulatory and policy dialogue, advocacy and reform.

Research and evaluations of LRG programs aim to fill existing knowledge gaps about LRG programming and theories of change, through carefully designed and rigorous studies. For many learning interests related to LRG interventions, impact evaluations (IEs) can provide one of the strongest ways to measure the impacts of the interventions with confidence and gain evidence-based learning on specific issues. Among the different types of evaluation and learning approaches, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are often seen as an especially useful IE tool for evidence-based learning. However, RCTs to assess the impacts of LRG interventions, and of land sector programming in general, have been very uncommon.

This report seeks to help demystify RCTs for land sector programming, discuss some of the challenges and potential solutions for implementing LRG RCTs, and ultimately serve as a resource document that can help USAID to make informed decisions about whether, when, why and how to engage in supporting an RCT of a land sector intervention. The intended audiences for this report are USAID/Washington, Mission and other operating unit staff engaged in land sector programming.

Miguel Albornoz, NORC at the University of Chicago
Phoebe Bui, NORC at the University of Chicago
Lauren Persha, NORC at the University of Chicago

Further Reading