Contribution vs Attribution – A Pointless Debate

AID LEAP

RCT-Gold-StandardThere are three certainties in life. The first two are death and taxes. The third – known only to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practitioners – is that during any workshop on M&E, someone will smugly point out that we should be examining contribution, not attribution.

Those of you without experience in M&E jargon (lucky you!) will need a bit of help at this point. “Attribution” is the idea that a change is solely due to your intervention. If I run a humanitarian programme dedicated to handing out buckets, then the gift of a bucket is ‘attributable’ to my programme. I caused it, and nobody can say otherwise. “Contribution” is the idea that your influence is just one of many factors which contribute to a change. Imagine that I was lobbying for a new anti-corruption law. If that law passes, it would be absurd to say that I caused it directly…

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