In its simplest form, counterfactual impact evaluation (CIE) is a method of comparison which involves 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”), the only difference being that the comparison/control group 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 counterfactual impact evaluation 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.
With its Centre for Research on Impact Evaluation (CRIE), the JRC provides scientific expertise and methodological knowledge to the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion) and Member States for the ex-post impact evaluations of interventions funded by instruments managed by DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, namely the European Social Fund.