International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Research at the IRC

The IRC’s mortality survey teams interviewing villagers about health status, deaths in the households and the types of disease in Misoke, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The IRC’s mortality survey teams interviewing villagers about health status, deaths in the households and the types of disease in Misoke, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
“The important thing is to not stop questioning”

–Albert Einstein

This wise recommendation represents the International Rescue Committee’s strong commitment to research, evaluation and learning. Appropriately, it comes from the great scientist and humanitarian at whose suggestion our organization was founded in 1933. Nearly 80 years later, our work is driven by equal parts of passion and proof, ideals and ideas. This principle of rigorous inquiry and examination guides the way in which we design our programs and deliver our services.

Research, Evaluation and Learning

It is the IRC’s mission to respond to the world’s worst crises and help people to survive and rebuild their lives. It is our responsibility to fulfill that mission with the greatest possible degree of effectiveness and efficiency.
Toward that end, we never stop questioning. Does a program work? Does it work better than another? What is the impact? The viability? The relevance? Can it be improved? How? When? For whom? 

Challenge assumptions. Explore outcomes.

More than ever, donors—both large and small—want to understand the exact significance of their support. And while accurate, meaningful measurement remains a challenge, a new generation of researchers has shown that it is possible, and that results can be transformative.
The IRC combines research with hands-on day-to-day experience that develops real expertise. That approach enables us to save lives and jumpstart recovery, achieve optimal use of resources, and increase the likelihood of lasting solutions. By investing in research and evaluation, the IRC advances humanitarian aid, developing a long-term vision to answer fundamental questions about what works, and why.

Innovation and Influence

The IRC maintains a dedicated professional Research, Evaluation and Learning (REL) team whose job it is to ensure that we rely on evidence to design and operate our programs. The team develops cutting-edge tools and guidelines that enhance IRC’s ability to monitor the quality of work and track performance. They build our capacity for sound data collection and methods of analysis, and for demonstrating with precision the impact of our practitioners at work in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities.
The IRC REL team contributes regularly to presentations and publications in order to share lessons-learned and best practices that advance the larger field of humanitarian agencies and the effectiveness of our collective work.
Recognized as thought-leaders, they are regularly invited to present at donor conferences, provide feedback on new impact evaluation policies and participate in academic networks for humanitarian aid and development.

Academic Partnerships

The IRC has formed strong partnerships with researchers at the leading universities: Columbia University, Harvard University, MIT, London School of Economics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Johns Hopkins University. The IRC is also associated with research or evaluation groups such as Experiments in Government and Politics (EGAP), Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), Interaction, ALNAP, and WHO and CDC research groups.

In Focus

As part of our ongoing efforts to evaluate the impact of our work and use the knowledge gained to improve our programs, the IRC has partnered with the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Balsillie School of International Affairs on a critical review of impact evaluations of community-driven development (CDD) programs.