Performance Evaluation of the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network


Project Overview


To assess the implementation and contribution of the $115 million Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) to development evidence and impacts, including through new public goods, such as datasets and methodologies, and through targeted benefits, such as evaluations of USAID mission programs.

Project Motivation

To understand how investments in higher education institutions—and their networks—can drive long-term impact in international development through institutional capacity-building, durable partnerships, valuable evidence, and scalable innovations.

Prepared For

U.S. Agency for International Development

Mathematica evaluated the global USAID Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) to understand how investments in higher education for development research and innovation can contribute to evidence and technologies that solve real-world problems.

USAID launched the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) program in 2012 to strengthen the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in development. Since its founding, HESN has invested $115 million in eight HESN Development Labs in universities throughout the United States and in Africa. These funds build lasting partnerships between HEIs and diverse stakeholders in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which allows them to finance workshops and learning events, produce high-quality data sets and new methodologies, and carry out a broad array of research. USAID commissioned this evaluation to help stakeholders understand (1) the conditions and models that generate effective partnerships with USAID Missions, Bureaus, and Independent Offices (MBIOs); (2) how HESN worked to improve the use of research findings; and (3) their potential LMIC policy impacts. The mixed-methods performance evaluation uses survey, bibliometric, administrative, interview, and focus group data to examine the use and utility of the core- and buy-in-funded activities to USAID and its development partners. The evaluation shows that the eight HESN Development Labs played a vital role in achieving HESN’s goals in collaboration with USAID, policymakers, and other partners. HESN-supported researchers and development practitioners created more than 900 products and technologies that address poverty-related challenges in communities worldwide. The HESN Development Labs developed 291 data sets or data-related technologies, engaged more than 1,200 partners in 83 countries, and directly affected 7.1 million beneficiaries across 35 countries.

Read More

Through events such as the Zero Waste International Development Design Summit in Colombia, HESN-funded development labs fostered 993 innovations, including technologies to reuse plastic waste.

Related Staff

Edith Felix

Edith Felix


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Josh Meuth Alldredge

Josh Meuth Alldredge


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