Imagine this: Your team is implementing a project aiming to improve cardiovascular disease (CVD) in rural communities in Country X. One of your responsibilities is to conduct a baseline and end-line analysis at the beginning and end of the project. You’ve briefly heard of this kind of analysis, but you don’t really remember what it is or how to conduct one. Let’s have a look at these terms together!
Baselines and end-lines are terms that tend to sound complicated or scary. Yet, the concepts are incredibly simple. Here is an analogy to start you off:
You want to know whether your amount of sleep has an impact on your productivity at work. You write down aspects such as your attention span during presentations, how many coffees you need to stay awake at the office, and the amount of work you’ve accomplished at the end of the day. Baseline! Then, for a whole week, you decide to go to bed early and sleep an average of 8 hours per night. After a week (while continuing the 8-hour sleep schedule), you re-assess the variables you measured at baseline and compare them. Endline!
Ok, ok… that might be a bit too basic, but it helps with the concept!
In other words, a baseline survey sets a benchmark against which the results of your end-line survey can be compared. Thus baselines and end-lines usually measure the same variables.
So, how does this analysis work exactly?
Data collected at baseline describe the population as they were prior to the intervention or treatment being implemented. For example, in your program to improve cardiovascular disease (CVD), you could measure people’s weight, % of people with uncontrolled hypertension, or % of people suffering from CVD, and compare whether these values improved between baseline and end-line.
Endline surveys are conducted after the intervention or treatment is delivered and are mainly used to measure the outcomes of interest. In our example, we could potentially see a decline in the % of people with CVD, but if the project is too short, we may only see a decline in more intermediate benefits, such as a decline in obese or overweight people, or % of people with uncontrolled hypertension. End-line data is compared to the baseline data to measure the intervention’s or treatment’s effect.
An incomplete baseline analysis can make this comparison ineffective in evaluating impact, leading to less precise and reliable results. It can be very frustrating to try and lead an evaluation when baseline data are weak or non-existent, as a lot of effort and resources have gone into implementing the project, but afterward, it is hard to tell conclusively if the project produced benefits.
For a good baseline and end-line survey that will help generate results that are comparative and inform if the intervention or treatment was effective or not, consider the following:
- Time of baseline survey: To minimize the chance that factors beyond your control will have an impact on your population and cause changes that might inadvertently contribute to the intervention or treatment effects, a baseline survey should be conducted right before the intervention starts.
- Survey the same population at baseline and end-line, and if possible, ensure you have a control population that does not participate in the project or receive the intervention.
- Choose your variables carefully, ensure they measure what your project is really trying to change, and cover the project’s key objectives.
- Consider collecting qualitative data on certain variables using other tools or methods, such as focus group discussions, individual interviews, or observational data, which can help with attribution of the changes to the project or intervention, or understanding why changes did or did not happen.