About ICAI and its reviews

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) is a body set up to scrutinise UK aid spending. It is independent from government, and reports to Parliament through the International Development Committee in the House of Commons.

ICAI commissions a small number of thematic reviews each year on strategic issues faced by the UK government’s aid spending. The reviews inform and support Parliament in its role of holding the UK government to account. They also provide transparency, as all reviews are published and made available to the public.

Listening to the voices of citizens

Between 2021 and 2023 INTRAC supported six separate ICAI reviews directly, working as part of a supplier consortium, led by Agulhas. INTRAC’s role was to lead the citizen engagement component. This addressed questions around relevance and effectiveness of UK aid programming. Citizen engagement (sometimes referred to as affected population engagement) not only collects primary evidence to strengthen the reviews, but is also a vital avenue to ensure that the voices of populations affected, directly or indirectly, by UK aid spending are consulted and included.

ICAI reviews cover all Official Development Assistance (ODA), not just FCDO spending. The reviews have covered a wide range of themes and geographies. During INTRAC’s involvement in Phase 3 of ICAI, we led the citizen engagement component on reviews into UK ODA on:

  1. Safeguarding in the humanitarian sector
  2. The UK’s humanitarian response to COVID-19
  3. Peacebuilding
  4. Democracy and human rights
  5. Trade for aid
  6. Agriculture

Some ICAI reviews look at the entire portfolio of UK ODA in a set country, while others take a thematic focus across different geographies and typically select two or three of the most relevant countries for a deeper focus from the review team. Across the six reviews INTRAC worked on (all thematic reviews), we worked with many national partners and used a variety of methodologies to directly engage people in Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Yemen.

INTRAC’s approach

The work required a high level of adaptability and creativity on INTRAC’s part to successfully carry out the research in a way that was both meaningful and ethically responsible. Challenges ranged from floods, armed conflicts, and COVID-19 lockdowns restricting access to refugee camps.

A range of qualitative and quantitative data collection approaches were used across the six reviews, from more traditional methods like surveys, interviews and focus group discussions, to more creative options such as developing trauma-sensitive and survivor-centred training for researchers and using computer assisted telephone interview surveys where physical access for the research team was limited.