Development Results en It’s time to improve the ‘Value for Money’ toolkit, and not junk it <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p> <img alt=" Julio Pantoja / World Bank" height="208" src="" style="float:left" title=" Julio Pantoja / World Bank" width="320" />The ‘results agenda’ of donor agencies have inspired several heated debates. Value for money is one of the main tools that helps further this agenda. There is significant pressure on donor development agencies to ‘demonstrate’ what they have achieved (results), and further, examine whether these results have been achieved in a cost-effective manner (‘value for money’). This pressure to demonstrate ‘value for money’ often leads to plenty of frustration, as those designing and implementing aid programmes struggle to strike a balance between what is easy to prove versus the complex nature of an intervention designed to tackle a real-world problem.</p> <p> There are several problems with the results agenda – <em><strong>development interventions take place in a wide range of contexts</strong></em>, that lend themselves to comparisons on some counts and not, on others. These contexts change every day, and certainly over the lifetime of a development project, and attempting a grand theory or mathematical formulae to capture the entire process is nearly impossible.</p> <p> Besides technical problems, there are valid fears that focusing too closely on ‘value for money’ will lead development workers to focus on ‘bean-counting’ and preferring interventions that can be easily measured and whose costs and benefits are easy to estimate. Some researchers have gone further and argued that an obsession with such metrics essentially forces development workers into lying about how their projects actually work.</p> </div></div></div> Tue, 10 Apr 2018 17:39:08 +0000 Suvojit Chattopadhyay 7785 at 3 big problems with how we think about results and development <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><h4> How useful is 'focusing on results' for development work?<span> </span>It may make an organization more cost-efficient but not necessarily more effective as it is usually unrealistic, time-consuming and misleading.  </h4> <p> <img alt="Justine Greening sees the building of Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone" height="193" src="" style="float:left" title="" width="280" />How do donors aim for “results” without setting up a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">counterbureaucracy</a> that disrupts rather than encourages good development programs?</p> <p> A recent <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Independent Commission for Aid Impact</a> <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">report</a><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> </a>has taken the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">U.K. Department for International Development</a> to task for doing just that, which in turn demands a serious reconsideration of how DfID thinks about results and accountability.</p> <p> Of course, these<a href="" rel="nofollow"> </a><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">critiques</a> are hardly new. However this isn’t another nongovernmental organization or academic report slating the “<a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">results agenda</a>,” but an independent body that has specifically been set up to ensure the effectiveness of aid and — based on 44 previous reports — is providing evidence about how the results agenda unfolds in practice.</p> <p> In a nutshell, ICAI argues that DfID today knows better than ever before when and where taxpayers’ money is being spent, but not what that spending actually achieves. ICAI found that the results agenda has tended to prioritize short-term economy and efficiency over long-term, sustainable impact. It has brought “greater discipline” and “greater accountability for the delivery of aid” but also a focus on quantity of results over quality.</p> <p> Not everything ICAI has to say is bad news; but most of it is. The ICAI findings undoubtedly hold broader relevance for other donors who are taking a similar approach to their result agenda.<br />  </p> </div></div></div> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:02:00 +0000 Craig Valters 7180 at Living with the ‘results agenda’, redux <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><h4> What is the 'results agenda' and how does it relate to transformational change within development? The recent publication of a report from The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), which scrutinizes UK aid spending, has brought these questions to life once again.  Here are some takeaways on the report and the need for systems thinking, accountability, and flexibility from Suvojit Chattopadhyay.</h4> <p> <img alt="ash transfer payments to women in Freetown, Sierra Leone" height="187" src="" style="float:left" title="" width="280" /><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Craig Valters’ Devex post,</a> based on yet another newsworthy <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">ICAI report</a>, seems to have somewhat revived the debate over the ‘results agenda'. The criticism is sharper, castigating DFID for the “unintended effect of focusing attention on quantity of results over their quality” – but also one that clearly implies that the ‘results agenda’ is not well-understood or widely shared within donors like DFID. Focusing on ‘results’ cannot mean a divorce from long-term outcomes. What ICAI describes sounds more like an outputs agenda that is transactional (what your money can buy) rather than transformative (the good change).</p> <p> The consequence of this bean-counting is that complex problems risk being ignored: donors and the partners they fund will tend to focus on projects, rather than systems. Also, genuine accountability along the aid-chain takes a hit due to a general break-down of trust between the different actors. So what can we do about this?<br />  </p> </div></div></div> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 17:15:00 +0000 Suvojit Chattopadhyay 7151 at The Politics of Results and Evidence in International Development: important new book <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><h4> The results/value for money steamroller grinds on, with aid donors demanding more attention to measurement of impact. At first sight that’s a good thing – who could be against achieving results and knowing whether you’ve achieved them, right? Step forward <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Ros Eyben</a>, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Chris Roche</a>, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Irene Guijt</a> and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Cathy Shutt</a>, who take a more sceptical look in a new book, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">The Politics of Results and Evidence in International Development</a>, with a rather Delphic subtitle – ‘playing the game to change the rules?’</h4> <p> <img alt="Politics of Results and Evidence in International Development book cover" height="270" src="" style="float:left" title="" width="180" />The book develops the themes of the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">‘Big Push Forward’ conference</a> in April 2014, and the topics covered in one <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">of the best debates ever on this blog</a> – Ros and Chris in the sceptics corner took on two gung-ho DFID bigwigs, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Chris Whitty</a> and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Stefan Dercon</a>.</p> <p> The critics’ view is suggested by an opening poem, Counting Guts, by <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">P Lalitha Kumari</a> after she attended a meeting about results in Bangalore, which includes the line ‘We need to break free of the python grip of mechanical measures.’</p> <p> The book has chapters from assorted aid workers about the many negative practical and political consequences of implementing the results agenda, including one particularly harrowing account from a Palestinian Disabled People’s Organization that ‘became a stranger in our own project’ due to the demands of donors (the author’s skype presentation was the highlight of the conference).</p> <p> But what’s interesting is how the authors, and the book, have moved on from initial rejection to positive engagement. Maybe a snappier title would have been ‘Dancing with Pythons’. Irene Guijt’s concluding chapter sets out their thinking on "how those seeking to create or maintain space for transformational development can use the results and evidence agenda to better advantage, while minimising problematic consequences". Here’s how she summarizes the state of the debate:</p> <p> "No one disputes the need to seek evidence and understand results. Everyone wants to see clear signs of less poverty, less inequity, less conflict and more sustainability, to understand what has made this possible. Development organizations increasingly seek to understand better what works for who and why – or why not. However, disputes arise around the power dynamics that determine who decides what gets measured, how and and why. The cases in this book bear witness to the experiences of development practitioners who have felt frustrated by the results and evidence protocols and practices that have constrained their ability to pursue transformational development. Such development seeks to change power relations and structures that create and reproduce inequality, injustice and the non-fulfillment of human rights.<br />  </p> </div></div></div> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 16:03:00 +0000 Duncan Green 7137 at #3 from 2013: Who is Listening? Who is Responding? Can Technology Innovations Empower Citizens to Affect Positive Changes in their Communities? <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:186px; width:280px" /><em><strong>Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2013</strong><br /> This post was originally published on August 15, 2013</em><br /><br /> It was a sunny, hot Saturday afternoon and I mingled with farmers, community leaders, coffee producers and handicrafts entrepreneurs who had traveled from all parts of Bolivia to gather at the main square of Cliza, a rural town outside of Cochabamba. The place was packed and a sense of excitement and high expectations was unfolding. It was to be anything but an ordinary market day.<br />    <br /> Thousands of people had been selected from more than 700 rural communities to showcase their products and they were waiting for a special moment. President Evo Morales, Nemesia Achocallo, Minister for Rural Development, Viviana Caro, Minister for Development Planning, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, on his first official visit to Bolivia, would soon be meeting them.  <br /><br /> While waiting among them, I felt their excitement, listened to their life stories and was humbled by the high expectations they had in their government, their leaders and the international community to support them in reaching their aspirations for a better future for their families and communities. From many I heard the need to improve the well-being of their families and communities and their goal of “Vivir Bien!”</p> </div></div></div> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 15:17:00 +0000 Soren Gigler 6435 at Delivering Results: The Collaboration Imperative <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p> <img alt="" src="" style="height:205px; width:180px; float:left" title="" />There seems to be a growing consensus among experts in different fields that in today’s highly interdependent world, effective collaboration has become crucial for achieving results.<br />  <br /> As part of the World Bank's Internal Justice System Week a few days ago, we attended a presentation by Dr. Peter Coleman, Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University and heir of an illustrious research tradition in social-psychology going back almost a hundred years. Dr. Coleman is part of an inter-disciplinary team of global experts that also includes mathematicians, astrophysicists, anthropologists and computer modeling experts in a quest to answer the following question: what are the conditions that support or hinder collaboration in social relations?<br />  <br /> Using computer simulations they observed the results of competitive and cooperative behaviors, and detected how dynamic patterns develop over time. They realized that the dynamic social relations created behaved in ways similar to those that have been observed in other complex systems, from cancerous cellular mutations to global climate shifts. Like such systems, social dynamics are not only complex but also “non-linear”, which means that the different elements constantly influence each other, acting as both cause and effect of each other’s behaviors. The tool available to study such systems is known as “dynamical system theory”, and Dr. Coleman’s team has been applying its methods to social systems.</p> </div></div></div> Mon, 09 Dec 2013 21:23:00 +0000 Camilo Azcarate 6556 at Why Won’t Babu Move? <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><P><IMG height=186 alt="" src="" width=280 align=left>Much of what we do in international development as a field of practice is designed to make Babu move, yet more often than not Babu does not make the move we would like her to make, a move that we are convinced is clearly, evidently, certainly, demonstrably in her overall best interest. As a result, we are, at turns, surprised, frustrated, angry, resigned, cynical even.&nbsp; The fault is with Babu, we are convinced, and not with us.</P> <P>As you must have guessed by now, Babu is the prototypical intended beneficiary of many of our development programs and initiatives. Depending on how you pronounce her name, she could be from any of the continents to which most developing countries belong. We work in development largely because we want to improve Babu’s life. We have a passionate concern; we want to do the very best that we can for her. We bring money, expertise and oodles of benevolence to Babu’s hometown. But we know that for the initiative to go well (and produced those magical ‘development results’) we need Babu to play her part. We need her to make a move of some kind. Perhaps we want her to:</div></div></div> Thu, 14 Feb 2013 18:48:01 +0000 Sina Odugbemi 6246 at Development Results at Your Fingertips <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><P><A href="" target=_blank><IMG height=275 alt="" hspace=0 src="" width=150 align=left border=0></A></P> <P>A little over a year ago, I wrote <A href="" target=_blank>on this blog </A>that communicative norms on the use of social media were shifting around, but would eventually settle down.&nbsp; This would happen, I argued rather naïvely, as patterns and preferences of user communities determined the contours and content of fast changing information and communication ecologies.&nbsp; I should also have said that vested interests –both good and bad--would attempt to exert influence on this process.&nbsp;</P> <P>We’ve all probably come across stories of the ways in which news and media organizations, businesses, schools, and international donors have been struggling to remain relevant within shifting information environments around the world.&nbsp; So have governments, parliaments, and bureaucracies.&nbsp; Much has been written about these struggles for relevance, and a&nbsp;dominant theme in much of&nbsp;this writing has been the need to provide users with tools to manage unrelenting information gluts.&nbsp; </div></div></div> Wed, 13 Apr 2011 15:58:30 +0000 Antonio Lambino 5706 at Why Sound Technical Solutions Are Not Enough: Part II <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p><img height="186" alt="" hspace="0" width="280" align="left" border="0" src="/files/publicsphere/Johanna/3427730458_89c72913cd.jpeg" />Let us go back to the main theme of this blog: why sound technical solutions devised by top ranking technical experts and supported by plenty of resources from the richest countries have failed to deliver the expected results. A review of past experiences identified a number of causes for the failures of past approaches, but most of them appear to be traceable to one directly linked to communication/dialogue, or the lack of; i.e. the limited involvement of the so-called &lsquo;beneficiaries&rsquo; in the decisions and the design of activities that concerned their lives. To sum up, lack of results in development initiatives due to people failing to adopt the prescribed behaviours were largely due to the neglect of the voices of those who were expected to adopt and live with such innovations and technical solutions.</p> </div></div></div> Tue, 11 Jan 2011 15:13:14 +0000 Paolo Mefalopulos 5625 at At The Cutting Edge of Governance: Final Day <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p><img height="186" alt="" hspace="0" width="280" align="left" border="0" src="/files/publicsphere/_DSC2534small.jpg" />The third and final day of the <a target="_blank" href="">workshop on 'Implementing Effective Country Level Governance'</a> (Cape Town, South Africa) looked to the future. But, in a sense, it was not possible to look ahead without looking back at the same time. Again and again, participants reflected on the amazing road already travelled. Stories were told of the time when the World Bank and other donors would not discuss the terrible scourge of corruption in developing countries, let alone the role of politics and political institutions in either enabling or hampering development results. Yet now, all these things are part of not only the agenda but concrete practice in the field. A director summed up the state of play succinctly:</p> </div></div></div> Thu, 16 Sep 2010 18:10:12 +0000 Sina Odugbemi 5536 at That Poll in Marja and What It Means for Us <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p><img height="210" alt="" hspace="0" width="280" align="left" border="0" src="/files/publicsphere/4131390170_12c5ff921a.jpeg" />This is an extended quote from the <em>New York Times</em> of February 19, 2010, from a story titled <a target="_blank" href="">'Afghan Push Went Beyond Traditional Military Goals'</a>:</p> <p>&quot;Before 10,000 troops marched through central Helmand Province to wrest control of a small Afghan town from a few hundred entrenched Taliban fighters, American officials did something more typical of political than military campaigns: they took some polls.</p> </div></div></div> Tue, 02 Mar 2010 16:34:56 +0000 Sina Odugbemi 5376 at Development Results Require Program Communication <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p><img height="270" alt="" hspace="0" width="180" align="left" border="0" src="/files/publicsphere/3491855145_ce1e4eda0a.jpeg" />This is my first blog since I left the World Bank and relocated to New Delhi to work for <a target="_blank" href="">UNICEF</a>. Different cultures, different contexts, different communication challenges. Every change implies dealing with unknown and unexpected situations and it usually also entails refining a different way of thinking in approaching new challenges. In this case, the change I went through allowed me to see even clearer the critical role of communication for development (C4D), or program communication as it is also called in <a target="_blank" href="">UNICEF</a>, for achieving sustainable change.</p> <p>The current trend in most international organizations towards results-based management planning is a further element confirming the crucial role of C4D. Results are now defined basically at outputs level and outcomes level. The former refers to results directly related to activities carried out as technical solutions (e.g. production of infrastructure or provision of services), but outcomes are results of a higher level, capable of achieving a greater impact, linked with institutional or behavioral change. That is where C4D becomes a sine-qua-non for the success of most development initiatives. No matter what is the technical solution to be adopted; i.e. latrines, water irrigation schemes, a new kind of crop, children immunization or better governance, these can only be achieved through a professional and systematic use of communication for social and behavior change.</p> </div></div></div> Tue, 20 Oct 2009 18:54:11 +0000 Paolo Mefalopulos 5288 at