The public and private sector are under intense pressure to achieve results and demonstrate them to a variety of constituencies, including citizens, development partners, donors and other stakeholders. Citizens are calling for increased transparency and accountability for how priorities are defined, funds allocated, and results reported, all while demanding to be part of the process. It is no longer sufficient for service providers to say they have introduced programmes to reduce inequality and increase job opportunities; they must demonstrate that marginalized and/or poor communities have better access to quality basic services and more of them are gainfully employed, and they must back this up with evidence. Managing for results can address these challenges.
There are many reasons why capacity is often not measured: it is perceived to be ”soft” or intangible, capacity development is a long-term process, and there is pressure to show quick results. However, concrete changes in capacity can be measured. The development story or results logic (or theory of change) that defines the different levels of results and the linkages in the results chain can be a useful framework to clearly define, capture, and communicate capacity development results.
The results logic that holds true for the country must be the basis of results and measurement frameworks used by stakeholders (including donors, private sector or development agencies), as ultimately the results are national results achieved by and owned by the country. The logical flow of results is the following: capacity development processes strengthen national capacities and systems, structures, mechanisms, processes; these lead to institutions or systems performing more effectively / efficiently in a more consistent and resilient manner; this contributes to people and communities using services and changing their attitudes and behaviors; these finally result in positive changes in the lives of people and communities
Capacity development does not start when a capacity development project is funded by a development partner and “experts” from outside the country/ institution/ system begin providing support. Capacity development is normally already taking place, as part of various endogenous processes. It is important to understand this and acknowledge that it is unreasonable or even undesirable for any project (or external party) to claim attribution for a result; a development partner can only ensure the quality of the support to capacity development processes and contribute towards the achievement of a result. What is important is to systematically track the contribution it is making as part of project performance management, and for accountability purposes.
Managing for results can help:
- Improve performance: Organizations can carry out their mandates more effectively and efficiently by planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating for results. Continuous collection, analysis and use of information allow organizations to anticipate and adapt to the changing contexts. Decisions based on evidence and learning can improve performance.
- Increase value for money: A focus on results helps organizations make strategic decisions regarding the allocation of limited resources. They can identify which programmes or initiatives demonstrate the best return on investment, and determine when and where to invest (or divest) further.
- Strengthen accountability: Setting goals and key performance indicators through an inclusive process leads to more responsive organizations. Transparency regarding the targets and their achievement (or non-achievement) encourages organizations and their stakeholders to hold themselves accountable for results.
- Tell a convincing development story: A clear results story that links development programmes and initiatives to strengthened national capacities, to better organizational performance, and ultimately to improved lives of the people helps illustrate the actual change and the process to achieve sustainable results.
- Achieve greater consensus, coordination and collaboration: The process of jointly discussing key development issues and defining results and path(s) to their achievement helps to establish common ground and a shared vision among diverse stakeholders (including national and international actors). It can facilitate coordination of efforts and collaborative action towards a common goal.
Development Connect has vast experience to strengthening national capacities for results. We provide services related to the complete project cycle for management of change/results from participatory project development and design (incl. logframes, Theories of Change, Impact Pathways or Outcome Mapping), to project inception and implementation facilitation, project evaluations and other M&E services and knowledge management and learning approaches.
Key Factors for Managing for Results
Managing for results is as much a political endeavor as it is a technical exercise. Agreeing on common goals (and measures) with stakeholders with divergent and conflicting interests requires negotiation and lobbying, and holding actors accountable for results is part of a political process.
Results management calls for a strategy to achieve intended changes at the outset. However, the strategy must allow for flexibility to adjust and evolve with the changing context and circumstances, including managing unforeseen risks and taking advantage of opportunities as they emerge.
While it is advantageous to have a holistic framework to manage for (sustainable development) results for the whole-of-government and whole-of-society and the components functioning in an integrated manner, results-focus can be introduced or strengthened at any level: unit, department, organization, sector etc.
Monitoring is the routine tracking and reporting of high-priority information about a programme or project, its inputs and intended outputs, outcomes and impact. In contrast, evaluation is the rigorous collection of information about a programme and its outcomes to determine the extent to which they are achieving the stated objectives. The key distinction between the two is that evaluations are done independently to provide an objective assessment, and are typically more rigorous and involve more extensive analysis. The aims of both, however, are similar: to provide information that can help inform decisions, improve performance and achieve planned results.
Monitoring and evaluation is about collecting, storing, analysing and finally transforming data into strategic information to be used by management to make decisions. It provides the strategic information needed to make good decisions for managing and improving programme performance, formulating policy and advocacy messages and planning programmes better.
Good planning, monitoring and evaluation establish clear links between past, present and future initiatives and development results. Monitoring and evaluation can help an organization extract relevant information from past and ongoing activities that can be used as the basis for programmatic fine-tuning, reorientation and future planning. Without effective planning, monitoring and evaluation, it would be impossible to judge if work is going in the right direction, whether progress and success can be claimed, and how future efforts might be improved.
Evaluation is a rigorous and independent assessment of either completed or ongoing activities to determine the extent to which they are achieving stated objectives and contributing to decision making. Evaluations, like monitoring, can apply to many things, including an activity, project, programme, strategy, policy, topic, theme, sector or organization. The key distinction between the two is that evaluations are done independently to provide managers and staff with an objective assessment of whether or not they are on track. They are also more rigorous in their procedures, design and methodology, and generally involve more extensive analysis. However, the aims of both monitoring and evaluation are very similar: to provide information that can help inform decisions, improve performance and achieve planned results.
Inadequate resources lead to poor quality monitoring and evaluation. To ensure effective and quality monitoring and evaluation, it is critical to set aside adequate financial and human resources at the planning stage. The required financial and human resources for monitoring and evaluation should be considered within the overall costs of delivering the agreed results and not as additional costs. Financial resources for monitoring and evaluation should be estimated realistically at the time of planning for monitoring and evaluation. While it is critical to plan for monitoring and evaluation together, resources for each function should be separate.
Capacities for monitoring and evaluation, like for most technical areas, exist on three levels: the enabling environment, the organizational level, and the individual level. Capacities at these levels are interdependent and influence each other through complex codependent relationships. Change in capacity generally occurs across four domains: institutional arrangements, including adequate resources and incentives; leadership; knowledge; and accountability mechanisms. Addressing only one of these levels or domains in a programme or project is unlikely to result in developing sustainable monitoring and evaluation capacities.
Note: The article already underwent an external and UN internal review process and will be published in the UNEP-DTU Partnership flagship report in October 2017.