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Close but No Cigar: Paying for Performance Is Not Necessarily COD Aid

When we make presentations on COD AIDat development agencies, we are frequently told: “Oh, we’re already doing that.” The more we investigate, however, the fewer cases we find where agencies are really disbursing funds against independently verified outcomes in a hands-off fashion. We’re tempted to say “close but no cigar.”

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “The Trouble with Targets”

As mentioned in our last post, aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs and outcomes, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. Once these results-based programs are up and running, they face a critical test when the first results are reported. In particular, most programs create expectations by setting annual targets and are then judged relative to those targets rather than to their baseline. And this means that even successful programs will be viewed as failures (a point also made in an earlier blog). By refusing to set targets, a results-based program can avoid this pitfall. How is it that targets can create such a problem?

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “How to Be Patient When It Matters”

An increasing number of aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. (See our brief and book for more details). We’ve argued that the design of COD Aid programs can be rather easy, though the quality of the indicators chosen and the verification process are certainly critical to success. We have spent less time talking about what happens once the program is up and running. In particular, what happens when you find out how much progress actually occurred?

Complexity, Adaptation, and Results

In the last of a series of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development, Owen Barder and Ben Ramalingam look at the implications of complexity for the trend towards results-based management in development cooperation. They argue that is a common mistake to see a contradiction between recognising complexity and focusing on results: on the contrary, complexity provides a powerful reason for pursuing the results agenda, but it has to be done in ways which reflect the context. In the 2012 Kapuscinski lecture Owen argued that economic and political systems can best be thought of as complex adaptive systems, and that development should be understood as an emergent property of those systems. As explained in detail in Ben’s forthcoming book, these interactive systems are made up of adaptive actors, whose actions are a self-organised search for fitness on a shifting landscape. Systems like this undergo change in dynamic, non-linear ways; characterised by explosive surprises and tipping points as well as periods of relative stability. If development arises from the interactions of a dynamic and unpredictable system, you might draw the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to assess or measure the results of particular development interventions. That would be the wrong conclusion to reach. While the complexity of development implies a different way of thinking about evaluation, accountability and results, it also means that the ‘results agenda’ is more important than ever.

Barder on Post-Bureaucratic Aid . . . and the Complexity Motive Behind Cash on Delivery

Owen Barder unpacks the results agenda, now so much discussed in the aid and development community, here.  It’s brilliant. He sets out four different motivations of various parties in the community for their recent focus on the “results agenda”. I asked myself which motivation has driven my devotion to the idea of Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid). (If you are new to COD Aid, see this short video for a start.)

P4R: Looking to the Pilot Phase

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis.

After many stages of drafting, debates, and consultations, the World Bank´s proposed results-based financing instrument, Program-for-Results is going for approval to the Bank´s Board on January 24. The latest draft of the policy can be found here; we´re pleased to see that Bank staff listened to comments at a CGD roundtable and many other consultation meetings and incorporated changes to previous drafts. CGD hosted a final discussion of P4R on Thursday January 19, with a presentation by World Bank VP for operations, Joachim von Amsberg, and a panel that included Anne Perrault of the Center for International Environmental Law, Marta Garcia Jauregui, who represents Spain, Mexico and several Latin American countries on the World Bank board, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall (see event video here).

World Bank Results Initiative: The U.S. Should Support It – But with Independent Verification Please

For more than two years, the staff of the World Bank have been developing a new lending instrument that would link financing to measurable results within countries. If approved, it would be the third instrument at the World Bank; the two that exist now are “investment loans” under which inputs, not results, are financed; and policy based loans, under which policy changes are financed.