Sounding off on the results agenda in development

Adegu David, a district meteorological officer, presents data from the meteorological weather station to help local communities adapt better to climate change. Photo by: DFID / CC BY NC-ND 

What’s your take on the results-based aid agenda? For the United Kingdom’s aid watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the results agenda pursued by the U.K. Department for International Development needs a rethink.

In an exclusive guest commentary for Devex, Craig Valters, a research officer for politics and governance at the Overseas Development Institute, said that current understanding of the results agenda “is dangerously unrealistic, time-consuming and misleading.” He suggested a few things on how to remedy that.

“The public don’t want patronizing accounts of aid, but an honest appraisal of what’s being achieved and for what purpose,” Valters said. “If the demand for results is genuine, we need more genuine attempts to answer it.”

Here’s what Devex readers think about the results agenda.

Despite minor problems, results-based programming deserves applause as it still is the “best means” to ensure value for money, according to Bob Storey.

Storey added that most suggestions to rethink the concept omit beneficiaries, noting that they are rarely informed of budget and indicators that measure success.

He wrote: “When was the last time that beneficiaries were permitted to directly give account of the program rather than through the usual filter of consultant evaluator or program management itself?”

In response to the comment, Valters said he is not really convinced results-based programming should be applauded based on how it is done in practice because “it seems entirely divorced from citizens’ views and preferences.” Many of the terms now being used such as results and value for money could be helpful, he said, but they reflect a corporate and top-down mindset about change that isn’t too helpful.

Herbert M'cleod believes the rationale behind results-based programming remains valid, but there are often missing elements such as the process to check whether pervasive or unintended consequences happen simultaneously and analysis of whether other and more effective methods could be deployed to monitor results.

“Clearly more discussion is required at the local level and involving beneficiaries, when setting up a results system,” M'cleod wrote. “Such consultations are likely to bring out some of these practical challenges.”

Reader Felipe P. Manteiga noted that before the results agenda, projects kept being extended and aid agencies focused on “burning the pipeline” instead of delivering results. The results agenda, he said, has led to delivery of successful projects as it entails collaboration between local and foreign officials.

The problem, he suggested, was that many agencies lost their way by requiring hundreds of indicators to measure progress.

“Focus on the people intended to be strengthened by the project, not on the indicators of their strengthening and on implementation feedback to decision making. Call it whatever the powers to be like it, but projects must be managed,” he wrote.

To make the results agenda in development a success would require strong research, planning and strategy, according to another reader.

Is there a need to rethink the results agenda? If so, how? Have your say by leaving a comment below.

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The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability, and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.