Managing for Development Results (MfDR) is a management strategy that focuses on development performance and on sustainable improvements in country outcomes (OECD Policy Brief, March 2009).
Contributed by Jasson Kalugendo after he realized the various limitations in the field of monitoring and evaluation, he sought to solve the issue of lack of measuring results of national development plan, as well as ever-sidelined African values in managing development results. #AfCOP19.
Measuring-reality mismatch in planning and evaluating development results
In 2009/10, I was privileged to be entrusted to work alongside experts and other technical officers of the Government in designing a National Development Plan. Designing the strategy included aligning national priorities with Millennium Goals. Sometime after the task was completed and the strategy adopted as the national policy, I found myself working on another assignment in a remote district in the country. I could clearly see that thematic areas such as education, gender, clean water and health were relevant to that district; but what surprised me was that the indicators, measurements and outputs in the strategy did not match the reality I was witnessing.
After the fifth year of implementation, the evaluation report was produced. According to the report, the results were impressive; the economy had grown, the number of boys and girls in primary school had increased and maternal deaths had been significantly reduced. The list of achievements went on and on. But the reality on the ground was very different: the majority of people living in rural areas were unable to confirm in any way that their quality of life had improved. Indeed, most citizens had misunderstood and thought that the national development strategy was a funding pool where people could apply for funds to alleviate poverty or address some specific socio-economic needs. And, although it was true that, three years down the road, the number of boys and girls in the primary schools had increased, it was also true that almost all students who sat for the final standard seven examinations had failed all subjects. On paper, the national development plan showed impressive results; in reality, those results were ambiguous and failed to meet the expectations of the majority of citizens for whom the national strategy had been intended and designed.
There may be similar stories, such as one narrated above, involving national development plans in many African countries. Yet, if we go back to the underlying principle of MfDR, the key question should always revolve around whether or not the quality of life of citizens has improved as a result of the development intervention.
Development Results are about People’s Realities
Relatedly, development organizations are increasingly begun to incorporate citizen feedback in the monitoring of development results. For example, at the World Bank all investment projects now must include at least one indicator to capture citizen feedback as well as a feedback loop to incorporate the feedback and adapt programs as needed. This is seen as important for assessing progress towards achieving intended results and improving accountability along the results chain. For example, if the intended result is to improve the quality of education in a particular village, the views of villagers, parents, teachers and school children can be captured and quantified to help assess whether the quality of education in that village has actually improved.
The Africa Community of Practice (AfCoP) now includes a “results-driven culture” in its MfDR approach. On the one hand, a “results-driven culture” anticipates that mindsets towards transformative development should change amongst leaders and citizens alike. This changes the “business as usual” practices of measuring national development plans by simply ticking boxes of planned activities and recognizes the far more important need to trace real change in the lives of people and the environment. On the other hand, a “results-driven culture” means much more than just embracing development frameworks and principles agreed at the global level; results frameworks (from planning to monitoring and evaluation) in Africa must take stock of African values and systems to ensure that development interventions and their intended impacts are not alien to people’s lives.
Many specialists in planning, monitoring and evaluation for development results in Africa have begun questioning the usefulness of standard development frameworks that have dominated the development industry for many years. Recipient countries of development aid are bombarded with multiple results frameworks which typically do not trace results for the interests of the end-users but rather respond to the interests of tax-payers in their respective countries. Government technical officers are overwhelmed because every donor-funded development initiative comes with its own new results framework. Before they have mastered one results framework, a new one is brought in, creating a constant management gap for development results in Africa. The capacity to comply with all these results frameworks drains the resources of the recipient countries and non-compliance becomes a symbol of weak accountability for development results.
The AfCoP approach to MfDR is neither to copy and paste results frameworks from donor countries, nor is AfCoP trying to create a unique-African standard for results planning and delivery system. Rather, the approach is to contextualize global principles of delivery results into the African context so that African values and principles are not sidelined. The ideal results framework is one that truly reflects the needs, voices, perceptions and expectations of African people. Thus, the core purpose of AfCoP is to facilitate MfDR in the context of the Africa Union’s 2063 Agenda and the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 to ensure a positive impact on the lives of African people across the Continent.