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To reach its institutional goals, the World Bank Group needs to strengthen the foundations of results measurement.
To reach the goal of poverty reduction and shared prosperity, the World Bank Group must instill a culture of evidence-based adaptive management and learning.

[Winning] means having a good understanding of the opposing team and the terrain – the risks and pitfalls of development... It also means practicing regularly, developing tactics and broader strategies, and using data from each and every single match for dynamic learning and decision-making to adjust how the team strengthens itself and plays in the future.

For the millions of soccer fans around the globe, the World Cup represents the single biggest sports event. Winning the World Cup carries lots of prestige and can transform the careers and fortunes of players, and in some cases, the image of a country. But it takes more than just raw talent to get results.

So, what if the World Bank Group were a soccer team? Would it win the World Cup of Development Results and transform the image of development?  IEG’s 2016 review of the World Bank Group’s results and performance addresses this question.  The report features a special chapter in which we assessed the World Bank Group’s progress and ability to manage for results. It comes at a time when the Bank Group and other development partners are increasingly being challenged to deliver results more effectively. 

Winning the World Cup of Development Results means knowing in which direction to shoot and scoring the goals within rules.  The pressure is on with investors and owners ready for a win: IDA18 and the WBG Board’s Forward Look say it all. Other spectators and fans are not too far behind, rah-rah-ing the various matches of the Sustainable Development Goals tournaments.

Certainly, the WBG team knows what the Development Results Trophy looks like– shared prosperity and poverty reduction – and it largely knows how to identify and measure its winning games: through its results measurement system , which it has worked on since 2002, and compiled through its scorecard, which was introduced in 2014.  And it has IEG as its referee – calling out when the team scores or doesn’t in the tournament of development.  Nice, right?

But it takes more than knowing what the trophy looks like and keeping a scorecard.  It means having a good understanding of the opposing team and the terrain – the risks and pitfalls of development – which are inherent to the game and a force to reckon with, and recognizing the path, field, and direction of its goal.  It also means practicing regularly, developing tactics and broader strategies, and using data from each and every single match for dynamic learning and decision-making to adjust how the team strengthens itself and plays in the future. 

As the IEG’s 2016 Results and Performance of the World Bank Group shows, the WBG has identified its goal and outlined its strategy, and it has been strengthening its players and teamwork.  But in order to win on the soccer field of results, the team needs to:

  • Learn to kick the ball in the right direction, and know when it actually enters the goal –  Twenty-seven out of 33 IEG FY15-16 evaluations indicated key aspects of WBG’s results measurement need to be strengthened.  Furthermore, the World Bank Group needs to identify and gather improved data on beneficiary-level results – the scores that eventually lead to the Trophy.
  • Identify and assess which moves help, which ones hurt, and which are simply flukes that put the ball in the net.  A recent IEG study, Behind the Mirror: A Report on the Self-Evaluation Systems of the World Bank Group, found that only about 28 percent of the projects discuss the diverse factors that might have affected the project outcomes. The World Bank Group needs to increase its focus on empirically testing the validity of its projects’ theory of change to determine which interventions actually contributed to results and which didn’t and when results come about due to non-project factors – the tactics that lead to improved team understanding of the game.
  • Know who should play what part of the field.  There continues to be an organizational need for matching staff capacity to the requirements for different aspects of managing for results and for strengthening staff skills, competencies, and career paths in areas with gaps.
  • Treat each player in the team as an important contributor and have regular player development clinics.  The World Bank Group needs to continue to focus on its client country team members and strengthen their capacity for results.  The institution has placed emphasis on data systems, monitoring, and evaluation and should be lauded for building the foundation for evidence-based decision making. But it needs to pay more attention to building client capacity for using data and evidence for decision-making.

Great soccer teams know that winning all games is not always possible.  But they also get that understanding the rules of the game, practicing, learning from each game, and giving each game their best is imperative. 

Overall, IEG’s “referee” report concludes that while the World Bank Group has made progress, there is need to further strengthen the foundations of results measurement in the institution, and to instill a culture of evidence-based adaptive management and learning. But the ball is squarely on the WBG side of the field and the WBG team can bring the trophy home if it addresses the points above.  What’s more, IEG will never call offsides for the WBG team.   Then, shouldn’t the team be prepared to kick the ball in, especially if the opposing forces – risks and pitfalls – are not hovering near the goal?  To learn more, read IEG’s report.  

View the full report: Results and Performance of the World Bank Group 2016

Read Chapter 1: Managing for Results

Comments

Submitted by Jindra Cekan, PhD on Wed, 05/10/2017 - 13:02

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Wonderful that the Bank sees the need for 'beneficiary' (participant) input and feedback and to build the capacity of country-national capacity! Now to add statistics (as one would at the World Cup on repeated impact across games (projects) over time, namely sustained and emerging impact (SEIE) after closeout!

Dear Jindra,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, the 'referee' doubles up as the development outcomes-statistician as well. Every year, IEG checks the scores, trends and patterns through this report published on an annual basis.

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