IEG is conducting a program of evaluations that seek to answer the question:
How well has the World Bank generated, accessed, and used learning and knowledge in its lending operations, and what is the scope for improving how it does so?
Two evaluations are planned. The first, represented by this report, is limited to the perspective from within the World Bank and does not include that of the International Finance Corporation or the Multilateral Guarantee Agency. (The next report will also cover only the World Bank, but will explore the extent to which learning takes place within and between Bank projects in a sample of countries and sectors, taking into account the views of clients and development partners.)
This first report shows that although, in general terms, the staff perceive the Bank to be committed to learning and knowledge sharing—as attested by surveys—with respect to the particular case of learning in lending, the culture and systems of the Bank, the incentives it offers employees, and the signals from managers are not as effective as they could be. The Bank’s organizational structure has been revamped several times, notably in 1987 and 1996, when the shift to the matrix organization took place. These changes have not led to a significant change in learning in lending because they touched neither the culture nor the incentives. It remains to be seen if the latest structural change—the introduction of Global Practices—will avoid past pitfalls and be more effective in creating the right culture and incentives for learning and knowledge sharing.
Findings are drawn from a wide range of sources: the academic and management literature on organizational learning; Bank strategies and studies; Bank employee surveys; an IEG survey of Bank staff; interviews and focus groups, including consultations with other development agencies; IEG reviews of project documents as well as project evaluations and studies; and aggregate data on the learning section of the annual Overall Performance Evaluation of Bank staff.