For me, what was most insightful: in areas where Management had set clear goals, we observed positive trends. In others, investments even declined. What is empowering about this finding is the “power of signaling effects” and how responsive the institutions are to well-articulated and understood goals. Ongoing and future work of the World Bank, IFC, and IEG will follow.
- In areas where World Bank Group management had set clear goals, IEG observed positive trends. What is empowering about this finding is the “power of signaling effects” and how responsive the institutions are to well-articulated and understood goals.
- IEG has found that improving quality at entry leads to improved development outcomes. The reason why? Simply put: if one has and pursues a clear vision, one is more likely to apply one’s resources to and achieve set goals.
- IEG and World Bank Group Management are aligned on the need for strategic prioritization when it comes to recommendations and follow-up actions to IEG evaluation findings.
At last week’s launch of IEG’s 2017 Results and Performance report, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, IFC Vice President Hans-Peter Lankes, and World Bank Group Executive Director Otaviano Canuto joined us to reflect on the report’s findings. They also shared what they felt were key actions to follow-up from the perspective of senior leadership and the Board.
Our team leaders—Soniya Carvalho, Aurora Siy, and Stephen Hutton—presented the report’s highlights.
The report is IEG’s flagship report, which tracks trends in the development outcomes of World Bank Group projects. This year’s report looked at projects completed between fiscal years 2014 and 2016. In addition, the report included a special chapter the assessed the extent to which the World Bank Group has mainstreamed environmental sustainability across its projects and activities. For more on the report’s findings, read our earlier blogs here and here, or download the full report. When sitting down with Kristalina, Hans-Peter, and Otaviano, I wanted to know what they thought about the findings, and more importantly: what would happen because of the evidence we had presented.
The report shed new light on the question whether the portfolio was getting any “greener” and unpacked trends along the three pillars of the World Bank Group strategy: clean, green, and resilient. Whether the 4 percent increase is “good enough” is for the Board and Management to decide. All three panelists reiterated the importance of this agenda and need for discussion. For me, what was most insightful: in areas where Management had set clear goals, we observed positive trends. In others, investments even declined. What is empowering about this finding is the “power of signaling effects” and how responsive the institutions are to well-articulated and understood goals. Ongoing and future work of the World Bank, IFC, and IEG will follow.
But, we also discussed some messages that were not new: performance trends and how to turn them around. Over the years, we have observed that improving quality at entry—the design of projects, including their “theory of change” which explains how inputs provided by the project would lead to expected results—would lead to improved development outcomes. The reason why? Simply put: if one has and pursues a clear vision, one is more likely to apply one’s resources to and achieve set goals. Otaviano reiterated the importance of quality at entry, including consistent and high-quality economic analyses. He reinforced the report’s call for improvements in this area.
As Kristalina noted in her remarks, one of IEG’s findings was that by portfolio size, the World Bank’s outcome ratings are reaching and exceeding targets. That is a good thing. But the flipside, namely that smaller projects, often in smaller client countries, did not have the same development effectiveness was problematic. Working in countries with large portfolios and on large projects tends to be more attractive. To fix this, noted Kristalina, the World Bank Group will need to create incentives for the World Bank’s best staff to work on smaller, more difficult projects.
Hans-Peter reflected on the engagement IEG has had with IFC to understanding better performance trends and underlying signals. IFC has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing several issues that surfaced through diagnostics undertaken with and without IEG. These initiatives link analytics and ex-ante assessments of expected results with score-cards, tracking systems, and incentives through the project cycle to its results. I tend to agree that there is not one proverbial silver-bullet that solves all problems, but several mutually reinforcing measures need to be in place to support such change.
Finally, we also delved into the implementation of our recommendations. Regular readers know that this “standard fare” in the Results and Performance report. What’s new this year is the deeper analysis of recommendations related to environmental sustainability. While we—Management and IEG—did not have agree on all points, notably the degree to which recommendations were followed through, we are aligned on the need for strategic prioritization, when it comes to recommendations and follow-up actions.
Within IEG, we have invested in improving the quality of our recommendations. But we have also observed that each recommendation we make might trigger many actions that do not necessarily address the strategic intent of the recommendation, or get implemented. This is where our counterparts in Management can also step up. Following the request from the Executive Board with whom we discussed the Results and Performance report, IEG and World Bank Group Management have committed to work together to start a process to review and improve the Management Action Record system.