The WBG's recent external review of IEG provides an opportunity to continue IEG's journey towards greater effectiveness

In Who Evaluates the Evaluators, a blog I wrote back in May 2014, I welcomed the World Bank Group Board's decision to commission an external review of the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG). At the time, I argued that evaluation agencies like the IEG must also be willing to be assessed if they're to be credible and that if anything, we should hold ourselves to stricter standards than we hold those whose interventions we evaluate.

Last month, the External Review Panel submitted its report and the IEG leadership team had its first discussion with the Committee of Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank Group on the findings and recommendations of the Panel. 

So, am I still as excited about the review now as I was at the outset? Absolutely! 

For one, the external review findings and recommendations strongly affirm the important role that the Independent Evaluation Group has to play. In the words of the panel, "IEG is an essential corporate asset and safeguard and a vitally important global public good. It should remain an independent unit within the WBG."

The External Review acknowledged that we have been making inroads into issues raised in previous assessments and endorsed changes we have made. This is great! And more importantly the Panel suggests ways to enhance our influence and increase our effectiveness, which are in line with our strategic directions of the last couple of years. Whether we articulate these directions in a formal IEG strategy - as recommended by the External Review - rather than embedded in the work program, as is currently the case will be CODE's decision to make. 

Likewise, it will be for CODE and the Executive Board to decide whether they accept the External Review's recommendation of an evaluation policy. In my view, the process of developing such a policy would be a great opportunity to update the Director General's mandate and modernize its policy directions. More importantly, it can be a platform for defining an integrated system of evaluation and learning at the World Bank Group. 

The External Review is very encouraging in this respect as well. Its suggestion to think of a larger system - one, which I would argue should integrate results-based management with monitoring, self-evaluation and independent evaluation - complements well our ongoing work to assess the self-evaluation system and learning culture at the Bank Group. Together these pieces should help shape the agenda for a more fundamental change in the way business gets done and success gets measured. The Solutions Bank Group model so dependent on smart and fast feedback loops and a learning culture would greatly benefit from such change. I see such a system as a win-win situation where clients get better services, the Bank Group would be more successful, and the strengthened evidence-base would make independent evaluation more efficient and interesting. 

One of the pieces in this new system, as recommended by the External Review, would be a shift in major evaluations. The Panel suggested that Bank Group Management rather than IEG should develop recommendations for themselves based on our evaluations. Just as the Panel was completing its work, we were experimenting with a new approach to developing recommendations. It did not go quite as far as the Panel proposed but engaged Management in a workshop to define the best way forward. The evaluation will be discussed by CODE this week and will provide some first insights into the pros and cons of the External Review's recommendation, and what would need to be in place to make it work.

I also welcome the suggestions to engage with Evaluation Capacity Development. In a number of previous blogs I have spoken of its growing importance in empowering countries to make evidence-based decisions about their development policies, processes and partners. 

Finally and not surprisingly, many friends and colleagues have asked my views about one of the panel's recommendations, which concerns the office of Director General. The External Review recommends that a "single five-year non-renewable term for the Director General of IEG should be put in place, with no possibility of entry or re-entry into the Bank Group."  Funny enough, when I took over as IEG's Director General in 2011, I expressed a similar opinion to CODE - that the Director General's term should be non-renewable. But, I also said that the job was so complex, it would take more than five years to be effective. Four years on I still stand by that position. Ultimately, this is a decision for the Board and one that will be taken in the best interests of the World Bank Group and its stakeholders.  

Personally, I strongly believe that the External Review could help continue IEG's journey towards greater effectiveness of evaluation and sharpen our strategic directions. We look forward to the process led by CODE to discuss and agree on next steps. 

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