At the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), we maintain a steady focus on improving the relevance, timeliness, and value of our evaluations. Based on the tools we use to monitor our efforts, we also believe we are making steady progress.

But nobody should grade their own homework. That’s why the External Review of the IEG is such an important exercise. The third such review has recently been published, following on from previous reports in 2015 and 2004.

The review was carried out by a panel of leading independent experts, commissioned by the World Bank Group (WBG) Board of Executive Directors (Board), and overseen by the Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE).

Its purpose was to assess the progress since the 2015 review, IEG’s effectiveness during the pandemic, and to provide recommendations for IEG, the Board, and the WBG on how to increase the impact of evaluations.

So what should we make of the findings?

Significant progress since 2015 – despite the challenges of Covid-19

Firstly, I am delighted that the review endorses our steady focus on improving the value of our work, even in the challenging circumstances of Covid-19. The review’s authors noted that, under CODE’s guidance and in interactions with WBG management, “IEG has made considerable strides since the last external review, especially in emphasizing evaluation’s learning dimensions, and it has navigated the turbulence of the COVID-19 crisis well”.

I am proud at how rapidly my colleagues adapted during the pandemic, to draw insights from our past evaluations of global crises to inform the Covid-19 response, and to innovate with new technologies and methods to continue delivering evaluations despite the restrictions on movement.

I am particularly pleased that the quote above singles out the learning aspects of our evaluations. Generating lessons from experience is core to IEG’s mission to help the WBG improve development effectiveness and deliver better results to its clients.

The report also affirms the relevance of our work and its close alignment with the WBG’s strategic priorities.

Another finding is that we have improved engagement between our operational teams and the WBG’s management during our evaluations. A strong working relationship between IEG, CODE and WBG management is critical for both accountability and the cycle of feedback and learning that is vital for improving development effectiveness.

I could go on and on because the report provides a useful and detailed assessment of numerous areas of our work. But you can read it all for yourself, along with a fuller statement from our former Director General, Alison Evans, here.

Room for improvement

The External Review looked at five main areas: our response to the COVID-19 crisis; our support for the WBG’s outcome orientation agenda; our evaluation of the activities of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); our contributions to WBG knowledge and strategies; and our enhancement of evaluation capacity development in client countries.

It then made six recommendations across these areas, noting that “significant opportunities remain for increasing IEG’s effectiveness, not just by IEG alone but jointly with WBG management and the Board.”

A primary recommendation is that we focus even more on outcome orientation in our work and continue to explore methods that can be applied to provide an outcome-focused lens to our work. Our evaluation of the World Bank’s Outcome Orientation at the Country-level catalysed an ongoing discussion with WBG counterparts that has contributed to a change process. We intend to stay engaged with this process.

Notably, the review recommends even greater collaboration between IEG and the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. We are consulting with these valued partners to ensure our work program is aligned with their priorities. Some of the report’s recommendations point to areas to work on, which will be useful in shaping our strategy for the future.

Building on progress

What happens next? This is a rich and detailed report which we must consider carefully as we form a plan to make our work even more effective.

Certainly, we take the recommendations of external reviews seriously. Evidence of this comes from a recommendation in the 2015 review that we should expand our support for evaluation capacity development in developing countries. The latest review shows that we have done exactly that, most notably with the launch of the Global Evaluation Initiative, and recommends we continue to develop our work in this area.

In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to a constructive dialogue with CODE and WBG management, on how best to take the review’s recommendations forward.

In the meantime, we will take confidence from the endorsement of our efforts by the External Review as we seek to help the World Bank Group deliver ever more effective development interventions, in support of client countries and their people.

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