Looking back at 7 Years at the Helm of IEG
The first in a 3-part retrospective series by Director General Caroline Heider.
In my first interaction with the senior leadership team at the World Bank Group, I said 'It is IEG’s goal to help you be successful in delivering better results and services to your clients. Your success, in as much as insights from evaluation have helped you improve them, is mine.' The Bank Group leaders stared at me in stunned silence...The idea that our key function was to make them more successful was a novelty to World Bank Group leadership and staff.
I have led the World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) for the past seven years. We’ve accomplished many things in that time, and there are more things yet to be done. As I prepare to move on from IEG, I hope my reflections on the accomplishments and challenges of the past seven years will inspire others who may be in the process of shaping and transforming a function like this one.
Nothing would have been possible without the able and committed efforts of the IEG team. Many colleagues have come and gone, making their contributions during their time, helping to shape IEG for its best future. There are too many colleagues to name them all, and calling out a few will disappoint those who have not been mentioned. Hence, my gratitude goes out to all IEG staff—you know who you are.
In leading IEG, my strategy was simple: a clear goal, three pillars, and a stable foundation. The strategy was a living one, not published or elaborate but rather embedded in our work program over the years, and in our day-to-day actions.
The clear goal was to influence change in the World Bank Group. In retrospect, it sounds simple, but the idea that the ultimate purpose of our evaluative work was to influence change caused a radical shift in how we approached our work.
In my first interaction with the senior leadership team at the World Bank Group, I said “It is IEG’s goal to help you be successful in delivering better results and services to your clients. Your success, in as much as insights from evaluation have helped you improve them, is mine.” The Bank Group leaders stared at me in stunned silence.
From consultations with my peers, I had learned how much many Bank Group staff dreaded IEG as the part of the Group that was “out to get us” and “to make a big splash” with sensational appearances in newspapers. The idea that our key function was to make them more successful was a novelty to World Bank Group leadership and staff.
We translated our goal into the catchphrase, Influencing Change. This helped IEG internally to clarify its purpose. It has also led us to aim for systemic influence, meaning finding entry points into changes at the institutional level of the World Bank Group, rather than just working at project, program, sector or country levels.
This goal was supported by the three pillars of 1) making strategic choices; 2) enhancing evaluation quality and credibility; and 3) implementing strategic, systematic outreach. These pillars have changed how we select what we evaluate; how we perform our evaluations; and how we get the lessons from the evaluations to the people who can use them. The next blog will discuss in greater detail what these changes entailed.
The entire strategy rests on the foundation of effectively and efficiently using our resources: our people and finances. One way we have gained efficiencies is by reducing the cost and time it takes to do a major evaluation. In four years, we have reduced the average time it takes to do a major evaluation by 5 months and reduced the average cost to complete sector and thematic evaluations by 35 percent. We have also invested in our IT systems to better support teams with a variety of data and text analytics capabilities in order to speed up and ensure consistency. These changes have allowed us to introduce—within a relatively flat budget—new products, such as learning engagements and meso evaluations.
I am particularly proud of the changes we have made for staff development. Here, the IEG Academy stands out. It is a learning program for IEG staff, our most valuable resource. The Academy offers courses and resources that cut across themes of evaluation methods to project/ evaluation management and budgeting. The program includes custom designed courses, job aids, on-the-job coaching, and links to courses offered by the World Bank Group institutions so that our staff can learn about the institutions they evaluate. The Academy has been in place since June 2017 and has had an enthusiastic response. A full assessment of its effectiveness is not yet possible, but I am confident that it will continue to grow and prove invaluable.