Interested in the World Bank Group's Performance? Read On...

Once a year we take stock of World Bank Group results and performance, and this year is no different. We recently reviewed and commented on trends at project, country, regional, institutional and group levels, providing what we hope is valuable feedback to the Board of Governors, Bank Group management, and other interested stakeholders. Elements of our analysis feed directly into the corporate scorecard, providing a highly visible marker in the metrics that matter most to the Bank Group. An earlier blog drawing from the same report highlighted what we found about how the WBG approached the challenges of the MDGs, and what it can learn for tackling the SDGs, which is, of course, a whole other story!

So what did we observe?

The good news is that, at country level, performance is improving. Country strategies (now Country Partnership Frameworks) typically cover a four-year period, and we review achievements against stated objectives once programs close. For fiscal year 2014 (FY14) the Bank Group met its corporate target for the first time since 2009, shaking off the negative effects of the financial crisis. We suggest even better results can be achieved if the Bank Group is more selective in its engagement, and if it can improve the quality of results chains.

IFC advisory services, particularly in Public Private Partnerships, performed strongly and met the IFC corporate target for the first time since 2009, although better quality monitoring and evaluation would allow for enhanced analysis and more comprehensive verification of impact.

On the other hand, portfolio (project level) performance declined. In the case of the World Bank, overall development outcome rating fell from 73 (FY08-10) to 70 percent (FY11-13), a statistically significant drop. Interestingly, the decline is significant among more developed client countries (IBRD), and in the East Asia Pacific Region. The Middle East and North Africa Region continues to be the weakest overall, despite improved performance. We also found that larger projects outperform smaller projects, and have undertaken to explore this disparity further in next year's analysis.

The success rate for IFC investment projects dropped by 13 percentage points (to 60 percent) between 2008-10 and 2011-13. In contrast to the Bank, performance was weakest in poorer countries, and in the infrastructure, education and agribusiness sectors.

What'€™s driving the trends?

A range of factors, including the legacy of the global financial crisis, may have contributed to relatively poor performance. However, on this occasion we were more interested in further exploring contributory factors under the control of the Bank Group itself. So, we used text analytics - I'™ll come back to the use of text analytics in evaluation in a later blog - to mine the data and look further into project-specific factors that may influence weakened portfolio performance. And we came up with a number of interesting findings.

For World Bank projects, we looked at the project development phase (quality at entry) and ongoing supervision. Although infrequently present, we found that where factors such as sound political analysis and government ownership were pronounced, our quality at entry rating was always positive and, importantly, so too was our rating for development outcome. Of course, where these factors were weak, performance was inevitably poor. More frequently observed factors that also contribute to positive performance include; the adoption of past lessons (particularly lessons from geographically close past projects, emphasizing the importance of context); sound technical analysis (economic analysis, fiduciary arrangements); and positive relationships with stakeholders. We found "problem solving" to be the dominant factor under supervision, referring to the propensity of teams to address problems as they arise and are detected, against waiting for periodic, set piece reviews.

In the case of IFC, we found up-front work quality - which is declining since 2009 despite efforts to address it - to be the most powerful driver of investment project success. Overall, risk identification and client assessment are the most influential factors in assessing work quality, although different factors can be emphasized in different sectors. For example, when risk assessment is assessed to be good, work quality is invariably high (90% of the time), but when the assessment is low, work quality is rated high in 54% of cases. Risk mitigation is critical, influencing not only up-front work quality but also development outcome ratings. IFC supervision efforts are typically assessed positively (above 80%) and are influenced, as in the case of the Bank, by good relationships with stakeholders and other factors.

Take a closer look at our report. Let us know what you think about performance trends, as well as the factors that influence performance at the Bank Group and, more generally, in development.