The World Bank Group offers its country clients a rich array of support that encompasses financing for projects, policy advice, and advisory services and analytics (ASA). The Independent Evaluation Group’s (IEG) 2022 Results and Performance of the World Bank Group, known as the RAP, reviewed the totality of this support at the country program level with a special focus on ASA. Through ASA, the World Bank provides countries with tailored analysis drawn from its wealth of expertise and global experience on a range of issues that are critical for development, such as the design or implementation of better policies and the strengthening of institutions. ASA is pivotal to the World Bank Group’s ambition of becoming a ‘Knowledge Bank.’ The RAP found that the World Bank has indeed spent a significant amount of money on ASA—almost half of all World Bank project expenses (including resources from both the Bank’s own budget and trust funds) during the ten-year period from fiscal years 2013 to 2022.

Given this ambition and the share of resources allocated, the RAP asked the question – what do we know about the extent of ASA use and influence?

Answering this question is not straightforward given the qualitative nature of ‘use and influence’. There has also been an historical under monitoring of ASA use and influence. At the country level, the World Bank Group’s Completion and Learning Reviews (CLRs), its self-evaluation of country programs, do not cover ASA use and influence in any depth. IEG also reviews CLRs, and an analysis for this RAP of the latest CLR Reviews for a random sample of 50 countries indicated that these CLR Reviews reported, on average, on only about one-third of the ASA program in terms of use or influence. While the World Bank systematically self-evaluates lending projects, there is no systematic self-evaluation of ASA. The Activity Initiation Summaries and Activity Completion Summaries prepared for ASA could be more useful operationally if they captured in greater depth the use and influence of ASA.

In the absence of a systematic approach at the World Bank to monitor ASA use and influence, the 2022 RAP drew on earlier work to derive explicit criteria for assessing ASA use and influence. The derived criteria reflect the varied objectives and channels of ASA influence on development outcomes. Further criteria capture how the Bank performed in conducting ASA, which also has a bearing on the use and influence of ASA (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Criteria for Assessing ASA Use and Influence

1.a       Development Outcome

Criteria for Assessing ASA Use and Influence: Development Outcome
Source: Independent Evaluation Group.
Note: This figure shows the number of Completion and Learning Review (CLR) Reviews. ASA = advisory services and analytics; CLR = Completion and Learning Review; CPF = Country Partnership Framework. Criterion discussed with respect to ASA means the CLR Review mentions specific criterion. Good influence of ASA on criterion means that the CLR Review provided information or examples showing that a specific criterion was addressed.

1.b       Bank Performance

Criteria for Assessing ASA Use and Influence: Bank Performance
Source: Independent Evaluation Group.
Note: This figure shows the number of Completion and Learning Review (CLR) Reviews. Criterion discussed with respect to ASA means the CLR Review mentions the specific criterion. Good performance relating to ASA on criterion means the CLR Review provided information or examples that the specific criterion was addressed.

In most cases, ASA topics were relevant to government policies and programs (Figure 1.a). They were also relevant to the objectives of the Bank country strategies as reflected in the respective Country Partnership Frameworks (CPFs) and to World Bank operations (Figure 1.b). This is important given that the relevance of ASA topics is a prerequisite for ASA use and influence. However, less than half of the CLR Reviews reported on higher levels of ASA influence (such as ASA influence on policy dialogue, uptake in government programs and poli­cies, and uptake in CPF objectives and World Bank operations). In this group of less than half of the CLR Reviews, ASA were found to be influential in most cases.

At the same time, the 2022 RAP found a significant lack of reporting on client and stakeholder ownership of and engagement with ASA preparation, and on dissemination – factors that can foster use and influence. For ASA to be more than just reports and to have an impact on development, it is essential that they are used. This is why focusing on these “process” issues is important to ensure that the knowl­edge generated by ASA actually feeds into decision-making and informs programs and policies.

In sum, without a deliberate focus on the use and influence of ASA, the World Bank may miss an opportunity to strategically use ASA to complement its other support to maximize country-level impact. It may risk being a “Report Bank” rather than a “Knowledge Bank.”

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