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Reducing Poverty through Sustainable Forest Use

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Forests are vital to human survival. About 1.3 billion–1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, energy, timber and many other uses. But rampant deforestation has meant the loss of nearly one half of the Earth’s tropical forests cut over the past half a century. This puts pressure on policymakers, local communities and private companies to find better and more sustainable ways of using Show MoreForests are vital to human survival. About 1.3 billion–1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, energy, timber and many other uses. But rampant deforestation has meant the loss of nearly one half of the Earth’s tropical forests cut over the past half a century. This puts pressure on policymakers, local communities and private companies to find better and more sustainable ways of using forest resources. The raging man-made forest fires in Indonesia are just one example of deteriorating conditions and their adverse effects for the country, its neighbors and the planet. A recent learning event “Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development” brought out relevant knowledge from the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Independent Evaluation Department and the Environment Community of Practice, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Despite the twelve hour time difference between the participating countries, the event drew a large attendance and brought out enthusiasm around this issue. At the event, IEG highlighted the findings from its recent evaluation of the World Bank Group Experience with Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development. The evaluation covers Bank Group’s work after 2002, when it shifted the focus of its forest strategy. "This shift allowed the Bank Group to expand its work in all forest types, establish a set of safeguards to integrate forest resource management into sustainable economic development agenda, and most importantly, strive to balance its efforts and objectives in the three critical areas of poverty alleviation, enhancement of the economic value of forests and forest conservation. Instituting this strategic change was much needed and commendable, and it is still relevant today." – said Marvin Taylor-Dormond, Director, Private Sector Evaluations. IEG found that participatory forest management has been the most successful at balancing the threefold goal of forest conservation, poverty alleviation, and economic development. Mexico’s community forest management program offers an excellent example in this regard, along with positive experiences in India, Tanzania, and Albania. However, neglect of the informal sector has resulted in missed opportunities to reach more of the rural forest-dependent poor. "In many client countries, regulations have criminalized rather than regularized the collection or production and sale of timber and non-timber forest products. Heavy fees and fines along the forest product value chain—or regulations that allow for the sale of these products to be conducted by only a licensed few—tax the forest-dependent poor." – said the lead author of the study, Lauren Kelly. In protected area projects, IEG found that trade-offs still exist between conservation and poverty alleviation goals. Going forward, the projects implemented in protected areas need to do a better job of articulating how poverty alleviation will be conceptualized and incorporated into project design. In the case of industrial timber concessions, support for legal and regulatory reform has improved forest governance and enhanced transparency and accountability. The evaluation also finds that significant challenges remain with respect to revenue capture, revenue redistribution, and environmental management, among others. Forest-related investments supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have generally yielded higher value-added products and increased productivity and production capacity. “To ensure sustainable forest management practices, however, certification of forest operations needs to be strengthened along the value chain. IFC could also have a more catalytic effect on sustainable forest management if its investments were more strategically placed.” – said Stoyan Tenev, Manager, Private Sector Evaluations.    With the collapse of forest-related carbon markets and the failure thus far of approaches toward Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation  (REDD+) to achieve its forest-related climate change goals, IEG finds the strategy of  sustaining a ‘no regrets’ portfolio of forest investments that pursue adaptation and mitigation goals within the broader landscape agenda very important. At the same time, given the Bank’s leadership role in initiating and building a platform for REDD+ as well as associated market-based instruments, the World Bank Group will need to maintain a clear and direct line of communication with clients at the national and subnational levels –whose expectations for future finance have been raised through these initiatives. At the event, ADB’s Director General of Independent Evaluation, Vinod Thomas, highlighted the risks and opportunity in this area saying:  "Forests are the quintessential example of gains from pursuing the triple bottom line of growth, equity and sustainability.  But we are yet to grasp this opportunity because of vested interests that stand to lose from the pursuit of such a triple bottom line.  Building on the positive examples that the IEG evaluation eloquently presents, countries and multilateral organizations need to revisit approaches to forest management for a viable way forward." In its evaluation, IEG recommended an expansion of support for participatory forest management (including attention to regulatory barriers), more meaningful community participation in the design and management of protected areas, and the use of improved monitoring and evaluation indicators. Certainly, building on approaches that have worked—as well as searching for innovative solutions to new challenges—will be extremely important for sustainable forest management. In challenging environments, such as in fragile and conflict-affected states, support for industrial logging regimes or operations should be preceded by a rigorous review of the expected economic, environmental, and poverty related outcomes, including an analysis of expected outcomes under alternative land use schemes.  The evaluation also proposed the use of experience gained by IFC’s advisory services to mitigate upstream investment risks, to better attend to issues of land tenure, resource rights and competing land use claims. Engaging local communities and the broader public in forest management issues has become easier as modern technologies become more sophisticated and accessible.  Manish Bapna, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the WRI pointed out that “Recent advances in technology will enable us to provide near real-time, highly granular information on forest cover. This transformation in transparency will go a long way to rooting out corruption and improving the sustainable management of forests.” He presented the recently launched WRI initiative called Global Forest Watch 2.0, which was developed in partnership with Google, the University of Maryland, the UN Environment Program, and other organizations.  This work sets up a powerful near real-time forest monitoring system that brings together satellite technology, data sharing, and human networks around the world to fight deforestation, create transparency, and help promote accountability for forest management. The system uses cloud computing and open source software to rapidly process and interpret large volumes of satellite data at low cost by utilizing clusters of servers scattered around the world. The data generated from the platform is hoped to help diverse groups of stakeholders, including governments, buyers and suppliers of sustainable commodities, media and non-profit organizations working on forest conservation. For instance, the platform is designed to be a trusted, independent, and user-friendly way to help investors in REDD+ and other forest conservation projects monitor performance and hold countries accountable to their commitments on greenhouse gas emission reductions and forest conservation. Another potential use of this data could by the media to ring the alarm bell on deforestation hotspots around the globe at a pace never-before-possible, and thereby put pressure on governments, companies, and others to curtail forest conversion and illegal logging in time. The discussion further linked environmental sustainability with opportunities for economic growth and poverty. The urgency of finding such solutions is heightened by the role deforestation plays in augmenting the risks of climate change.   Note:  The event was chaired by Akmal Siddiq, Director at ADB and coordinated by Daniele Ponzi, Lead Environment Specialist at ADB.

2013 IEG Good Practice Awards

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The IEG Good Practice Awards highlight exemplary design and implementation in World Bank projects and country programs, and excellence in self-evaluation in World Bank, IFC and MIGA operations. The purpose is to create incentives among staff for greater development effectiveness. 2013 IEG Good Practice Award Winners Country Program Award for a Fragile State (Specific Aspects)   Show MoreThe IEG Good Practice Awards highlight exemplary design and implementation in World Bank projects and country programs, and excellence in self-evaluation in World Bank, IFC and MIGA operations. The purpose is to create incentives among staff for greater development effectiveness. 2013 IEG Good Practice Award Winners Country Program Award for a Fragile State (Specific Aspects)  Afghanistan Country Program, Fiscal 2002-11 Country Program Award for Treatment of Governance and Anti-Corruption Issues Bangladesh Country Program, Fiscal 2006-10 Project Award Guatemala Financial Sector Project Award for Products with a Demonstrated Contribution Lending India Gujarat State Highway Project Non-Lending/AAA China 'Reducing Inequality for Shared Growth In China: Strategy and Policy Options for Guangdong Province' M&E Quality Award Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS) analysis of outcome trends in investment lending projects over Fiscal 2000-10.   ICR Quality Award Serbia Real Estate Cadastre and Registration Project Implementation Completion Report (ICR) (Report No. ICR 2076) Benin Malaria Control Booster Program ICR (Report No. ICR 2042) XPSR Awards Endesa Brasil Stomana II (Bulgaria) Access GEM (Nigeria) PNOC (EDC) (Philippines) GeoPark (Latin America) PCR Awards BTC Advisory (Botswana) Zambia Kafue Gorge Lower Hydroelectric Power Plan XPSR Department Award Infrastructure and Natural Resources Department – Asia PER Award Botnia Uruguay Société Burkinabé de Promotion Hôtelière S.A. (Burkina Faso)  

The World Bank Group and the Electricity Access Challenge

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The World Bank Group and the Electricity Access Challenge
Learn what the IEG recommends the World Bank Group do to help achieve Universal Electricity Access by 2030. Learn what the IEG recommends the World Bank Group do to help achieve Universal Electricity Access by 2030.

INFOGRAPHIC: Impact of Interventions on Early Childhood Development Outcomes

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INFOGRAPHIC: Impact of Interventions on Early Childhood Development Outcomes
See the impact of interventions on early childhood development outcomes. See the impact of interventions on early childhood development outcomes.

INFOGRAPHIC: Early Childhood Interventions - Where are the Knowledge Gaps?

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INFOGRAPHIC: Early Childhood Interventions - Where are the Knowledge Gaps?
Find out how follow-up impact evaluations can stregthen evidence on the later-life effects of early childhood interventions. Find out how follow-up impact evaluations can stregthen evidence on the later-life effects of early childhood interventions.

Republic of Mali : rural community development project

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This is a project performance review of the Rural Community Development Project (PACR) financed by the International Development Association (IDA) and implemented between 2005 and 2014 across four regions of Mali. Original financing was anticipated to be US$64 million including a US$60 million IDA credit and US$4 million borrower contribution. Actual costs were US$71.2 million because of two Show MoreThis is a project performance review of the Rural Community Development Project (PACR) financed by the International Development Association (IDA) and implemented between 2005 and 2014 across four regions of Mali. Original financing was anticipated to be US$64 million including a US$60 million IDA credit and US$4 million borrower contribution. Actual costs were US$71.2 million because of two additional financings. The project sought to improve the living conditions of rural communities by providing access to basic socioeconomic services and a sustainable increase in income, while promoting improved natural resource management practices. Designed at a time when Mali had just begun to operationalize its decentralization policy, by putting national and local structures in place, the project represents the World Bank’s first large-scale investment in support of this aim. This assessment was based on a review of World Bank project documentation, supplemented by several sources of primary and secondary data collected during a field mission to Mali conducted between May 8 and May 30, 2017. Secondary data collected included the original Management Information System, 2009 census data, and fiscal transfers between the National Agency for Communal and Territorial Investments (ANICT) and all project (and nonproject communes). The data for the period 2001 to 2010 was obtained from Grinnell College, and for the period 2011, 2012–17, from ANICT (there were no transfers in 2012 because of the coup d’état that occurred that year). Primary data collection gathered the perceptions of the affected commune councils and mayors, service users and service providers, and the cooperatives that received grants for private productive assets. Specifically, the assessment conducted 12 commune council group interviews and 36 cooperative group interviews. In addition, the assessment collected data on distance and population to test the project’s service delivery metrics and targets. The project assessment will provide inputs into the Independent Evaluation Group’s (IEG’s) Fiscal Decentralization and Subnational Finance and Citizen Engagement Macroevaluations.

A Clear Line of Sight

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When Atul Gawande, the well known surgeon and writer, spoke at the World Bank in October, one of his many excellent examples struck me in particular. He contrasted the use of anesthesia with that of hand-washing.  Both ultimately supporting the goal of the surgeon – to save the life of the patient – but one more immediate and attractive, and thus easily accepted.  No, it wasn’t the hand Show MoreWhen Atul Gawande, the well known surgeon and writer, spoke at the World Bank in October, one of his many excellent examples struck me in particular. He contrasted the use of anesthesia with that of hand-washing.  Both ultimately supporting the goal of the surgeon – to save the life of the patient – but one more immediate and attractive, and thus easily accepted.  No, it wasn’t the hand-washing but rather anesthesia that won the contest. Why? Atul attributed it to the immediate gratification – patients do not feel pain or scream under anesthesia, which reduces the stress on the surgeon – as compared to the gap in time and many other intervening factors that play a role in post-surgical infections and subsequent deaths.  A line of sight too long even in a face-to-face relationship between patient and surgeon? So where does this leave us, the development practitioners who want to eradicate poverty and boost shared prosperity?  The distance – physical, time, cultural, income disparities – between the poor we aim to help and the realities in World Bank offices are much larger than those between a patient and a surgeon.  Many factors intervene – from people, power and politics, institutions, assumptions and models about growth, development and distribution, to natural resources, calamities, and others – some in our favor, others stopping us dead in our tracks and annulling all of our efforts.  It seems more like Edward Lorenze’s butterfly effect: small changes in one place can have large effects in others, some of them deliberate, others unintended.  With so many actors in play (from colleagues and supervisors to shareholders, counterparts, partners, and people affected by projects), and factors most of which are beyond their control, what is the development practitioner empowered to do, what is he accountable for, what can she influence? World Bank President Jim Kim is committed to creating metrics and data systems that will help everyone grasp what difference they make to achieving the two new goals and help him and his senior team know whether everything is on track to meet the interim target of halving poverty by 2020 to 9%. This means shortening the “line of sight” to illustrate the effects of changes in behavior on the World Bank Group’s development impact. It speaks to the new Strategy’s commitment to align all activities and partnerships towards the two goals. All of this speaks to the heart of us evaluators. We love clear goals, accountability, line-of-sight, and metrics. The stronger the self-evaluation system is, the better we can validate its findings and the more we can focus our energy on areas where independent evaluation adds greater value and has a comparative advantage. But: these changes are not without challenges for us evaluators.  For instance, aligning all activities and resources singularly with the two goals requires methods that assess whether at the outset, during implementation, and the end this alignment was realized and whether it generated better results. Our main indicator – relevance – is in principle appropriate to assess alignment. But, the two goals are such that multitudes of pathways are possible, leaving the door open to a rather broad interpretation of alignment that could result in a generic assessment of relevance. The second cue, that the Bank Group is committed to work with client countries to address their toughest challenges should help narrow the window, but will challenge us to go beyond evaluating whether the objectives were achieved to assessing whether the right choices were made, whether they were adjusted over time to keep focused on the toughest choices, and how success is measured: is “having tried and failed” better than “having never tried”?

The Fight for Independence

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“People, you got to fight for independence – it won’t just come for free…” this was not a call of a freedom fighter, but the former Director General of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Eisuke Suzuki, who led the effort to take ADB’s evaluation office from its reporting line to the President to the ADB Board.  I had joined ADB’s evaluation office in 1995 and was back after a short stint in Show More“People, you got to fight for independence – it won’t just come for free…” this was not a call of a freedom fighter, but the former Director General of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Eisuke Suzuki, who led the effort to take ADB’s evaluation office from its reporting line to the President to the ADB Board.  I had joined ADB’s evaluation office in 1995 and was back after a short stint in the Strategy and Policy Department, well in time for “independence." So, how did it compare, the before and after independence? A question that one of the Development Effectiveness Committee (DEC) chairs raised when I presented the Country Assistance Program Evaluation for Papua New Guinea: were you more critical when you knew the evaluation office was becoming independent, were you tougher on accountability than you would have been? Luckily, the DEC had discussed my earlier evaluation on Mongolia and had praised it for, among others, being as frank and candid as it was.   Having worked in many organizations, I can tell the tale why independence is so important for accountability and learning. Whenever an institution has a corporate culture that rejects the idea something might go wrong (an attitude that never fails to surprise me, given that development work is risky and does not simply happen: otherwise development institutions like ours would have long gone out of business) it reacts adversely to the messengers of bad news. Unfortunately, the negative message is more often than not associated with accountability. IEG was the forerunner of independence among the multilateral development banks – ADB looked towards it as the model when designing theirs in 2004 – and instituted a number of measures that are until today seen as gold standards: direct reporting to the Executive Board, who also makes the decision about appointing the Director General and approves the work program and budget.  Other measures include guidelines to prevent conflict of interest on one hand and repercussions on the career of staff that have issued candid evaluations on the other.  All of these measures safeguard candid reporting to hold the institution accountable.  In short: structural and intellectual independence is a necessary condition for accountability.  During my more than 20 years as evaluator, I have never struggled to reconcile accountability and learning, which are the central two objectives of evaluation. They are for me two sides of the same coin: accounting for what happened during implementation when working towards achieving the plans set out in a project design is the source for learning about the replication of success and avoidance of unnecessary mistakes on that journey to realize expected outcomes.  In evaluation we do not aim to “learn in the abstract” or test theoretical concepts, but learn about what happened and why during the process of implementing a policy, strategy, program, or project. Arriving in IEG in October 2011, I thought that independence, accountability and learning would not be a “hot topic” simply because IEG has been independent for so long.  But, the issue is well alive, especially as we raised the bar on rebalancing our function that is currently perceived to be primarily focused on accountability with the learning objectives of our profession.  Can we overcome the hurdle that independence seems to create to reach out for greater learning?  My many years of practice as evaluator tells me “yes” and IEG’s recent strides – an expansion of learning products in our work program, joint events with regions and sector boards to share evaluation findings as operational colleagues discuss new solutions, and piloting a range of media for sharing lessons, to name just a few – are proof that we can do so, and without compromising independence or our responsibility for accountability.

A Fad to Change the World?

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Gartner, a leading IT research company, recently published its annual “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies,” which plots the hype level of new technological innovations (spoiler alert: “big data” is just hitting the “peak of inflated expectations” and is headed to the “trough of disillusionment”!)  In today’s world, new fads burst on the scene every fifteen minutes, the speed of life seems Show MoreGartner, a leading IT research company, recently published its annual “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies,” which plots the hype level of new technological innovations (spoiler alert: “big data” is just hitting the “peak of inflated expectations” and is headed to the “trough of disillusionment”!)  In today’s world, new fads burst on the scene every fifteen minutes, the speed of life seems to accelerate in measure with ever greater development challenges from climate change to poverty eradication. Will these fads come to the rescue when dealing with complex problems? Yes, we need to innovate, but no: we need to base those new solutions on past experience. We at the Independent Evaluation Group are fortunate to draw on several decades of experience and analysis on what works and what doesn’t, sifting through all the stories and data to identify relevant solutions that are grounded in the reality of demonstrated results.  This blog is about how evaluation can be a transformational source of evidence to accelerate the impact and effectiveness of development work. I have been a professional evaluator for more than 25 years in a variety of international development agencies. In those years, I have seen how good evaluation work can help generate critical insights to help development professionals tackle development challenges in a better way, as well as cases where weak evaluation has muddied the waters – more in a later blog.  One thing that has been essential to come up with difficult messages and new perspectives is independence, which gives us evaluators the invaluable opportunity to reflect whether and how things could have worked differently and better,   add value by looking for patterns and making connections others might miss, and   critically reflect on commonly held positions and seek evidence to stimulate the debate when paradigms need questioning. The Luxury of Stepping Back. Time is ticking, deadlines are a constant, and many stakeholders have different demands and ideas; these are just few of the challenges in the daily life of development practitioners. As evaluators we enjoy an often undervalued luxury: of stepping back to take another look and exercise the wisdom of hindsight.  So: that is about learning from the past, but doesn’t it keep us stuck right there, generates lessons we have long left behind, and is void of the most pressing new challenges? It all depends. Looking at a portfolio over a 10-year period – something we typically do in our larger evaluations – includes more recent work, not from a perspective of outcomes but how the program has developed. And, benchmarking older policies, programs or investments against newer standards helps understand what is needed to close the gap to the latest standards.  We use the advantage of hindsight to look at the past through a different lens and wonder: could we have known this at the outset, and what if we had? Unexpected Connections. Data descends upon us like an avalanche and more and more programs are available to present information in smart looking ways, often automatically processing massive amount of details and churning out an image to help us understand the information overload. Or not: as we know, infographics can be confusing and misleading, word clouds are great, but don't tell us the deeper meaning of data. This is the mainstay of evaluation: we collect data and information, analyze it and pull it together to make sense of it all. The most influential evaluations reveal patterns people are not aware of or draw connections others have not seen, sometimes bridging disciplines and ideas in uncommon ways. Again, it is in this type of evaluative thinking and analysis that generates insights that will help practitioners learn from the past for a radically different future. Iconoclastic Is Good. Many development practitioners face the challenging tension of working within a bureaucracy that requires certain behaviors while innovating to find new solutions to intractable development challenges. This is where the second luxury of evaluation comes in: that of asking the difficult questions, seeking and accepting evidence also when it does not confirm long-held convictions. It is also one of its most fundamental challenges as it requires us evaluators to overrule traditional wisdoms and impartially look at evidence – accepting truths that might run contrary to shared understandings – and have the courage to defend uncommon and sometimes uncomfortable truths. But, in this day of uncertainty about so many aspects of life, it is a quality that will help build bridges from the past into the future where long-held beliefs might prove untenable. I am excited to use these unique advantages to share ideas and stimulate discussions.  No fads from us – just some straight shooting reflections on how the development community can promote evidenced based solutions to help our clients.

Where Will We Be in Twenty Years?

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Network on Development Evaluation  -- or EvalNet as it is known among evaluation cognoscenti -- celebrated its 30th anniversary in June 2013.  We should all lift a glass to toast this important network, which plays a central role in sharing evidence on results of international Show MoreThe Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Network on Development Evaluation  -- or EvalNet as it is known among evaluation cognoscenti -- celebrated its 30th anniversary in June 2013.  We should all lift a glass to toast this important network, which plays a central role in sharing evidence on results of international development co-operation to support learning and help hold decision makers to account. As we celebrate 30 years of EvalNet’s achievements, lets also pause and imagine where we will be in 10 or 20 years from now!  I want to highlight five things that will be instrumental over this period. We will see in partner and client countries more and more robust evaluation professionals, which will be better networked into a global community.  Making sure we are one community rather than a fragmented lot of different ones, and that while respecting the diversity of composition and needs of different groupings, will be a challenge.  This Network, through its evaluation capacity development work that also reaches across the community to the Banks and Foundations through the Regional Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR Initiative) and the embrace of EvalPartners to the United Nations and non-government organizations, is well placed to play a role that we all need to assume. Likewise, becoming a profession will require internationally agreed and accepted professional standards and a process of accreditation.  This is nothing new: I can recall the debates of the early 1990s, when time was not ripe to form and agree on those standards.  Today, a number of groups are engaged in defining competences.  To truly strengthen the profession we need to bring these efforts together to a global consensus, as otherwise we will suffer greater fragmentation. In terms of methodology, great advances have been made in many fields, and the arrival of “big data” that gets generated “automatically” expands our fount of information for use in evaluation.  I would challenge us too, to look more closely at how we evaluate capacity development.  This has always been considered the highest priority in the development discourse. Yet, across all organizations, the same mistakes are repeated, both in the design, doing, and evaluating thereof. The other methodological challenge, we will need to tackle is that of complexity.  This science is “complex” and quite often a bit wooly, because it does not follow our linear thought or speech patterns. The logical framework approach has been instrumental in shaping evaluation approaches.  It explains cause and effect and is meant to help planners as much as implementers and evaluators.  We all have seen the challenges in coming up with good frameworks and the dire consequences when they were missing.  Going forward, we need to develop the mindset and the tools to make evaluative sense of the much more complex, intertwined and dynamic reality we live in. (Richard Straub of the Harvard Business Review wrote an interesting piece on complexity.). And finally, our influence.  We are evaluators not just because we like the research and the digging into data, or because we like the odd fight we can get out of an evaluation when we hit a raw nerve. Primarily, we do this work because we want to influence change and ensure our institutions do better, learn, grow and serve their clients.  The disciplines of behavioral science and psychology can teach us some important lessons:  people learn better when they feel good about themselves.  We humans are less rationale than economic theory thought  and therefore act on feelings and sometimes contrary to what facts should make us do, and incentives of carrots and sticks work when people do simple tasks and fail when they are engaged in complex pursuits. Now, imagine a shift that takes our institutions away from a culture of blame to one that strives for excellence and is inspired by continuous learning – and evaluation playing its part to make that happen.