Country Programme Performance Management

Julian Gayfer, Kari Sann

Agencies involved in International Development are facing increasing pressure to demonstrate results, both to partner governments and to the public at home.  In 2002, the Monterrey Consensus established a shared responsibility amongst donors and partner countries to achieve betterdevelopment results. This meant demonstrating results in ways that consider whether a country has less poverty, rather than reporting on how many dollars have been spent.

A paradigm of “managing for development results” has emerged in response to this challenge and has been developed through the OECD-DAC Development Partnership Forum.  It implies managing and implementing aid in a way that focuses on desired results and using information to improve decision-making.  In 2004 the Marrakech Round Table called for an alignment of donor reporting with country results and harmonised country reporting.  Consequently, results-based approaches to monitoring and evaluation that are aligned to country results now have a central, critical role to play in managing the effective delivery of donor aid programmes.

Results Based Country Programmes – the Challenge

For each country where Donors expend funds, they generally have a document outlining their intended programme over a period of time, usually between 3 and 10 years. These documents commonly provide an analysis of the socio-economic, political and policy context of the country, an assessment of the development needs, discussion of the donor’s comparative advantage, and a set of “strategic orientations” for the new programme. In the interests of harmonisation and alignment, an increasing number of these documents are being developed jointly with other donors and in discussion with government partners.

Whilst these documents provide a flavour of what is intended in the future programme, they often miss a clear identification of how the donor approach will contribute to a set of development results in the partner country over the years of the strategy. The consequences of this can be a lack of clarity over the direction of the office; disjoin between the long term strategy and the annual work plan; uncomplimentary or vague evaluations; a weak platform for harmonisation; and an inability of programme managers to manage for long-term development results in a flexible way.

As many countries move toward new aid modalities such as Sector Wide Approaches (SWAPs) and General Budget Support, there is an impetus to align closely with government directions.
To manage for results in highly dynamic environments requires a commitment to regularly assess and adapt to the contextual environment. An organisational culture conducive to team decision making and learning supports the effective implementation of results based methodologies.

Key aspects of managing for development results in the country programme cycle

To support country programme managers move towards a more results based approach, IOD PARC has been involved in developing and refining some monitoring and evaluation tools that put partner government results at the centre of donor country programme management and evaluation.

Applying a Results Framework to Country Programmes

The Results Framework is a tool to assist with managing and monitoring progress toward specific objectives at the country level. It seeks to clarify exactly what the donor programme will deliver and how this contributes to development in the environment it is working within. It is similar to the logframe approach in that it implies logical causative linkages between donor activities and development results.

But it goes one step further and clearly places programmes within the context of the external environment, and challenges those using the tool to think about their work within the context of what other partners are doing – focusing on the efforts of the partner government.

Using the donor defined areas of engagement (Strategic Objectives) as a starting point, a results chain is produced identifying expected development impact, changes to policies and programmes in the partner government environment (intermediate results and outcomes), and the donor funded programme activities (outputs) that support these results. The logic of contribution, rather than direct attribution, is applied. That is, the outputs contribute to the results in each area of engagement, which in turn contribute to development impact. Indicators of progress are identified and tracked at all three levels of performance but the focal point of the framework is the outcome (results) level of performance.

Supporting the delivery of Results by understanding Management

Results do not appear magically.  They are delivered through complex interactions between and within organisations and in response to political and civic action.  In managing for results, organisations have to be constantly aware of the environment they are working within, and of their ability to respond appropriately and most effectively to lever change.  The effective manager can not do this by looking at results alone.  An understanding of how various aspects of the organisation are performing can greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving the desired results.
IOD PARC has drawn on a proven management approach, the Balanced Scorecard, to help identify three broad performance areas that underpin the delivery of development results:

  • Managing External Relationships
  • Finance and Administration
  • Building the Future, Learning and Growth

Through monitoring and assessing these key elements of performance we aim to understand:

  • How favourably do our partners in development see us?
    Managing External Relationships
  • Are we using and organising our resources in the best possible way to deliver our results? 
    Managing Human and Financial Resources
  • Are we continuing to learn, share knowledge, and grow?
    Building the future – Learning and Growth

Depending on the focus of the donor strategy, one area of performance is often more critical than the others. Commonly for donors working on principles of harmonisation and alignment, managing external relationships is key. However, whilst relationships can be considered strong concrete demonstrations of harmonised activity require, for example, funds to be released in a timely and efficient manner (managing human and financial resources). Similarly, relationships can be strong between two individuals within separate partner organisations but if the individuals leave the organisation the institutional relationship is lost. Therefore some investment in organisational learning is important.

A management framework that considers these three critical aspects of performance can be very insightful for those trying to manage for development results. The framework must be “fit for purpose”. It is possible to hit “diminishing returns” with too many indicators.
Defining those critical indicators that provide a measure of each performance parameter over time is important. This is often best achieved through a negotiated team process.