How useful is 'focusing on results' for development work? It may make an organization more cost-efficient but not necessarily more effective as it is usually unrealistic, time-consuming and misleading.
How do donors aim for “results” without setting up a counterbureaucracy that disrupts rather than encourages good development programs?
A recent Independent Commission for Aid Impact report has taken the U.K. Department for International Development to task for doing just that, which in turn demands a serious reconsideration of how DfID thinks about results and accountability.
Of course, these critiques are hardly new. However this isn’t another nongovernmental organization or academic report slating the “results agenda,” but an independent body that has specifically been set up to ensure the effectiveness of aid and — based on 44 previous reports — is providing evidence about how the results agenda unfolds in practice.
In a nutshell, ICAI argues that DfID today knows better than ever before when and where taxpayers’ money is being spent, but not what that spending actually achieves. ICAI found that the results agenda has tended to prioritize short-term economy and efficiency over long-term, sustainable impact. It has brought “greater discipline” and “greater accountability for the delivery of aid” but also a focus on quantity of results over quality.
Not everything ICAI has to say is bad news; but most of it is. The ICAI findings undoubtedly hold broader relevance for other donors who are taking a similar approach to their result agenda.