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Why benchmarking works

Laurence Carter's picture

Benchmarking taps into a powerful human emotion - to beat your neighbour or competitor. It makes for good copy in the press. It gives policymakers the ammunition to press for changes within their own administrations. (The World Bank Group's Doing Business publication has helped to stimulate a raft of policy changes.) And in many cases the changes necessary to improve scores do not need large investments.

Ciudadanos al Dia (CAD) is an organization in Peru run by a remarkable woman, Beatrice Boza, which three years ago set out to improve local and national government through benchmarking. The story so far is impressive.

CAD has measured: whether Government departments were adhering to their own rules of transparency; the efficiency of municipal tax collection; the transparency of Government procurement; and the cost to get a municipal operating permit, to name a few. But CAD distinguishes itself by ensuring that these studies are widely disseminated in the press and get the attention of opinion makers. This presentation (PDF) by Boza shows just how much press attention benchmarking exercises can bring.

Even more impressive is that CAD has taken benchmarching to a new level with their Good Government Practices Prize. The idea is simple yet powerful: identify and reward good practices in the public sector. In 2006, its second year, the Good Goverment Practices Prize attracted over 100 applications from government agencies around Peru vying for the prize in each of 12 categories. The awards are complemented by a Good Government Congress where practitioners talk about what works, as well as a Good Practices Manual. The award ceremony attracted over 400 people and huge media attention. Now across the country government departments are taking notice and setting their sights on winning an award next year. This is the kind of healthy competition that benchmarking can engender.

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