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Communication and the Results Agenda

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The newly launched IEG Annual Review of Development Effectiveness 2009 attests the World Bank a significant increase in development effectiveness from financial year 2007 to 2008. After a somewhat disappointing result last year, 81 % of the development projects that closed in fiscal 2008 were rated satisfactory with regard to the extent to which the operation's major relevant objectives were achieved efficiently.

One crux remains: the measurement of impact. Monitoring and evaluation components in development projects are by far not as frequent as IEG would wish: Two thirds of the projects in 2008 had marginal or negligible M&E components. Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Vice President of the South Asia Region, listed several reasons at the launch of the IEG report this week: the lack of integrative indicators, the Bank's tradition to measure outputs instead of outcomes, the lack of baseline assessments in most projects, and reluctance on the clients' side to realize M&E in projects.

Since 2003 the World Bank has been working on its Results Agenda. Back then the multilateral development banks pledged to improve monitoring and managing for development results and to emphasize the need to evaluate lending programs in terms of their impact on people and their needs rather than in terms of inputs. This shift of perspective is paramount to working on governance reform, I would even go so far as to suggest it has made working on governance issues possible in lending institutions in the first place. Governance is about results, it cannot be about input - input doesn't make good governance, good governance is always an outcome.

Achieving this outcome moves the role of communication closer into the center of development work. To achieve good governance it takes more than a project here and there, it takes a concerted reform of the public sector or at least parts of it. Now, we do know that public sector reform is no walk in the park in even the most open and free of societies, let alone in those countries where citizens would benefit most. As we have argued on this blog and elsewhere, this is where we see communication taking center stage. Communication can help overcoming obstacles to reform through, I would argue, two main mechanisms: (1) building public support and (2) building coalitions. The first mechanism regards the relationship between the public and the government. Communication can help empower citizens to demand reform from their government, but it can also raise support for government objectives. We discuss both perspectives in an upcoming White Paper on how anti-corruption agencies can work with the media to build public support for their efforts.

The second mechanism, coalition building, refers to the relationship between governments and reformers (within or without the government), as well as among reformers. Reformers can be members of the public, but here we define them more narrowly with regard to their actual involvement in reform efforts. Coalition building is the attempt of (sometimes lone) reform champions to find support among influential members of the government in order to push their agendas ahead. This includes considerations of the will of the public, but remains on a policy making stage until public will is needed to realize a reform.

Communication for governance and accountability is about supporting the World Bank's Results Agenda. A stronger focus on impact should involve a stronger focus on communication.

Photo credit: Flickr user akirsa


Anne-Katrin, you might be interested in the following report from the European Development days Practitioners and Advocates Promote the Power of Information in Global Development Cheers, Giulio

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