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Beyond ribbon-cutting: measuring the real impact of transport projects

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo: World Bank/Flickr
Development practitioners often rely on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) performance indicators to assess the results of a transport project. Collecting indicators before, during, and after a project allows us to gain insights about project execution and project outputs, which can help us, for example, measure changes in travel time or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system ridership. While this approach is important, well anchored into project design, and quite practical, it is not intended to evaluate “impact”. Observed changes in outcomes cannot be attributed to the project: many other external factors, such as economic conditions, interrelated policies or projects, or seasonal trends, also come into play. In other words, a descriptive approach fails to establish causality between a project or intervention and subsequent outcomes such as changes in income, labor markets, quality of life, or market efficiency.

To overcome the limitations of traditional M&E, the development community is increasingly turning to impact evaluation, an alternative approach whose methods more directly address the issue of causality. In that context, the World Bank’s transport experts have partnered with colleagues from the Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) team to rethink the way the impact of transport is measured. Two years ago, with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), a transport-dedicated impact evaluation program was launched: “IE Connect for Impact”. Now, impact evaluation is being implemented on 10 projects, covering rural roads, urban mobility, transport corridor development, and road safety. More projects will be selected toward the end of the year, as part of Phase II of the program.

The expected benefits are clear: informing project delivery during design and implementation, documenting the effects of policy and investment interventions, and prioritizing and filling knowledge gaps in the sector. Despite these significant benefits, transport accounts for less than 1% of all impact evaluation work —a very low proportion compared to the weight of other sectors such as in health (65% of all published impact evaluations), education (23%), agriculture and rural development (10%), or water (4%).

In Senegal, food security and women’s empowerment go hand in hand

Louise Cord's picture



Senegal’s nutrition policy is at a crossroads. Reaching a critical moment where the effects of malnutrition could have a detrimental effect on generations of young Senegalese to come, the Government of Senegal is striving to make efforts to address the root problems of malnutrition. However, if these actions are taken without a conscious effort bolster the key role of women in nutrition, the country may not succeed in stymieing stunting and malnutrition in the country.

Are roads and highways the Achilles Heel of Brazil?

Frederico Pedroso's picture
Photo: Ricardo Giaviti/Flickr
Over the past three years and a half, our team has been working on a transport project with the state of São Paulo in Brazil. The project involves a lot of traveling, including frequent commutes between the World Bank office in Brasilia and the State Department of Transport in São Paulo (DER-SP)—a journey that is estimated to take 2 hours and 40 minutes. This includes the time to drive from the World Bank office to Brasilia Airport, flight time, and commuting from São Paulo’s Congonhas Airport to the State Department of Transport.
 
Let’s say that, on a typical Wednesday, the team needs to attend a meeting in São Paulo. To ensure we can make it on time, we plan our day carefully, book our flights and define the right time to leave the office in Brasilia. With a plan in place, we leave the office at 10:00 am and head to Brasilia Airport. The first leg of the trip takes 35 minutes and we manage to arrive early for our 11:00 am flight, which, unfortunately, is delayed by 20 minutes. We land in São Paulo, quickly get out of the terminal, and manage to hop on a taxi at 1:20pm… not bad! We are now on the last leg of our journey, a mere 14-kilometer drive between Congonhas Airport and the meeting place, which is supposed to take only 20 minutes. However, there is a short thunderstorm that floods the city and closes off key streets. This single event leads to complete traffic chaos along the way, and our planned 20-minute transfer from the airport turns into a 1-hour-and-15-minute ordeal. These traffic disruptions have a serious impact on our meeting as well, as some Department of Transport staff cannot join and some items of the agenda cannot be discussed.
 
This incident may seem anecdotal, but it is a good illustration of our extreme dependency on transport systems and the weaknesses associated with it. Because transport is so critical to our social and economic lives, it is extremely important to understand, anticipate, and minimize the different types of risks that may impact transport systems.

What’s the recipe to cook up networks for resilience?

Megan Rowling's picture

Spreading the word about the need to get ahead of climate change and disasters, linking people and organisations so they can tackle problems better together, discovering new knowledge and resources to build resilience  - apart from that, 'what have networks ever done for us?' we might ask, to steal the famous Monty Python line.
 
It's a question we set out to answer at a panel discussion I moderated at the RES/CON gathering in New Orleans earlier this month. With Zilient.org, we are aiming to build an online "network of networks" - and so understanding the value of networks and the challenges of creating effective ones will be key to what we do.
 
At the conference, a diverse line-up of panelists - from the non-profit, private and public sectors – gave their insights. Here are some of the key ideas that emerged:
 
1. New forms of collaboration: The huge challenges posed to societies and economies by global problems like climate change require an "all hands on deck" approach. The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), set up in 2008 by The Rockefeller Foundation, now helps some 50 cities in the region devise and implement strategies to help urban communities address climate change. Shannon Alexander, a senior director at development agency Mercy Corps, which has also supported the network, said ACCCRN had enabled civil society to have a voice, and work with local governments and business to figure out what the problems are, and how best to solve them.

Second-generation capacity development: A story of Malaysia-Laos knowledge exchange on reforming civil service

Jana Kunicova's picture

What do you imagine when you hear the words “capacity development”? Most development professionals associate capacity development with training, seminars and perhaps study tours.  Most of the countries the World Bank works in require a significant boost in their capability to implement policies, programs and projects, especially in countries supported by the Bank’s fund to the poorest, International Development Association (IDA).

For training to be sustainable and have high impact, it should be targeted to a particular public sector problem, and coupled with initiatives to improve organizational and institutional capacity. 

Quote of the week: Mohsin Hamid

Sina Odugbemi's picture
“Hope is an active state. To hope you have to do stuff. You have to put your finger on the scale. It’s important for people to imagine futures that do involve huge amounts of change and yet where our grandchildren can be all right.” 

Mohsin Hamid - novelist and writer. His novels include Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Exit West.

Photo credit: By Mr.choppers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Can new developments in machine learning and satellite imagery be used to estimate jobs?

Alvaro Gonzalez's picture
 Orbital Insight satellite imagery/Airbus Defense and Space and DigitalGlobe)
"Before" and "after" satellite images analyzed for agricultural land, using algorithms. (Photo: Orbital Insight satellite imagery/Airbus Defense and Space and DigitalGlobe)


Methods that use satellite data and machine learning present a good peek into how Big Data and new analytical methods will change how we measure poverty. I am not a poverty specialist, so I am wondering if these data and techniques can help in how we estimate job growth. 

Should I stay or should I go? Marriage markets and household consumption

Berk Ozler's picture

“We propose a model of the household with consumption, production and revealed preference conditions for stability on the marriage market. We define marital instability in terms of the consumption gains to remarrying another individual in the same marriage market, and to being single. We find that a 1 percentage point increase in the wife’s estimated consumption gains from remarriage is significantly associated with a 0.6 percentage point increase in divorce probability in the next three years.”

Motivating Haryana’s agri leaders towards peri-urban farming and direct marketing

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

Surajkund in Faridabad, Haryana on the outskirts of New Delhi, is famous for the International Crafts Fair held annually that showcases the richness and diversity of India’s handicrafts and cultural fabric.  This year it was also the venue for the 2nd Agri Leaders Summit-2017 held from 18-20th March, 2017. Doubling farmers’ income is one of the top most priorities of the Government of Haryana. In this context, the Summit aimed at providing agri leaders a platform for recognition, facilitation and incubation. Within the objective of accelerated, inclusive and sustainable growth in the State, the Summit, more importantly, aimed at creating a direct linkage between farmers, agricultural workers and the agri market to enable learning about value creation chains. Further, with technological innovations revolutionizing agri- industry/business, the Summit was also a forum for farmer leaders and achievers to display their best practices and innovations.

The Summit’s stakeholders included the  political leadership in central/state Government;  farmer leaders (growers, producers, processors and entrepreneurs); Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs)/Farmers Interest Groups (FIGs); agri and allied companies, departments and agencies of the Central and State Government; national and international Institutes/ Universities; eminent scientists; foreign governments/businesses and consumers. This vast amalgam of stakeholders was supplemented by mobilization of over one hundred thousand farmers from all parts of the State who too participated in the three day Summit in its exhibition, seminars and mass engagement sessions with the political leadership!   

In India, eliminating tuberculosis isn't just a health issue — it's an economic one

Jorge Coarasa's picture



On February 1st, India’s finance minister presented the Union Budget for 2017-2018, and announced the government’s plan to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by 2025. This is a welcome move. While ridding people of the burden of any disease is a worthy goal by itself, TB elimination provides perhaps one of the strongest cases for public intervention from an economic point of view.

All communicable diseases present what economists call externalities: infectious people can infect other people who in turn infect others and so on. In fact, economist Phillip Musgrove used TB in particular to illustrate this: “no victim of tuberculosis is likely to ignore the disease, so there is no problem of people undervaluing the private benefits of treatment. Rather, the cost of treatment--and the fact that they may feel better even though the disease has not been cured-- may lead people to abandon treatment prematurely, with bad consequences not only for themselves but for others. The rest of society therefore has an interest in treating those with tuberculosis, and assuming at least part of the cost.” Reducing TB incidence could generate benefits of $33 per dollar spent, prompting The Economist to put TB among their list of ‘no-brainers’. According to the Stop TB Partnership, ending TB globally could yield US$ 1.2 trillion overall economic return on investment.


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