"Why do you want people to complain about our project?" Jacques Buré, a Senior Highway Engineer in the World Bank, faced his incredulous client. They were building a major road in Kazakhstan, with a $2.13 billion World Bank investment and over 1,000 kilometers across Central Asia. Jacques had just broached the subject of a grievance mechanism and he could hear the skepticism behind the question: yet another condition imposed by the World Bank. And this one seems too much: what could possibly be the rationale for soliciting complaints?
This story kicked off a day-long deep dive which brought together over 40 staff from the World Bank and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. It touched core issues about how to better manage complex risks on development projects; improve client relations; build on country systems; and shift the way the World Bank presents its policies and standards from 'because we tell you' to 'here's how this adds value and improves performance'. Building on experienced practitioners and outside experts, the session was run by the Dispute Resolution and Prevention team – part of the World Bank’s Risk Management unit. It emphasized how to overcome operational challenges related to implementation of grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) and make the business case to our clients on how a GRM can add value. It struck a deep chord with many of the project teams in the room.