Wednesday, December 22, 2010

IDEAS December Phonecon Summary


Here is the recap from yesterday's phone conversation.  Clearly there is both an opportunity and a need to step back and focus on the development arena's core problems.  Every day there is news of some decision by the agencies on structural changes, policy changes, funding changes, ideas to improve measurement -- of outputs or activities, polity and role of development, and data suggesting that the world is not flat.  I have never seen such a flurry of discussion and defense, challenge and questioning.  I refer you to the following:

1. New book by Paul Collier, well received and recommended
The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done about It

2. USAID's webpages on "forward", especially Implementation and Procurement

3. web references to the comments of EU Commissioner for Development
Andris Piebalgs

4. and the expanding need and role for USAID, UN, and other multilateral and bilateral donors -- evolving their versions of...
Bureau of Crisis and Conflict Operations (USAID)


1. Research Task 

You all have received this task group's deliverables and dates, which they are doing a marvelous job of accomplishing! Thank you. Jessica Morse has joined the group (graduated student at GW) and will be working with the task team to develop a spreadsheet of categories of effectiveness.  This will be sent to the entire committee by the end of January for your review and comment.  Because of the diversity of our committee, there are several perspectives and kinds of experience which should be valuable in this review.  If you have any ideas that you want to share with the task team, please contact Ryan, Steven, or Jessica.  Their emails are included above.

This group wants more involvement, and would like more active involvement: IF ANYONE WANTS TO GET INVOLVED IN DEFINING THE RESEARCH OBJECTIVES and framework, please contact Ryan or Steven.

The critical need is to find people to conduct literature reviews, research, and networking -- networking in order to get more perspectives, examples/samples, and ideas.   Please consider contacting Ryan or Steven with ideas and information.

Lastly, at the conference in Orlando, April 2011, there is going to be a day dedicated to research.  The agenda is pretty set, AND Ryan and April and Miki have been asked to give the IDEAS committee (that is, research related to effectiveness of PI in the development context) some "face time" in front of the membership/attendees.  If you have any ideas, please contact Ryan.

2. Application of PI to Development context: certification? RfP design?  

Roger and Patrick and Klaus have drafted 2 documents or criteria, which have led to a serious consideration of the root cause of LACK or LESS effectiveness of aid strategy, programs and policy. The first document is comment on parameters and criteria that should be included in RfPs -- adding a systemic and systematic approach to identifying core issues and key solution sets.  The second is general criteria for performing PI in the context of development, that is, what is unique and required and exemplary performance.  This can be considered a basis for discussion on a special certification (included or additional) to CPTs. 

Fundamental problems or lack of basic understanding of "performance" and performance management on the part of aid administrative and organizational staff have emerged.  From the experience base of IDEAS committee members as well as recent news releases about improvement in operations and approach of USAID (and UN, UK, World Bank, etc) there does not seem to be an understanding of the difference between "activities" and "results".  
We need to go back to basics. Kevin and Roger also brought out the need to get this information to the operational level managers and decision makers.  As an organizational and industrial complex, the tool "training" has become both a panacea and a word/concept which means everything and nothing.  Going beyond that is a very difficult concept for many in the administration. I would add there is little incentive to think "systemically", and that "silo thinking" (within sectors and within sub-sectors) has blocked the staff from pursuing systemic, cross sectoral, integrated strategy, monitoring, evaluation, measurement, and understanding of results.

Local partners are both being touted as the way of the future, and yet they are not linked into these discussions or approaches. The decision makers for programming and projects are in the country missions (while the paperwork trails are developed in agency HQs).  ISPI IDEAS has got to figure out a way to get information to this operational level if there is to be any impact.

Education and research is needed!!

It was agreed that we need a conversation within the committee to probe and poke at this issue to discover core issues and where interventions would be best targeted.  Kevin, Wendy, and Roger will develop initial questions -- and put them out to the committee (in the manner of ISPI 2cents approach).  Please help by contributing to this dialog.  The conclusions and/or questions that emerge will form the basis of the next tasks this committee takes on.

3. Jim and Gay and Mari have spent some time together discussing best approaches into USAID and other key agencies. 
 Two things have emerged.  We are identifying key people in USAID who are interested and "need" an approach to reconfigure and align policy through tactics.  We have some interest from the bureau for Democracy and Governance and from the proto bureau for Policy and Programs.  This will mean presentations by ISPI staff and ISPI IDEAS committee people on value added, problem solving, measurement (design --> evaluation) of impact, etc. We will pursue this, and involve committee people as we gain access. There is a lot of flux within USAID right now.  There is also 3 additional burdens on the agency:

a. The budget is being contested, with powerful allies seeing the need to expand the role of development vis-a-vis diplomacy and defense.  This is counterbalanced by budget cutting advocates.
b. The new chair of the committee overseeing State and USAID (House Foreign Affairs Committee) is not an advocate of development, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.  She will take over the committee in January.
c. USAID key staff are formulating  the role, value, and interplay of development to argue for its survival/heightened role.

Everyone agrees that we have to get the word out MORE TARGETED about ISPI, PI and our value added (membership in ISPI and use of PI and services provided by qualified CPTs).  Presentations to key decision makes, managers whose responsibility includes a systemic approach, and CRITICALLY field officers must occur.  Plus we need to write and contribute to the discussion boards, blogs, and other places where the "inside people'  go to for information.

4.  Klaus and team are attempting to develop a list of those people to target.  
We need to get any and all suggestions about this -- as well as WHAT AND WHERE AND HOW agency staff get their information.  What do they read? Blog? How to they receive information?  These discussions will be asked both internal to our committee and constantly asking these questions as we contact agency people for discussions and presentations.

To reiterate a concern expressed in reaction to the revelations and revamping that the development/aid agencies are putting out in press releases and on blogs -- the policies and strategies are being developed BUT HOW TO IMPLEMENT is not an area of expertise that is necessarily on staff or even in the frame of reference.  There is a need and an opportunity for PI professionals, at all levels of this discourse and discharge of projects.  Documents related to this are the US's QDDR (Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review) which is the administration's policy/strategy, and which is now under fire in the new congress.  

5. It is usual to rotate committee chair and co-chair each April.
Our committee can recommend, nominate, indicate who is interested in the chair and co-chair position -- to the ISPI Board of Directors, through our liaison Carol Lynn Judge.  Please let me know if you are interested in getting more involved IN ANY OF THESE TASKS AND DISCUSSIONS....and if you are interested in taking an administrative/leadership role.  We are supposed to give our suggestions to Carol Lynn by Jan 4, so she can discuss this at the Jan 6 Board Meeting.  Please let me (or Carol Lynn) know by Jan 3.

6. The holiday season is upon us, and we all survived the Full moon/equinox/eclipse -- so hopefully we will move into 2011 in a healthy, prosperous and peaceful manner.  In early January, I will send you all a reminder of the tasks we have taken on and the consideration of questions we need to debate and explore within the committee in order to move forward.

Thank you,
Please let me know if you have any additions, changes, or comments to any of this summary.

M Mari Novak

M. Mari Novak C.P.T.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shifts in European Development Aid

Aid programs of the European Union and its member states are going through major shifts. Fueled by austerity measures due to lingering financial calamities, some European donors have announced aid budget cuts and development policy overhauls that will begin to take effect in 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

US State Depart Issues FINAL Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review

As unveiled in a summary article from Devex, a few of the reactions from the development community are recapped below:

“I welcome the release of the State Department’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.  After nearly two years of serious and deliberate work, this review will provide an important road map to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic and development agencies.  The QDDR represents the kind of critical thinking we need to help us achieve our national security and foreign policy objectives.  I look forward to working with Secretary Clinton and Administrator Shah, as well as my colleagues in the Congress, as we consider legislation to implement the priorities identified in the QDDR.” - U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

“The QDDR represents an ambitious agenda filled with commitments to “do better.”  Operationalizing those commitments, and changing the culture required to do so will be difficult.  If State and USAID do not constructively engage with Congress, I can predict that many of the proposed changes will not see the light of day.” - Connie Veillette, Director of Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development, wrote in a blog post.

“There is seemingly much to like about the QDDR, such as its well-placed focus on the role of women and girls in peace-building and development, but the review raises many questions.  Ultimately, to make this type of review quadrennial in fact, rather than just in name, and to leave behind a legacy of institutional reform, the administration would do well to work closely with Congress. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has boldly chosen to try to fundamentally change the culture of the State Department—a large project to say the least. With the full 200+ page QDDR now available, expect to witness a lively debate on whether this is possible and whether progress is being made.” - Noam Unger, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network principal and Brookings Institutions global economy and development fellow.

“The QDDR reinforces many of the findings and proposals that have emerged after more than two years of hearings, briefings and roundtable discussions in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. By giving our diplomats and development professionals the right tools, adequate resources, and the flexibility to try new approaches, we can deliver cost-effective results and restore the confidence of the American people that their tax dollars are well-spent.” - Congressman Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said as quoted by the MFAN blog.

“Critically, the QDDR endorses the suite of reforms we began earlier this year—USAID Forward—recognizing this Agency’s need to develop new systems and capacities to deliver against these new opportunities. We will continue to streamline our work and cut red-tape, transforming our Agency into a modern, efficient development enterprise. But we also must renew our engagement with our interagency partners in a spirit of inclusive leadership and cooperation, and focus thoughtfully, aggressively, and primarily on delivering results for those we serve.” - USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah wrote in  the “Impact” blog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Capacity Development Skills PACKAGE for Practitioners and Facilitators

Capacity development (CD) is one of the key themes in the Accra Agenda for Action.  Two institutions Train4Dev and LenCD have committed to taking this theme forward in a number of ways, including through multi-stakeholder processes.  The vast array of knowledge, information and initiatives currently available from multiple sources makes it clear that there is a rapidly changing dynamic around all aspects of CD.  Emerging understanding about the need for new approaches to CD is creating diverse needs for learning and change for development actors at all levels.   

There is also growing recognition that capacity and its development are areas of knowledge, skills and practice in their own right.  Within this scenario the spread of knowledge and skills for effective support of CD is very uneven.  Many, especially at country level, are struggling to understand what is required of them within the changing paradigm articulated in the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action.  

Thus, one of the pressing needs is for a package offering basic knowledge and skills to promote change in CD practice.  Such a package should be in a practical and attractive open source format that will encourage take up by multiple stakeholders.  The process would tap into many players including bilateral agencies, African case studies, multilaterals and UN Agencies.  Steps to initiate the development of a package were started by LenCD, in collaboration with WBI, with a Scoping Study completed in June 2010.  

The extract above is taken from a recent concept paper  published here.

The purpose of the package
The purpose of the package is to provide learning opportunities to practitioners at sub-/regional, country and sector level who want to change and improve their practice in order to become more effective supporters of CD.  The package modules will contain materials that can be used freely to facilitate and inform multi stakeholder processes through the identification of suitable capacity development strategies and approaches.

-        Focus on practitioners at sub-/regional, country and sector levels

-        Focus on learning support in the context of African efforts[1]

The objectives and content of a core learning package
In the first instance the need is for a set of core modules that will enable participants to achieve the following objectives:

·  Theoretical understanding of capacity and change and how it applies within their context
·  Competence: based on knowledge and understanding of how to use a range of tools and techniques to become more effective supporters of CD
·  Generated and shared deeper learning about CD through structured reflection about their own practice

There are several ways to approach content and in practice there may be multiple tracks.  To achieve the objectives above the modules of the core package might be as follows:

1.      CD basics: theories and frameworks for capacity and CD; systems thinking, theories of change
2.      Understanding CD in workplace realities: the relevance of culture and context; opportunities and constraints for CD practitioners as change agents; assumptions and values
3.      Assessment and measurement of capacity and CD: assessing capacity assets; understanding needs and the potential impact of systemic factors; closing learning loops
4.      Changing practice in planning and implementation: policy, strategy and planning responses to new understanding of CD; learning loops and accountability
5.      Learning practices for CD:beyond training – approaches, tools and techniques that work
6.      Monitoring and evaluating CD: adapting monitoring and evaluation tools to elicit learning from CD practice; closing learning loops
7.      Implications for practice: stimulating and managing new approaches to CD within working realities

A scoping study for the CD package has been prepared and is available here.

[1] In 2009 LenCD and the OECD-DAC undertook consultations with NEPAD, the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and others to explore the creation of an African Learning Platform (AfLP).  In January 2010 the African Union adopted NEPAD’s Capacity Development Strategy Framework[1], providing a politically endorsed reference for CD initiatives in the region.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Update: Building Awareness with the Donor Community

After the recent Washington DC meeting (Committee chairs and ISPI staff) and the new widely trumpeted donor focus on "results", I think it is clear that the aid/development world knows about 'performance management' now, and so 2 things are vital:

1. Perf Mgmt MEANS something, it is not just something anyone can do. In fact, it is pretty high level, in terms of delivering effective PI. Most people in development have such a low knowledge of what is required in training that it is such a loose term to describe someone getting up and saying something. And since the term is so loose and does not relate to any criteria or any evaluation (beyond happy sheets), anyone can do it.

Again, for fear of being a broken record: ISPI has got to let people know that there is a science, technology, and mastery of PI, perf mgmt, organizational systems, etc. AND WE ARE (one of) the key professions who do this work.

2. And we have to make it easy and palatable to digest.

SO my recommendations to proceed are really pretty basic:

a. Keep expanding the donor contact list (being developed by Klaus and team) of agency activists and policy makers. KEEP ON ADDING TO AND EDITING this.

b. Make a donor oriented ISPI blog (or transform the IDEAS blog) where we write KEY, SHORT easy to understand and relatively easy to manage VALUE ADDED approaches using PI

c. Figure some sort of distribution, either through email, blog, etc. I hesitate to send emails. I would prefer a blog, linked to some kind of social media - perhaps LinkedIn. But the key people -- how old are they? What info source do they prefer?

d. Most of these articles should be "proofs" or statements of effectiveness. By that I mean, primarily research or statement of the science linked to technology linked to success stories. I hate the fact that people manage by anecdote, but they do, and success stories work. But we have to be careful to make sure we ALWAYS have a systemic comment. Because anyone can write up their project as being successful. In the development context a huge percentage of projects actually undermine the performance system by being contradictory to another effort in a different (but linked) sector.

e. Short presentations with a ZING, and time for questions and answers...ideally discussion!

  --BASIC benefits of PI

  --BASIC success in education, military, govt, etc

  --BASIC recognition that development is different and     application must be adapted to context

  --BASIC explanation of the architecture of PI -- scalable, reformats the inertia/processes

It will be useful to video these and post them as podcasts as well.

f. presentations are resource consuming. They should be selective, with those few people who have some authority and interest. We can do some "by invitation". We can use all ISPI connections and get military and diplomats and development AND practitioners in the room, together and separately. We have to explain clearly that this can be applied at the project and program level -- and the related procurement issues need to be addressed and funded AND

that it is applicable at the --

  -- mega/cultural
  -- polity
  -- strategic
  -- tactical levels

PI can work WITH technical content and with process and with organizational readiness and removing blockages to adoption and sustainability..

again, most of the people with some experience know what is wrong. They even know what is required to fix it. They don't have the skills or the will, or the OK from HQ.

Even worse, there are so many myths and sacred cows that often it is not a rational, science-based discussion. It is 'treading on holy ground'.

EVERYONE is talking about improving aid effectiveness!

NOW, who and when --

  • Our committee and Board of Directors need to be able to present our message to these audiences
  • I think we do focus on USAID and if we are able - go to Vienna's HQ for the UN and OSCE for starters
  • We figure out about focusing our blog and getting the 'marketing of it' to the right people
  • Figure out how to remind them to use it (social network?)
  • Hone these presentation for this audience, FOR THESE AUDIENCES and talk ALL THEIR TALK (not ours).

It takes time and energy. We have to decide how to allocate valuable volunteer energies.

M. Mari Novak

Monday, December 6, 2010

Progress in Development - 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

Once again, Hans Rosling creates a tour de force with development statistics! Very good news against the backdrop of short-term economic crisis and disruption.