The ultimate purpose of development co-operation is to achieve results, which means to bring tangible and sustainable change for people, societies and the environment. For this to happen, results-based management calls for development actors to set clear objectives with expected results, targets and indicators, and a system to measure how they are performing against their goals. They also need to use the information generated on performance and development co-operation results for accountability and communication as well as for decision-making and learning.
This paper summarises and analyses findings on progress, challenges and unintended consequences from the implementation of results-based management (RBM) in development co-operation. The review draws primarily on findings from various evaluations and reviews of RBM systems conducted by members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the OECD Secretariat and other bodies in the past four years (2015-2018). It also compares these findings with earlier studies, and draws on emerging lessons from new methods for managing development co-operation that are being undertaken by a number of institutions and global initiatives.
The review of recent evaluations reveals both areas of progress and remaining challenges, as follows:
– Providers have made progress in integrating RBM in their internal systems (planning, implementation and reporting).
– While some evidence points to a positive correlation between the quality of monitoring and evaluation at project level and ratings on project outcomes, uneven progress is noted on the use of results information for direction and learning.
– Challenges noted with RBM implementation, often already mentioned in earlier RBM reviews, relate to strategic, organisational and technical management dimensions.
– The review also identified three unintended consequences that were not foreseen and limit the potential of RBM. Providers tend to: i) prioritise what can be measured easily (measure fixation); ii) pursue the purpose of accountability at the expense of learning and policy direction (suboptimisation); and iii) become overly bureaucratic and rigid, thereby increasing transaction costs and hampering innovation (counter-productive implementation).