Mar 5, 2014

Using Science of Delivery in Delivery Units (I)

Claudio Santibanez , Senior Economist

Last October political leaders from six countries convened by the World Bank – Albania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Malawi and Senegal- announced they were forming a network to “share knowledge about what works - and what doesn’t - in delivering government services to citizens”. This initiative called Global Network of Delivery Leaders finds a group of countries that are willing to improve their delivery of programs based on evidence of what has worked on effective delivery and adjust experiences for their own country realities. World Bank is already collaborating with some of these and other countries on the establishment of their own delivery units (DUs).

DUs value proposition. The center of government - where priorities are defined and with a central role in policy formulation and coordination – would value the existence of a central function able to keep track of government’s progress on key priorities, and with the capacity to maintain consistency of actions towards such priorities and act in cases where results are getting off-track. Similarly, ministries delivering the key priorities will value the existence of a central function that could help them institutionalize monitoring routines, contribute with useful feedback on progress, and use its coordination power to help solving institutional and operational bottlenecks that are affecting delivery. To build on its value and relevance, DUs can benefit from methods that contribute to the accumulation of useful knowledge and bodies of evidence of the “what and how” to deliver citizens’ valued outcomes - a Science of Delivery approach.

Monitoring the change process for an effective delivery. Since DUs exercise their monitoring and coordinating role under complex scenarios, where continuous economic, social and political contingencies produces a ceaseless flow of pull or push forces around the government’s defined priorities, it is key for DUs to produce a baseline of the change process that ( i) will permit define and revisit the theory of change behind the action plans, identify actors and their responsibilities, and agree upon indicators to track progress; (ii) document the change process as to enable a systematic discussion of what is working and what doesn’t, learn from such experience and apply what learned as to keep delivery on track; and (iii) formalize responsibilities and accountabilities of participating agencies and authorities, make them endorse the delivery strategy and make sure to promote collaborative action among those agencies whose programs are contributing to a common priority.

Frameworks from a Science of Delivery approach can be helpful for DUs to track the delivery process (e.g., see the toolkit “Learning from Experience” (LE)). To be more effective on achieving impact and improving outcomes, DUs should promote an evidence-based practice to drive and adjust actions by helping to clearly define intended results (and related measures of success and responsibilities) and, at the same time, focus on the “how to” of the change process. As for that, it can use relatively simple mechanisms able to track progress by periodically reviewing the actions' intended outcomes; how success is being recognized and assessed; what challenges can be anticipated; what can be learned from previous action reviews and/or similar situations; or analyze what lessons to take forward for next time? (see Wilhelm’s AAR/BAR tool example).

Promoting collaborative action. Finally, since DUs deal with complex problems that commonly involve coordinating objectives from multiple stakeholders, sectors and disciplines, DUs teams may welcome tools that will help them systematize learning on how collaborative and collective action can improve the effectiveness of delivery. It will be welcomed tools that could answer how collaborative action can be more effective in securing necessary budget to finance action plans; or answer in what cases - and how – will collective action provide more agile responses to institutional bottlenecks appearing throughout the process; or how the Delivery Unit can collaborate to shape the adequate level of political and technical leadership needed to accelerate delivery.

By using a systematic approach to delivery, WB teams working with governments on the establishment of DUs will also collect useful knowledge to draw lessons from country experiences and build stronger evidence of institutional arrangements to improve delivery of government's key priorities.