Managing risk and achieving results

There are some concerns that an excessive focus on demonstrating development results could marginalise support to accountability and governance because progress in these areas is intrinsically difficult to measure in quantifiable ways.

Box 4.4. Co-ordinated donor approaches for deepening democracy in Uganda

One of the more promising programmes identified in the GOVNET case studies is the Deepening Democracy Programme in Uganda, a multi-donor basket fund supporting a range of core domestic accountability institutions. Key aspects of its success appear to be: 1) joint funding and planning/implementation co-ordinated through basket fund arrangements; and 2) underpinning programme activities with a robust political analysis shared among the contributing donors. The programme has also prioritised the use of political analysis and research (including Afrobarometer data) to inform implementation; staff have a solid understanding of the power dynamics and challenges for accountability in Uganda. These staff appeared to have maintained regular contacts with most political parties.

Source: Wild and Golooba-Mutebi (2010).

A growing body of analysis, reinforced by the GOVNET country case studies, points to the lack of a robust evidence base for measuring and understanding the impact of accountability support. Too little has been invested in understanding what works and why in this field. “[M]any initiatives are not underpinned by a clear articulation of exactly what outcome or impact is sought.... or of how the actions and inputs contemplated are expected to generate that outcome or impact. That is, the assumptions underlying the causal chain, from inputs to outcomes and impact, are absent, vague or too implicit” (McGee et al., 2010: 9-10).

Incorporating political economy insights into accountability programming should help ensure that programme objectives are more realistic - and therefore more amenable to rigorous results measurement. This means paying much greater attention to programme objectives and assumptions at the outset of the design process. Being explicit about the theory of change justifying the support can be particularly helpful in testing starting assumptions. And assessing the wider political context and the enabling environment for reform will be particularly important for measuring the impact of development co-operation on domestic accountability.

Stronger, more well-founded results frameworks will enable development agencies to: 1) identify realistic programme objectives at the outset; 2) correctly gauge and manage risks; and 3) understand better what works and why.

A key first step will be to identify and monitor risks (including political risks) and to develop forward-looking tools to help anticipate future risks (Phillips, 2006). Building in greater risk assessment (and using political economy tools where appropriate) throughout programme delivery will also be key (Wild and Foresti, 2011). This will require frameworks and approaches which allow for the observation of (and adaptation to) change over time (rather than a static evaluation at the end of a programme of support) (ibid.).

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