Three cheers for Tony Lake in the FT

The Financial Times ran an interview with Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF on 19th May: How Aid Got Smarter. Three cheers for three good comments:

“Often aid does work, he says. More children are getting vaccines and clean water. Aids, malaria and measles are finally in retreat. Life expectancy is soaring. But, he adds, “Of course aid often fails.” Then the question becomes: which aid works?” Continue reading

Throwing off our results-chains

Here’s something I’ve been meaning to write about: one diagram that’s done more than anything else to stop NGOs truly measuring their performance. You’ll know it if you work in the sector. It’s the results-chain:

The example about teacher training shows why it’s so wrong. Look at it for a second and you can see it’s just not true. Continue reading

Putting theory into practice with the Joffe Charitable Trust

This year, I’ve been working with the Joffe Charitable Trust. It’s been a real privilege, working as a donor with some extraordinary organisations tackling poverty in sub Saharan Africa.

During the year, we’ve reviewed what the Trust funds and how it goes about selecting grants. We’ve applied some of the ideas set out in this website’s management agenda in an effort to maximise the contribution we make. Continue reading

Tools not indicators

How to measure a man?

I’m losing count of the number of times I’ve met people who aim to change how NGOs manage their work by ‘defining the right indicators’.

It’s a powerful line of thought. First, identify indicators that define what you want to achieve – like changes in average incomes or exam results. Then have all your programmes use the same menu of indicators to establish their objectives and measure their performance. Finally, compare performance between programmes to see which ones work best; do more of the good ones and less of the bad ones. Continue reading

NGOs’ performance in the Horn of Africa

You’ll have seen news of the famine in the Horn of Africa, with a vast population at risk and horrendous pictures that look like they belong to another age. Many NGOs are working flat out to provide help. In the UK, the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal last month. So far it’s raised £44m. Please give more.

At times like this, it’s hard to focus on the question of NGOs’ performance. There’s such pressure to provide help immediately. Continue reading

Sign the petition: Make Aid Transparent

A great campaign, launched today, calls on governments to make their aid transparent. I’ve just signed it. Will you? It will actively help make sure that aid is used better. Continue reading

Five pillars: improving quality & impact

A major international NGO recently invited me to talk to senior staff about improving the quality and impact of their programme work. Here are my preliminary comments. They build on the analysis from this website, which includes links to examples and related initiatives (see recent blogs on the right-hand menu and other content on the left).

What do you think – is this along the right lines? All comments very welcome. Continue reading

Advice for the new aid watchdog

A few weeks ago, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) launched an open consultation “to understand which areas of UK overseas aid … the Commission should report on in its first three years”. Continue reading

Payment by results: coming to a project near you

KPMG: Rock solid

In June 2010, KPMG published a report called Payment for Success. It was about how to reform UK public services, by shifting power from the supply side to customers. It was rock solid in its conclusions:

“Payment by results should be implemented across the public sector without exception – where it exists already, it should be made more forceful and sophisticated, where it does not exist, it should be introduced with very limited transitional periods.” Continue reading

Measuring results: the demand-side revolution

Upside down world

An excellent TV show this week followed a British midwife who worked for a fortnight in a Liberian hospital. The first thing she did was turn on two shiny new incubators that UNICEF had provided. They hadn’t trained the staff how to use them.

My wife was shocked: how could such expensive kit be provided without training? After years in aid, I wasn’t so surprised. It’s a familiar story, coming down to the incentives that shape how aid agencies actually run projects. Continue reading