Watermelons, development projects and square boxes

Square watermelons from Japan. If only people grew in square boxes too.

Here’s a great story that shows why people are not like watermelons (see picture): they won’t grow in square boxes.

It’s a perfect example of the pitfalls of logframes. In this case, the logframe created the wrong incentives for field managers. They didn’t pay enough attention to what other people were doing. So although the team completed all their activities, they didn’t achieve their goals. Continue reading

Monitoring in the real world

Monitoring that helps NGOs achieve more

I just read a great new manual on monitoring NGO work. It’s called Integrated Monitoring, by Sonia Herrero of inProgress. It’s available for free and I highly recommend it.

It’s easy to read and written in Plain English. The text is genuinely quick and easy to follow. The ideas are excellently explained. Hurrah! This is all too rare in NGO guidance. Continue reading

Guest blog: Robert Picciotto on randomised control trials

My recent blog on randomised control trials led to enthustiastic comments about Robert Picciotto’s recent paper: Experimentalism and development evaluation: Will the bubble burst?.

I am delighted that Robert agreed to explain the main ideas in this guest blog. Robert (“Bob”) was previously Director General, Evaluation, at the World Bank and is now a Visiting Professor at King’s College, London.

Robert Picciotto

Probing the paradox of the RCT craze in international development

The growing popularity of randomised control trials (RCTs) in the international development domain is not accidental. It reflects tensions within an economics profession humbled by the failure of standard development recipes.  It is also the result of a well funded campaign aimed at raising the bar in development evaluation quality that has unfortunately backed the wrong horse.  Continue reading

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