Tracking results to transform reality

By Laura Carnevali, Anna Pierobon, Raniya Sayed Khan and Lisandro Martin

Big goals and big gaps

In the global efforts towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the development community and governments have agreed on over 230 indicators to track progress. Tracking is needed for informed decision making. First, robust tracking is essential in finding solutions to challenges that are dynamic, such as those caused by climate change; for example, climate resilient agriculture is a moving target as climate patterns continue to mutate.  Second, tracking is essential in adapting global solutions to specific contexts, addressing root causes of fragility has for example cultural elements.  Thirdly, without robust data, governments and development partners cannot assess the trade-offs of pursuing multiple goals: more aggressive growth requires more energy and water, and can endanger forests.
So when development agencies talk about building capacity to monitor the SDGs, they are in fact implying much more than bean-counting.  It is about instilling a culture of results that enables governments and development partners to learn from project implementation, to make timely mid-course corrections, and to refine the propose solutions regularly, moving away from rigid blueprints.  It is ultimately about connecting measurement with management to do development differently.  This is one of the pillars of the proposed new business model for IFAD.
Given these global partnerships, doing development differently requires that adequate capacity to track results is built for all stakeholders.  At the base of the pyramid are Governments, the foundation of the global data architecture to manage towards the SDG targets. In the middle layer, development partners must be able to consume country-level data to fine-tune their services and provide more effective solutions; and to be accountable to beneficiaries and taxpayers for their own contributions. At the top, global leaders must inform policy and multi-stakeholder dialogues with evidence.  Unfortunately this pyramid is shaky. We all recognize that efforts must be made to improve data at their source through direct support to governments to build M&E capacities. This is where the Program in Rural M&E (PRiME) comes into play.
Transforming reality
IFAD’s Results Management Framework (RMF) includes 21 indicators directly linked to seven SDGs. Data sources for these measures are both UN and IFAD databases, which draw data from IFAD’s projects.

But is the data of the right quality, and is it used for the right purpose? To answer this question, IFAD conducted a survey among M&E officers working in IFAD-supported projects. Three main problems emerged:
• M&E data is not leveraged enough – Responses indicated that M&E data is not used for decision-making. Over 90 per cent of project officers use M&E data merely for generating monitoring reports for different stakeholders rather than providing substantive inputs into managerial decisions.
• Data collected is not helpful – Roughly 50 per cent believe that collected data are incorrect and that tracking is requested on too many indicators that do not support meaningful conclusions. Similar weaknesses emerge in their type and relevance: 60 per cent of respondents believe that projects do not always include “SMART” indicators and, if so, they are not appropriate to measure projects’ objectives.
• M&E staff is not making the difference – People performing M&E functions in rural development projects don’t feel that they have the right capacities, exposure or authority to be able to have an impact on how decisions are made within their projects.

Consequently, there is evidence that current efforts to track results must be stepped up. Numbers are being produced; transforming reality based on those numbers is a different matter.
A new mindset

IFAD has partnered with The Centres for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) in creating PRiME to systematically train project staff to
instil a culture of results in project management units. Transforming resources into results is another key area of IFAD’s new business model.
To this end, this week, 50 individuals from 46 different countries performing a variety of roles (from M&E officers, to project directors and M&E assistants) gathered in Rome to take part in the first ever training on Fundamentals of M&E in rural development. The customized curriculum is an adaptation of a classroom-style training that incorporates peer-to-peer learning, experience sharing and learning theory through practice.
For more information visit the following links: