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    Worth reading:

    USAID Complexity-aware monitoring

    This document offers alternative methods of monitoring complexity, which can be used in conjunction with traditional performance monitoring. The discussion note suggests applying the following principles to a particular situation in order to find new monitoring solutions:

    • Synchronise monitoring with the pace of change
    • Attend to performance monitoring’s three blind spots (these are explained in the document)
    • Consider boundaries, inter relationships and perspectives.

    There are five approaches detailed in the document:

    1. Sentinel indicators
    2. Stakeholder feedback
    3. Process monitoring of impacts
    4. Most significant change
    5. Outcome harvesting

    Building State Capability by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, Oxford University Press, 2017.

    Destroying state capability is easy – do it by asking people to do something for which they are not equipped. This leads to an erosion of legitimacy and trust, externally and internally. Government involves complex tasks, and this, coupled with a lack of budget, leads to problems.

    A state can adopt sound policies and announce noble plans, and create the appearance of a positive reform dynamic, but this creates prarallel universes. Tension builds between, on the one hand, well-educated individuals who have capacity and can work with international funders/agencies, and on the other hand, the remaining civil servants who are in direct contact with citizens who want real solutions to their problems. This leads to tension and the loss of institutional integrity.

    A government can pretend that it is functioning by measuring performance in output indicators. Responses to a lack of performance can involve the following:

    • Adopting a “better” policy – however, if this is equally organisationally stressful it will lead to further failure.
    • Engaging in “capacity building” – this is done when it is assumed that individuals lack “capacity” to implement even if they want to. However, if an organisation is under excessive stress due to over- ambitious policies, this will not augment the robustness of the organisation, nor will it shift the entire capacity frontier outward far enough to avoid the low-level equilibrium.
    • Cocooning a particular project – which entails creating parallel systems to ensure “their” project succeeds in a low capacity environment. This means that there is no plan to scale the project, to allow it to become routine practice.
    • Throwing resources at the problem.

    There are a variety of resultant scenarios in terms of state capability:

    • State functionality can collapse fully.
    • The State could remain present nominally but not perform any tasks.
    •  The State could turn into an extractive state, where rent-seeking and state capture by individuals is the order of the day.
    • Agents of the state could respond to the demands of the society as a whole, and base state actions on the normative underpinning of the society as a whole.

    Matt Andrews argues that state capability should be deployed in those spheres where it is most crucial and strategic, and that tasks should remain within the limits of what can genuinely be accomplished.

    • Intersectoral convergence in essential nutrition
    • Complexity-aware monitoring
    • Putting learning at the centre- Adaptive development programming in practice
    • Towards an Alternative Development Management Paradigm