Nation’s 12-year-olds protest Results-Based Management

mfdr3.jpg Results-based management (RBM) is where you come up with indicators of results and try to get civil servants (national or international) to meet targets for these indicators. The emphasis on results would be welcome except for the ability of wily bureaucrats to manipulate the indicators in ways that do not improve performance. In development, RBM has already achieved results – another acronym to replace RBM: MfDR – Managing for Development Results.

The US already has RBM in the form of the No Child Left Behind Act, which rewards public schoolteachers when their students score high on standardized tests. Some of the pitfalls were revealed when I interviewed one of the customers --a 12 year old rising 8th grader in an average public school -- about how this was working out. She said “Teachers remind us everyday about the test, and they spend more time teaching us how to phrase answers to test questions than actually teaching us facts.” Finally, the nightmare was over: “And then after the tests were over and taken, they stopped teaching, and the rest of the year we watched stupid movies.” (Less anecdotally, academic evaluations find this Act to have had some payoffs for the worst schools, but note the idiocy of applying it universally to previously well-performing or even average schools.)

In development RBM, i.e. MfDR, the manipulation of indicators for performance is even more brazen and distant from the well-being of any real person. MfDR meetings agree on performance indicators that include – more MfDR meetings. Success on this indicator includes the Monterrey Consensus (2002), Rome Declaration (2003), Washington: First Roundtable on Development Results (2002), Marrakech: Second Roundtable on Development Results (2004), Paris Declaration (2005), Hanoi: Third Roundtable on Managing for Development Results (2007), Accra: Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (2008).

So, for example,

“The third day of the Third International Roundtable on Managing for Development Results provided a setting for each of 35 county delegations to meet as a team to sketch out initial thoughts on how to mobilize resources within their own countries to initiate and further implement some steps discussed in the context of each of the major themes discussed during the event. Each country team started a Country Action Planning Process, the results of which will help the donor community at the country level target resources at overcoming current gaps in capacity and also to provide input into discussions on managing for results and aid effectiveness at the Ghana high level forum (February, 2008).”

The World Bank has recently published the 3rd edition of its Sourcebook, “Emerging Good Practice in Managing for Development Results:

“Emerging best practice” included the World Food Program in Guinea Bissau and DR Congo:

“Toolkits with clear guidance on managing for development results, with a focus on results-based M&E, are available for WFP and implementing partners’ staff in DRC (Results-based M&E Toolkit, version 1, June 2004) and in Guinea-Bissau (Results-based M&E Toolkit, Version 1, June 2006). These toolkits reflect up-to-date MfDR concepts, principles, and good practices, and draw on results based M&E toolkits of other international organizations, including within WFP. The toolkit produced for WFP Guinea-Bissau is also available on the WFP website ( as one of the few reference documents for other WFP offices worldwide. A copy of these toolkits is available upon request.”

A much more positive result of MfDR was the City Council of Nairobi setting itself a goal to increase immunization rates from 75 to 85 percent, and then they actually reached 88 percent. Alas, examples like this of actual people getting better off through MfDR are few in the Sourcebook. (Immunization may be one area less subject to manipulation and bureaucratization, where MfDR could have a positive impact.)

Elsewhere, MfDR seems like an exercise for bureaucracies to monitor themselves on -- being bureaucratic. Am I missing something?