From the EvalForward Community: how can we improve the quality of development projects?

@CGIAR

From the EvalForward Community: how can we improve the quality of development projects?

In rural and agricultural development, projects are the main instrument for piloting and/or implementing policies and programmes.

When evaluating projects, we identify issues that affect their effectiveness and note that these often originate from flaws at design and/or implementation stages.

In early July, I raised this topic with the Community and asked which good practices members would recommend to governments, donors, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to improve project effectiveness.

Several members shared suggestions and ideas for ensuring high-quality projects, such as the following:

  • Quality projects should clearly contribute to a bigger developmental impact of the country.
  • Projects should have clear objectives, milestones and monitoring of deliverables.
  • Commitment and ownership by the government is key; this goes beyond the signing of the financial agreement and includes the actual commitment of human and financial resources.
  • Participation of beneficiaries since the design stage can help in ensuring that the project address a problem that is relevant to them. 
  • Projects should be relevant to the beneficiaries: “to the point that they are conscious of their right to hold project management units and concerned ministries to account”.
  • Having qualified management teams, who will ensure that projects are implemented with efficiency, quality, meritocracy, inclusiveness and sustainability in mind.
  • Donors and steering committees have a critical role in guiding project implementation, provided that members are knowledgeable about the project and have time to add value to it, and able to critically review implementation and provide directive for improvement.
  • There is a limited use of past lessons to inform new project design. Programmes should develop and validate key lessons, innovations and good practices experienced and these should inform new design/appraisal missions and future interventions.
  • There is reluctance to stop poorly conceived projects, even when it is clear that these will not achieve their objectives.
  • Projects should have a sustainability plan and exit strategy, including hand over of interventions to existing institutions or structures that are prepared to take over the management and operationalization of project outcomes. 

All of the above are important aspects to consider when designing and implementing projects.

A good project design is however not a guarantee of project success; neither a good implementation process. Project effectiveness requires ideally both, and above all, it must pay continuing attention to ensuring buy-in and real-life changes among the beneficiaries.

Participants to the discussion: Javier Guarnizo, Emile L. Houngbo, Ian Teese, Muna Hamad Tarawneh, Ram Chandra Khanal, Paul L. Mendy, Richard Tinsley and Abubakar Muhammad Moki.