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QUODADonors, academics, and development advocates have long recognized that not all aid is created equal. Often, the impacts of aid are blunted because it’s spent in the wrong places or isn’t coordinated with recipient government programs. How can we know which donors give aid well, and which donors need to improve? My guests on this week’s Wonkcast are Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, and Homi Kharas, deputy director of the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development program. They are the co-creators of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) assessment, a new tool that tracks and compares donor programs against four dimensions of aid quality.

On the Wonkcast, Nancy and Homi walk me through each of those four dimensions-- maximizing efficiency (e.g. by spending aid in countries where it has the most potential to help); fostering institutions in recipient countries (e.g. by coordinating spending with local priorities and budgets); reducing burdens (e.g. by cutting back on official visits and paperwork), and transparency and learning (achieved by sharing useful data on aid spending). They give me examples of the indicators that make up each dimension and tell me which donors come out on top and on the bottom in each category. QuODA compares the aid quality of 31 donor countries and multilateral agencies, as well as 152 individual development agencies. The United States, sadly, ranks near the bottom among countries in all four dimensions.

The architects of QuODA hope that making it easy to know which donor agencies are upholding their commitments to quality aid will spur action to make aid more effective. “The idea is for readers and analysts to drill down on some of these indicators and understand where their particular country... can do better,” Nancy says.

Listen to the Wonkcast to hear our full conversation. You can try out QuODA’s online component yourself to explore the data and see how various donors compare. Have something to add? Ideas for future interviews? Post a comment below, or send me an email. If you use iTunes, you can subscribe to get new episodes delivered straight to your computer every week.

My thanks to Wren Elhai for his very able production assistance on the Wonkcast recording and for drafting this blog post.