DevTalk: Nancy Birdsall

Cash on Delivery Aid

Cash on Delivery is a new approach to foreign aid that focuses on results, encourages innovation, and strengthens government accountability to citizens rather than donors. Under COD Aid, donors would pay for measurable and verifiable progress on specific outcomes, such as $100 dollars for every child above baseline expectations who completes primary school and takes a test. CGD is working with technical experts and potential donors and partner countries to design COD Aid pilots and research programs.

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Cash on Delivery Aid is designed to overcome the problems of traditional aid, which often focuses more on disbursements and verifying expenditures than on results, undermines a government’s accountability to its citizens, and undervalues local experimentation and learning. COD Aid’s advantage is in linking payments directly to a single specific outcome, allowing the recipient to reach the outcome however it sees fit, and assuring that progress is transparent and visible to the recipient’s own citizens. These features rebalance accountability, reduce transaction costs, and encourage innovation.

COD Aid can be applied to any sector in which donors and recipients can agree upon measurable, verifiable outcomes and commit to making progress toward those shared goals. The approach is fully explained in Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid (CGD, 2010). Listen to more about COD Aid in these Wonkcasts. Explore the links to the right for more information on specific sectors and countries.


USAID logo

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest bilateral development agency. CGD’s work focuses on strengthening USAID’s position as a leading development agency by providing research and analysis on the agency’s various development initiatives and operational reforms.

MCC logo

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an independent US foreign assistance agency with a focused mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. MCC’s model of assistance is predicated on key principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, transparency, and sustainable results. CGD provides regular analysis and research on the policies, operations, and effectiveness of the agency, along with ideas for innovation and adaptation.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is the US government’s development finance institution. It is a leading agency in implementing President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD’s work focuses on how OPIC can most effectively promote economic opportunity and growth.

Interagency Development Initiatives

The US government often coordinates the work of various agencies through initiatives aimed at particular development challenges. CGD’s work looks at the impact of these interagency initiatives by exploring their ability to deliver on development goals.

Recent US administrations have sought to incorporate key principles of aid effectiveness into their foreign assistance architecture while proposing reforms to boost operational capacity. CGD regularly evaluates US efforts to implement these reforms and principles, which cut across agencies, sectors, and initiatives.

State Department Logo

As the lead agency on foreign affairs, the Department of State takes the lead in a number of areas of development policy, particularly at the nexus of development and democracy. State is also tightly linked to USAID and houses PEPFAR.

US Treasury logo

US Treasury leads the Administration’s engagement in multilateral development assistance, participates in bilateral policy dialogue with developing countries, and provides technical assistance related to public financial management in many developing countries. CGD’s research focuses on how the United States can more effectively leverage its role in multilateral institutions and recommendations on how these institutions can adapt to an evolving development landscape.