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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

More Demand for Cash on Delivery

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.

Interest in Cash on Delivery Aid has been so strong that we’ve printed a second edition of the book which can be purchased or downloaded online. Here is our new preface:

Since Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid was published in March 2010, the ideas we proposed have been embraced by presidents and ministers, by heads of public and private institutions, and by researchers and practitioners. The Education Ministry in Malawi sent us a letter asking for help creating a COD Aid program there, the British government has publicly committed to financing pilot experiences, and articles and essays have addressed COD Aid in a range of publications including The Economist, The New York Times, and Public Choice. In the debates that ensued, we have learned even more about the Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) approach and how significant a departure it could be from current aid practices.

“When Will We Ever Learn?” Mexico and Britain Take the Question Seriously

This is a joint post with Christina Droggitis

This May will mark the five-year anniversary of CGD’s Evaluation Gap Working Group’s final report, "When Will We Ever Learn: Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation". The report noted a large gap in evidence about whether development programs actually work and recommended creating an independent international collaboration to promote more and better impact evaluations to close this gap. The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) was formed as a result of this recommendation. The report also stressed the need for countries, both donors and recipients, to make larger commitments towards high-quality evaluation work. These commitments, it argued, should include supporting 3ie financially, as well as generating and applying knowledge from impact evaluations of their own development programs.

What Can Development Agencies Learn from Venture Capital Firms?

I recently participated in a conference of Engineers Without Borders Canada which was one of the most thought-provoking events that I’ve attended in a long time. One of the speakers was Vernon Lobo who is with a venture capital firm, Mosaic Venture Partners. For years, I’ve been promoting the idea that aid agencies should behave more like venture capital firms. Like venture capital firms, I’ve argued, aid agencies should not expect every project to be successful.

What Comes after the Tea Party?

The Tea Party movement in the United States had a big impact on this year’s mid-term election. The energy it channeled can be seen as a pendulum shift from the progressive winds that were blowing in 2008. So what comes next?

What Is the Counterfactual for COD Aid?

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.

We often hear criticism of the COD Aid approach from people who question whether a high-level incentive would really alter the behavior of recipient countries. Paolo de Renzio raised this issue in a recent blog, saying that COD Aid is unlikely to work because recipient “[g]overnments have not only insufficient capacity, but also limited political interest in using available resources to maximize development impact.” The question this raises, though, is not whether COD Aid is worth trying. Rather it is questioning whether any foreign assistance can make a difference. The appropriate counterfactuals for COD Aid are existing aid modalities which rely on extensive engagement between funders and recipients on inputs, planning and implementation. The assumption of current aid modalities is that imposing the funder’s views of planning, institutional structures, training, and technical assistance from abroad can achieve progress even when a recipient country is less than enthusiastic about a program. That is the counterfactual against which to consider COD Aid.

Another Call for COD Aid Pilots

This is a joint post with William Savedoff and Ayah Mahgoub.

Shout-out to Duncan Green and Oxfam for commenting on our new book and calling, like Nicholas Kristof, for pilots of COD Aid. Best of all, Duncan noted (as have several others such as Owen Barder in this note among others) that many of the usual concerns about COD Aid (see our FAQs for some) apply as much or more to other forms of aid.

But on one big point we disagree: It’s not true that COD Aid has been tried before.

Pressure to Improve UK Aid – How COD Aid Could Help

This is a joint post with William Savedoff and Ayah Mahgoub.

Lawrence Haddad is the Director of the Institute for Development Studies at The University of Sussex in the UK. In a recent blog post, he poses several challenges for the new UK government on development.

Here’s my take on how Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid), an approach the UK Conservatives endorsed in their international development green paper, might address some of Lawrence’s challenges to the new government (using his numbering):

Closing the Evaluation Gap: 3ie One Year On (Are Conditional Cash Transfer Programs Improving Human Capital?)

This is a joint post with William Savedoff.

Policymakers, researchers, and development experts gathered at CGD on May 4 to discuss the implications of existing research on conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and recommend ways for the development community to improve impact evaluations of interventions, like CCTs, in the future. The workshop, entitled Closing the Evaluation Gap: 3ie One Year On (Are Conditional Cash Transfer Programs Improving Human Capital?), was jointly hosted by CGD and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and included a series of presentations and high-level panel discussions focused on the effect of CCT programs on outcomes such as educational attainment, grade progression, birth weight, and access to family planning methods.

In a recent blog post, Evaluation Gap Working Group co-chair and CGD senior fellow William Savedoff explained the motivation for the workshop, highlighting the heightened need to address the ways in which evidence and policymaking interact, as well as the importance of continued improvements in evaluation systems in determining the efficacy of social interventions. We were thrilled with the positive responses from the workshop’s participants and audience members, and invigorated by the discussion and recommendations that arose as a result of the event.

Kristof on Cash on Delivery: Bravo, But It's About Us, Not Them

This is a joint post with William Savedoff.

Of course we agree with NYTimes development columnist par excellence Nicholas Kristof that our proposal for Cash on Delivery Aid should be tried. So we are sorry to quibble, but on a couple of points cannot resist.

First Kristof wrote: “The basic truth of foreign aid is that helping people is far, far harder than it looks.” And he’s right. But a big part of the difficulty is with us, not them.

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