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In the world of international aid, performance payments are a hot topic. But when it comes to signing performance payment agreements, most funders have been reticent. One of the reasons is a fear of “Double Counting” – paying once for investments to achieve outcomes and a second time when the outcomes are delivered. This concern ignores the complexity of achieving development goals and the intangible assets invested by recipient countries. When funders do agree to performance agreements, they end up ignoring the burden on recipients of “Double Demanding” – disbursing when outcomes are achieved and then setting restrictions on the use of those funds. All this confusion gets in the way of designing effective aid programs.
In Burkina Faso, where most live on less than $2 a day, people want better infrastructure even more than they want jobs. In Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Tanzania – some of Africa’s poorest nations – it is the same. In fact, the cry for more and better basic services is heard in nearly every African country.
The policy debate around whether foreign aid—now $138.5 billion a year—works has been polarized between the “Oh yes it does” camp and those who respond “Oh no it doesn’t.” (Christmas pantomime anyone?)
There is no denying that interest in Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) is steadily growing: with investments coming from big banks like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch and approximately 26 SIBs implemented in industrialized countries across the globe (see below for a more detailed listing), an evidence base is starting to accumulate on what works and what doesn’t.
In recent years, donors have been making greater use of performance-based payment approaches to fund development programs. The UK Department for International Development, using the broader term being used across the UK government, has added “Payment by Results” (PbR) to the development lexicon.