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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.

 

The ALMOST Feedback Loop

Mike is in a hurry to get home from work – eager to see his family and put his feet up after a long shift.

It’s 5pm on a chilly winter day in Detroit and he’s waiting for his bus to come. Thanks to TextMyBus.com and the Detroit Department of Transportation, he is able to use his cell phone to discover that the next bus is due in just 10 minutes. A few minutes go by and he heads outside right before it’s scheduled to stop. But after 10 minutes, no bus. After 30 minutes, his bus finally shows, but spending an extra 20 minutes in below freezing weather and snow means that Mike gets a nasty cold and misses a few days of work.

In my recent blog post, "Make a Consumer Reports for Aid," I detailed four questions that are important to answer in the quest for fully realizing the benefits of feedback loops. In this post, we focus on framing question #4:

Spotted: Development in the 2013 SOTU

My (low) expectations for the 2013 State of the Union address were happily exceeded when President Obama delivered an ambitious speech that spanned a myriad of US and foreign policy topics.  Admittedly, most of his remarks on development were cleverly disguised as domestic issues.  But the 100+ wonks gathered at CGD’s annual State of the Union Bingo event weren't fooled, as mentions of climate change, immigration and trade set ink daubers in motion and prompted victorious shouts o

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “The Trouble with Targets”

As mentioned in our last post, aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs and outcomes, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. Once these results-based programs are up and running, they face a critical test when the first results are reported. In particular, most programs create expectations by setting annual targets and are then judged relative to those targets rather than to their baseline. And this means that even successful programs will be viewed as failures (a point also made in an earlier blog). By refusing to set targets, a results-based program can avoid this pitfall. How is it that targets can create such a problem?

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “How to Be Patient When It Matters”

An increasing number of aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. (See our brief and book for more details). We’ve argued that the design of COD Aid programs can be rather easy, though the quality of the indicators chosen and the verification process are certainly critical to success. We have spent less time talking about what happens once the program is up and running. In particular, what happens when you find out how much progress actually occurred?