Actually Navigating by Judgment: Towards a New Paradigm of Donor Accountability Where the Current System Doesn’t Work


This policy paper explores how donors can move towards greater Navigation by Judgment, highlighting the actions people inside and outside aid agencies can work to make change—encouraging more Navigation by Judgment on the margin, starting today. It focuses principally on accepting the need for a very different way of measuring success and holding projects and personnel accountable, and when and why that might be a very good idea.


As the idiot-wise American baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” This paper is focused on describing the destination: the principles that can guide transformed aid agencies – and the concrete actions each of us could take to move aid agencies towards more Navigation by Judgment.

Navigation by Judgment is an organizational management strategy where projects are driven primarily by the judgment of field staff, rather than directed by central control or by meeting pre-specified targets. The evidence strongly suggests that more Navigation by Judgment, where appropriate, can assist everyone from the World Bank to bilateral donors to foundations to contractors to small NGOs achieve the impact they seek, while making the job of working for these agencies more rewarding and fulfilling in the process.

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