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Executive Summary: The Science of Delivery: Explaining Project Trajectories




Introduction and Background. 2

Literature Review.. 3

Local Implementer’s Technical Capacity and Coordination. 3

Local Institutions and Policies. 4

Local Socio-Cultural and Economic Constraints. 4

Civil Society and Accountability. 4

Methods and Quantitative Analysis. 5

Overview of World Bank Projects. 5

Research Methodology and Regression. 5

Positive Deviant Case Study. 6

Negative Outlier Case Study. 6

Conclusion and Lessons Learned. 7

                Executive Summary: The Science of Delivery: Explaining Project Trajectories

The World Bank in collaboration with a McCourt School of Public Policy Capstone team in a project geared towards analyzing factors influencing World Bank project outcomes. Their two objectives include outlining the delivery challenges that determine the success or failure of a project and providing recommendations to development practitioners in readiness to deal with the negative delivery challenges before they can have a significant effect. The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), a unit operating under the World Bank, is responsible for ranking the performance of challenges in evaluation and analysis of technical and non-technical factors.


Introduction and Background

            The Science of Delivery (SoD) was launched by president of the World Bank Dr. Jim Yong Kim in 2012. He implemented expertise and knowledge in health issues to formulate the SoD agenda whose goal was to provide stakeholders and active operators with insights into developing and successfully implementing solutions for challenges that face technical World Bank projects. Early identification of these challenges will ensure timely countermeasures, thus guaranteeing the success of projects. The role of the World Bank has been to represent its country stakeholders in the authorization and supervision of development goals which are managed by the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

            The SoD strategy focusses on delivery challenges as primarily non-technical factors. This way, the World Bank personnel are able to integrate their technical professionals and project developers into the delivery process, eventually allowing for opportunities to address a wide range of challenges such as political factors, cultural influencers, and electoral cycles. Moreover, the system follows a unifying strategy that aims to identify shared challenges and gather as much information on the issue. This is demonstrated intheir participation in the Global Delivery Initiative (GDI) which compiles data on delivery challenges on various bilateral and multilateral levels.

            The capstone’s team developed questions that would help evaluate growth, development, and factors influencing these challenges. It include questions on common themes and challenges across multiple countries, detection of the challenges, patterns assumed bythese challenges, conditions facilitating and promoting them, and finally the level of control the World Bank and other stakeholders have over different situations.

Literature Review

            Over the past decade, more than a quarter ofthe development projects have been rated between moderately and highly unsatisfactory. The SoD program is an effort to determine the particular factors and conditions that create differencesin terms of success and failure in projects, and ithas grouped delivery challenges into the following four categories: Local Implementer’s Technical Capacity and Coordination, Local Institutions and Policies, Local Socio-Cultural and Economic Constraints, and Civil Society and Accountability. 

Local Implementer’s Technical Capacity and Coordination

            This issue has a lot of literature surrounding it, most of which appears to comprise diverse opinions that closely overlap, thus creating a situation of limited agreement over the challenges. The common challenge relates to skills and capacity among local stakeholders and participants. The literature in this category fails to provide common ground on the challenges encountered during project implementation.

Local Institutions and Policies


            This category defines the six areas through which local programs affect project outcomes: agency autonomy, electoral cycle, inter-agency coordination, centralization versus decentralization, regulatory environments, andpolitical freedom.

Local Socio-Cultural and Economic Constraints

            Under this category, the main challenges include identity and culture, macroeconomic stability and the social, environmental and geographic context. A bigger challenge, though, is the impossibility of generalizing for different countries due to the huge difference in cultures across different countries. Undoubtedly, cultural determinants have varying and substantial effects on development projects.

Civil Society and Accountability

            In this category, the dominant factors are: stakeholder coordination, citizen participation and community engagement, transparency, ownership, and stakeholder commitment. Literature in this category though easily accessible is standardized and therefore, vaguely relevant and barely helpful. There appears to be some inconsistency on understanding influencing roles and different parties.

Methods and Quantitative Analysis

Overview of World Bank Projects

            The World Bank has summarized project statistics for over four decades categorized on region, sector, average outcome, negative outliers, and positive defiant percentages. Africa and South America made up the majority of projects at 29%, Europe and Central Asia 14%, East Asia and Pacific at 16%, and South Asia at 12%. North Africa and the Middle East were the lowest at 9%.

The study focuses on projects implemented within the last decade to ensure the conclusions made are relevant to the current issues. This undertaking is followed by identifying project patterns and trends with outcome ratings thereby making it possible to calculate the mean outcome value by sector and region. Projects majorly qualify as positive defiants and negative outliers. Those that often fall under positive defiants are Social Development, Environment, Health and Nutrition, Education, and Social Protection. The projects that mostly fall under negative outliers are Poverty Reduction, Public Sector Governance, Economic Policy, Water, and Health.

Research Methodology and Regression

            The IEG Project Performance Ratings was used to conduct the analysis. Its core role was to quantify project level effects and macro characteristics on the probability of success. A Binary Probit Model was used since it allowed for an inter-relationship between the probability and independent variables. A Likelihood Ratio Test was used to test for the inclusion of various variables. +

Dependent variableswere based onthe outcome rating allocated for all World Bank Projectsby the IEG. Explanatory Variables of Interest are the micro and macro factors that facilitate the failure or success of a project. Micro Variables and Predicted Outcome were determined based on the starting status of the project, the Project Complexity, Sector, and Type of Loan. Macro Variables and+ Predicted Outcome concentrated on region, time space or year, GDP growth, and Political freedom.

Positive Deviant Case Study

            The Tai Basin Urban environment Project, a positive deviant case study, was a $61 million project commenced in 2004in the Jiangsu Province in China. It was supposed to reduce untreated waste water, create financially stable water companies and promote sanitary urban living. Its final rating was that of moderately satisfactory. It was classified as a positive defiant owing to the bank’s highly ambitious water reform agenda, delayed preparation, and a sluggish monitoring system. In conclusion, the dominant challenges in the project were in the project design and development at the early phases. The most effective solutions would have been to abandon project components with minimized chance of success, seriousness in project structure during Implementation, swift adaptation of internal policies and proactivity inillustrating success.

Negative Outlier Case Study

            The Henan Towns Water supply project, a negative outlier, was a $144.6 million project approved in 2013 with the aim of achieving expansion of water supply, improvement of planning and operational aspects in order to improve residents’ living conditions. Its core pillars were, water supply waste-water management and technical assistance. The project was finally ranked as moderately unsatisfactory. The main challenges for this project included economic and political factors, weak provincial ownership, technical skills, World Bank’s failure to synchronize efforts with stakeholders, and over-ambition in project scope.

The strategies identified to deal with the challenges identified in these case studies include progressively scaling up operational capacity, World Bank taking ownership over technical assistance, and growing emphasis on communication training.

Conclusion and Lessons Learned

            Firstly, the study found that local communities plays a huge role in project performance. The projects require greater coordination and flexibility for better results and performance. The scope taken by a project should be reasonable and relevant to allow adjustments and sustainable progression. This aspect largely depends on the local community and its resources. Secondly, it remains uncertain on the level of control the World Bank has over local ownership. All the same, the Science of Delivery has provided a systematic process of monitoring and improving development projects through statistical analysis, regression modelling, and research. In this way, projects are being implemented using a more directed approach throughout their development process.

             Finally, the efficiency and usefulness of project trajectories is a growing concern when quantifying the success or failure of an entire project. The persistence challenge of synchronizing local communities’ needs with the World Bank’s priorities has proved to be crucial for project performance. For this reason, it is imperative that each project is adapted to suit the needs of the local community while still maintaining its identity as a World Bank project. Essentially, priority should be on development for the local community.

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