Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Governance
Posted on April 28, 2014 by Nathaniel Heller, Executive Director, Global Integrity, and Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Managing Director, Development Policy
Last week, roughly 40 colleagues gathered at the OpenGov Hub in Washington, D.C., to brainstorm and debate around possibilities for a Governance Data Alliance, an idea focused on improving coordination in the production of governance data while simultaneously establishing and strengthening feedback loops between producers and actual users of those data.
The gathering was co-organized by Global Integrity and the Millennium Challenge Corporation and facilitated by the terrific Allen Gunn of Aspiration. The results of a pre-event scoping survey was visualized and mapped by the craftsmen over at Vizzuality. You can check out all of that data over at dataalliance.globalintegrity.org, see pictures of the meeting over on Flickr or read comments from participants on twitter using #governancedata.
As we talked about publicly before the meeting (on multiple blogs, including here and here), our intent with this quick get-together was to explore whether there was sufficient interest in this diverse and ad hoc group to take an exploratory process forward—and, if so, to identify the big questions we’d need to collectively answer to determine the initial contours of a potential alliance. We did not intend to answer any of these big questions during the two days of the meeting or design any solutions or outcomes. Instead, we were focused entirely on sussing out the major, “Gee, we really need to figure that out” issues.
The good news is that there was a strong consensus to take an exploratory process forward. We also managed to identify a number of core, meaty items that need further unpacking in the coming months if a governance data alliance is to add value—a process we’ll be taking forward through a number of ad hoc working groups. Those working groups are open to anyone interested in being part of the conversation, regardless of whether you attended last week’s meeting. Here’s what we’ll be focused on:
Making our assumptions explicit about how better governance data can lead to improved outcomes (or as Toby Mendel from the Centre for Law and Democracy pointed out, we need a clear and compelling theory of change). We all think that better data on governance can—when the data is used—help improve governance and service delivery outcomes. But we have a variety of views about the ways in which better governance data can lead to improved outcomes. Maybe it’s about policy makers being able to make better-informed decisions; maybe it’s about citizens’ groups being able to hold decision makers accountable; maybe it’s about donors being able to incentivize governance reforms. An essential starting point in working out how a Governance Data Alliance can help is to make explicit the ways in which we think better data can lead to better outcomes. This should enable us to focus more clearly on addressing the challenges and obstacles that sometimes prevent better data leading to better outcomes.
Refining and settling on an initial problem statement(s). During the course of our meeting, we identified a range of problems that a potential Governance Data Alliance could help address. Poor communication between governance data producers (which manifests itself in redundant country coverage and coverage gaps) is one; similarly poor communication between producers and users leading to wasted effort in the production of information no one actually uses is another. While users struggle to gather standardized, machine-readable data, unused zombie governance data and methodology repositories continue to propagate (examples are here, here, here, and here). But which of these (and many other challenges) should we collectively seek to address first (or second)?
Membership. Who might participate in a future alliance from all three cohorts (users, producers and enablers)? How would participation be extended, candidate organizations vetted and cats herded so as to keep the collective a manageable yet very large tent? As Rita Ramalho of the IFC reminded us, each of these cohorts are robust communities by themselves! We owe a thanks to John Samuel of Development Studies for asking out loud: how we can avoid letting this process and an eventual alliance be dominated by NGOs and actors from Northern countries?
Governance (how meta!). How would an eventual alliance be governed? Who sets the rules of the game, and where does power and decision making reside? If a staff is needed to take the process forward, who should they be and where should they sit? Vincent Lazatin of the Transparency and Accountability Network in the Philippines put in some heroic work in teeing up these issues.
Just what is “governance data?” While we intentionally parked any debate around the definition of “[good] governance” for a later date, we know we need to resolve this to some degree of satisfaction moving forward. Is “governance data” third-party NGO ratings of government performance? Internal public sector administrative data like accurate counts of birth certificates? Household surveys asking about satisfaction with government service delivery? All of those, or something completely different? Ernst and Young’s Kelly Terrill led a break out session that made clear there is unmet demand for all different aspects of governance data from non-traditional corners as well.
Producer coordination. There are many ways in which governance data producers can better coordinate and improve efficiencies. But should that start with simple communication and awareness-raising around anticipated coverage patterns or extend more aggressively to shared in-country research teams or streamlined methodologies and question sets? Global Integrity’s Hazel Feigenblatt is already helping to coordinate an initial team across several data producers to begin tackling this.
Tackling the feedback loop problem. We all agreed there was a huge need to establish and nurture better feedback loops between governance data producers and users. Vanessa Tucker of Freedom House spoke about the value of face-to-face meetings with governments interested in “unpacking” the data. But in the vast majority of cases, producers have very little understanding of who actually uses their data and whether their data has any impact in terms of behavioral change. Users typically have little access to producers to share concerns or thoughts for improving methodologies and data samples. Shyaka Anastase from the Rwanda Governance Board highlighted how this disconnect can lead to mistrust. Tackling the feedback loop problem could take a number of forms, from a simple “switchboard” service that connects users with producers (and vice-versa) to a more ambitious model where producers and users are permanently and regularly talking to one another. Where’s the right place to start?
Opportunities to leverage improved governance data. Can we identify key development and political issues and agendas where improved governance data (and its uptake and usage) can impact development and policy outcomes? Jamie Roberto Diaz Palacios from the Guatemalan National Program for Competitiveness pointed out the links between governance data and investor interest as a country specific opportunity. But at a global level, how deeply should a potential alliance dive into discussions around the post-2015 development agenda or the “data revolution?”
Funding. Most of the anticipated activities under an eventual alliance would not be cost-free, even the lowest-hanging fruit. How would we source financial support to operationalize the vision? Is there a healthy role for high-intensity users of governance data to recognize more publically that governance data doesn’t grow on trees, but rather requires continued and non-trivial investment? The philanthropic funders in the room—Elizabeth Eagen, Mark de la Iglesia, and Subarna Mathes from Open Society Foundations; Libby Haight from Hewlett Foundation; and Laura Bacon from Omidyar Network—were incredibly gracious in engaging in these discussions without awkwardness.
While the above issues will be tackled in the working groups moving forward (coordinated by a coordination “super” group that keeps all of those trains running on time), many others will also be addressed and wrestled with in the coming months. And we need your help and interest.
Very soon, we’ll be putting into a place a public mechanism for inviting additional friends and colleagues into this process on completely equal terms. While you’ll have as much influence over the outcomes as anyone else, there’s a catch: You’ll need to put in some real effort and sweat equity, possibly several hours each week. Keep an eye on this blog for updates on that front.
In the interim, if you have interest in plugging into things sooner, just give us a shout at nathaniel [dot] heller [at] globalintegrity [dot] org and mandavilleap [at] mcc [dot] gov. Stella Dawson from Thomson Reuters Foundation, who added a wonderful media practitioner’s perspective to the meeting, has also published a summary piece on the event here. We’ll also be publishing more extensive notes and transcripts from the meeting, so keep an eye out for those as well.
Posted on April 3, 2014 by Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Managing Director of Development Policy
It seems that everyone is talking about how data will shape our global future. It is a beautiful and unprecedented level of enthusiasm for data—bring it on! But bring it practically.
While we are getting excited about what data can do for development, let’s also get excited about what we are finally in a position to do about development data. For too long, we have lacked credible numbers about many of the things we care most about—including comparative data on governance—and now people are finally starting to take note. But what can we actually do? As a first step, MCC and Global Integrity (with support from the Omidyar Network and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) are convening a group of global governance data users, producers and funders who are trying to identify collective action solutions to the way the current state of play affects the availability and quality of governance data.
MCC relies on independently produced, third-party data to drive the annual process of selecting country partners for large-scale grant investments in economic growth. We are painfully aware of data gaps, especially with regard to measurements of countries' efforts to fight corruption. For MCC’s purposes, the data on our scorecard remains the best available measure of anti-corruption efforts that covers all low and lower middle income countries. However, no single data set can answer every question—particularly for something as complex as corruption.
At its heart, these data challenges are a collective action problem. Plenty of people want more and better data, but no one is really doing anything about it yet. Until the field of governance measurement as a whole is more coordinated, we will have gaps and overlaps in our collective knowledge. Heck, at this point, we still battle huge gaps and overlaps with respect to what data is available in a machine-readable format (what can I suck into my computer without first tediously rearranging and cleaning enormous spreadsheets).
The consequences of this are a big deal to MCC, but they extend way beyond us. MCC has experienced firsthand how frustrating it is to want to compare national-level education or health outcomes (like literacy or maternal health at delivery) and find the data lacking. It would be terrible if the thing that undermined global focus on governance issues was inadequate data. So we're trying something new.
In mid-April, MCC and Global Integrity are co-hosting a two day effort to convene global organizations that rely on governance data (governments and donors), organizations that produce governance data (largely third-party NGOs) and organizations that are working to enable improvements in the quality and availability of governance data (philanthropic foundations and academics). If we can get the people who have a data problem (users) in the same room with the people who can solve the problem (data providers and enablers), maybe we can make some real progress. We've been excited by the enthusiasm we've met so far.
What will come of this? We aren’t sure. But no matter what, we'll end with much greater clarity between the users and producers of governance metrics (in part through some pre-event surveys that will be public shortly), and that's no small thing. But could we see a commitment to collectively move governance data into more easily useable spaces? A sort of alliance of actors who create or rely on the quality of the information available? What would that look like anyway, and what would it do?
A first step might be as technically wonky as agreement about the formats that data gets published in. Or a public calendar of when new data is available or being used. And while that sounds unexciting to outsiders, in the long run these are exactly the kinds of first steps that enable governance data to be broadly and regularly used by more than just MCC. Whether you care about measuring, monitoring, ranking, or investing – you have to start with useable data.
This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along all the time—people are talking about and calling for data! And not just some data—global data! At MCC, we will continue to celebrate the fact that people are finally paying attention to the promise and potential of development data. That environment makes us keener than ever to get people focused on practical questions attached to resolving collective action problems in the data world. And, of course, keen to hear your perspective and ideas about next steps and solutions!
Posted on March 28, 2013 by Ambassador Adrienne S. O'Neal, United States Ambassador to Cape Verde
I accompanied Cape Verdean Prime Minister Neves on his trip this week to Washington, D.C., where he was invited to meet with President Obama at the White House as part of a delegation of four African leaders, including the presidents of Sierra Leone, Senegal and Malawi. It was an honor to be a part of this delegation of leaders, who set a strong example on good governance and are living proof that democracy does work on a continent that has seen its share of conflict.
Prime Minister Neves recently said, "When a country is as small as Cape Verde, you have to be the best student to get noticed. We have opened up doors for women, set up an e-governance system that is working and are reforming critical policies that will help our country attract investments and improve our systems. We have to be innovative in everything we do or we will be ignored." Cape Verde is a shining example of the "little engine that could." The country has seen rapid development success relative to its peers and performs well on most indicators of economic and democratic governance. Cape Verde is an example for other African countries.
MCC's first compact with Cape Verde was a great success. When I visit various islands, people are still praising the work done during compact I. The impact was huge. Farmers tell me that because of MCC they are now able to think about agribusiness and engage the private sector. With the second compact, the Cape Verdeans decided to tackle tough issues surrounding land as well as water and sanitation. As the prime minister put it, they are tackling things that are vital to Cape Verdean lives, using the compact to make transformative policy reforms in key sectors. For the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, these reforms will help improve the investment climate tremendously. Reforms in land tenure and security will likewise help promote investments, particularly in tourist areas.
Cape Verde is primed for private sector investment. American firms may shy away from investing in Africa because of distance or perceptions of a weak policy environment. Yet, investing in Cape Verde offers an historic opportunity to be part of the momentum of change that continues to build this country. Cape Verdeans are courageous in taking on tough policy reforms and improving the business environment. I invite all firms, especially American ones, to take a look and explore Cape Verde’s potential.
For me personally, it's exciting to be witnessing the transformation with my own eyes. Cape Verde is a model of good governance that continues to push itself toward further growth opportunities.
Posted on March 30, 2012 by Daniel Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Today’s release of MCC’s 2011 Annual Report, appropriately titled Gateway to Opportunity, captures the milestones of the past year and articulates clear priorities moving forward. In the report, you can read about the significant strides we have made in delivering results, forging partnerships with countries and civil society, and championing policy reforms to create opportunities for sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. This foundation allows us now to expand our work not just to help poor countries rise out of poverty and break the cycle of aid dependency but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States, which means more jobs here at home.
By incentivizing the right policy conditions and generating an enabling environment for growth, MCC builds a Gateway to Opportunity for American businesses interested in exporting to or doing business in these next generation emerging markets as they climb out of poverty. Because of this, MCC’s mission is key to Secretary of State Clinton’s 21st century economic statecraft and President Obama’s efforts to put in place an American economy that is “built to last.” MCC is pushing the envelope on development effectiveness and sustainability through our commitment to transparency, accountability, results, policy reform, and country-driven solutions.
MCC’s approach has not gone unnoticed. A November 2011 Fortune Magazine article concludes that MCC “certainly gives the taxpayer real bang for the buck.” A recent MarketWatch commentary by Thomas Kostigen arguing for a robust MCC budget sums up the impact best: “MCC deserves its fair share so the U.S. can gain its fair share in the emerging markets. The global impact of these investments comes back to us all in the form of food, jobs, more open markets for trade, and doing good and right by others. It’s a boomerang effect.”
We agree, and we’re committed to showcasing even more investment and procurement opportunities for U.S. businesses in the months ahead to ensure the full “boomerang effect” of positive impact for the world’s poor as well as American businesses and workers.
In Zambia, MCCâ€™s newest compact brings clean water and improved sanitation and drainage services to more than one million residents
Posted on March 26, 2012 by Raja Kaul, MCC Resident Country Director, Zambia
Last Thursday, the MCC Board of Directors approved a $355 million compact with Zambia that focuses on the water sector in Lusaka. MCC investments are expected to have a significant impact on the lives of more than one million Lusaka residents by improving their health and economic productivity and helping the country reduce poverty on a sustainable basis. Fittingly, the Board’s decision fell on the annual UN-designated World Water Day.
This single-sector compact aims to address one of the Zambia’s most binding constraints to economic growth through infrastructure investment in the rapidly urbanizing capital city of Lusaka. It is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of water-related disease, decrease the number of productive days lost due to disease and time to collect water, lower costs of water and new sanitation, and reduce flood losses for businesses and residential homes.
In addition to investments in water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure, MCC’s integrated investment will also support the government’s ongoing water sector reform efforts by strengthening responsible institutions. The investment is expected to significantly benefit Lusaka’s poor, as 73 percent of the more than one million Zambian beneficiaries currently have incomes below $2 per day.
The Zambia compact will promote key MCC corporate priorities, including gender and social integration, environmental and social impact assessments, and private sector development. In the Zambia compact, social and gender integration is prioritized, and activities are designed to extend project benefits to women and vulnerable groups.
Since its inception in 1993, World Water Day has served to spotlight the global challenge to provide safe water and sanitation services to those living in poverty. So far, MCC has invested $793 million in WASH-related projects in nine partner countries, and MCC’s compacts with Cape Verde, Jordan, and Mozambique, like Zambia, focus primarily on water sector development. Our growing WASH portfolio reflects our partner countries’ recognition of the important role of access to clean, affordable, and reliable water in promoting economic growth.
For more information on MCC’s water and sanitation projects, visit www.mcc.gov/water.
Posted on October 14, 2011 by Cassandra Butts, MCC Senior Advisor
It is fitting that this past Monday the Mo Ibrahim Foundation ended its two-year hiatus in awarding its prestigious Ibrahim Prize, which is reserved for African leaders who demonstrate a commitment to democracy, by recognizing former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires. While President Pires deserves recognition for his years of leadership in various positions since Cape Verde’s independence in 1975, it is his most recent act of leadership in stepping down from office at the end of his second term to pave the way for the peaceful election of opposition candidate Jorge Carlos Fonseca that merits attention.
On a recent visit to Cape Verde to review progress towards MCC’s second compact development, I participated in the inauguration of newly elected President Fonseca. While there, I was one of a few hundred guests to experience a very rare event in Africa: the beginning of shared government with representation from Cape Verde's two major parties.
President Fonseca described his victory in the August 21, 2011 run-off election (against ruling party candidate Manuel Inocencio Sousa) as a victory “for democracy, for the dignity of the Cape Verdean people.” While the inauguration ceremony lacked the fanfare sometimes typical of such events, it made up for it through careful attention to the details of a constitutional transfer of power and through the enthusiasm of those in attendance.
The ceremony and the internationally recognized free and fair election that preceded it highlight why Cape Verde has succeeded as an MCC partner country, and why it has qualified for second compact consideration. By creating a stable political environment to achieve key policy reforms in the areas of economic development and social investment, Cape Verde has become a model for governing maturity in West Africa.
The recent presidential election is yet another indication of how Cape Verde embraces the just and democratic governance principles at the heart of the MCC country selection process. It remains to be seen how Cape Verde will function under shared government, yet we have every reason to believe that it will continue to lay the groundwork for good governance that is deserving of recognition by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, MCC, and others.
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