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What has MCC learned from 10 years of country selectivity?

April 12, 2014

Could a new U.S. Government development agency select partner countries based primarily on objective, quantifiable indicators of sound economic, social and democratic policies? That was one of the big experiments attached to the Millennium Challenge Corporation when it was created in 2004.

Ten years later, MCC has shown that it works. An evidence- and data-driven system can indeed be used to select partner countries, focus attention on MCC’s mission and inspire policy reform (even before spending money). And I’m so excited to share our learning—what makes it work, what we continue to learn and what’s next—through a new MCC Principles into Practice paper and issue brief. This latest Principle into Practice is yet another in our series to share learning in a very technical space (thank you Andria Hayes-Birchler, our scorecard data architect extraordinaire!) in a very accessible manner (thank you Sarah Jane Staats, senior policy advisor!).

For those who know me, you know how much importance I place on evidence-based decision making. That means, whenever you can, use data and evidence as a base from which you begin your deliberations but recognize the challenges of any data-driven system and allow for responsible discretion in its use. So how do you use both evidence and discretion in a credible manner? Make the system transparent, assess its execution in practice, share your lessons, and evolve to better practice whenever you can.

So, how’d we do? Read the paper, but here’s a teaser:

The big takeaways for us are that MCC’s policy performance data:

  • Drives country selection decisions;
  • Focuses attention on MCC’s poverty reduction through economic growth mission; and
  • Inspires policy reform (even before spending money).

But five critical elements are part of what makes the system work:

  • It’s public.
  • It’s built on a research-driven technical and mathematical foundation.
  • It’s simple, accessible and actionable.
  • A credible system selects—and removes—countries
  • .It adapts to stay current and cutting edge.

At MCC, we are really proud to show that the experiment works, and we will continue to push ourselves to stay on the cutting edge of policy measurement. We also hope the lessons will be of interest to other donors, including other U.S. Government agencies, and those thinking about a post-2015 data revolution. And we are really excited to use our experience to spur the creation of more and better data for development decision making. The global governance data workshop we are co-hosting with Global Integrity next week is a promising step in that direction (thank you Alicia Phillips Mandaville!).

So please read the paper. Give us your feedback. Share your own lessons and experience in the use of data to base decisions. And for all of you out there pushing for and producing better development data, thank you, thank you, thank you!