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Making an Impact: Technical Assistance, Reporting Requirements and the Challenge of Improving Governance

Tim Kessler

White Paper

January 1, 2015
Foreign technical assistance for international development is increasingly driven by quantifiable indicators of impact. For this reason, governance projects are typically measured by reporting the number of achievements that improve the effectiveness of government interventions or strengthen the effectiveness of public sector institutions. The paper argues that this approach to impact measurement reveals relatively little about the actual achievements of foreign assistance. Counting can result in reporting (whether deliberate or not) that exaggerates the significance of relatively minor improvements, or obscures the impact of reforms that fundamentally change the public sector.

The paper also argues that achieving high impact governance outcomes is complicated by the need for deep and sustained government commitment. The paper illustrates these challenges with numerous examples drawn from a five year governance program in Mexico focused on competitiveness and environmental policy.