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Monday, March 12, 2018

Aid Agency Results-Based Management Policies: Switzerland, New Zealand,The World Bank, the Netherlands,the United Kingdom, Canada and Sweden

Greg Armstrong

[Updated July 2019]

The OECD has produced 7 case studies on how Results-Based Management policies are used by the World Bank, and the international aid agencies for Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, the United Kingdom,  The Netherlands and New Zealand.  These guides will not help anyone manage a project, but they do provide a useful comparative overview of the intentions of these agencies as they seek to create usable, comprehensible Results-Based Management frameworks.

Case Studies on how 6 aid agencies use Results-Based Management
OECD Results-Based Management Case Studies

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate-Complex
Length: 10-15 pages for each case study, 33 pages for the synthesis
Primarily useful for: Implementing agency managers
Most useful: Annex 1 of the synthesis document
Limitations:  The studies present one side of the analysis – from the agency management, not from users

In 2016 and 2017 OECD produced 6 very short case studies (all PDF) on how Results-Based Management is used for agency management in planning and reporting on aid projects in the World Bank, the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, the New Zealand Aid Programme,  the Swedish International Development Agency, Global Affairs Canada,  the United Kingdoms’ Department for International Development, and The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  OECD also produced a useful synthesis report.

Utility and Limitations of the OECD country case studies

For any implementing agency manager  considering either bidding for a project funded by one of these agencies, or for anyone working on a multi-donor project, trying to understand what drives different agencies’ results agenda, each of these guides can provide some superficial introductory summaries of what the insiders in the agencies have to work with, and what pressures may be on them as they manage their agencies programmes. 

But aid agency administrators often think their own agency’s approach to RBM is easier to understand than do the implementing partners, who have to translate the often arcane Results-Based Management policies into practical plans and reports.

These are very short case studies, based on documentary analysis and interviews with aid agency managers, and therefore they present only one side of the story on each agency’s approach to results-based management.

Those who want detailed guidance on how to implement the Results Based Management frameworks in any practical way will not find it in these reports.  That guidance is, for some, but not all of the agencies, available from their websites.

Links to Aid Agency Results-Based Management Guides and Handbooks

 [Update:  A few of the studies, such as those on the Netherlands, The United Kingdom and Sweden, still provide more information than anything  publicly available. But, since these case studies were originally produced, and since I originally wrote this review in March 2018, a number of the links to aid agency sources have expired, or disappeared.  Those who want more detailed guidance on how the different agencies incorporate Results-Based Management in their work, may in some cases find them (as of June 2018) at these links:

Lessons Learned from the Case Studies

Of potentially more interest from a comparative perspective is the 31- page synthesis report Strengthening the Results Chain by Rosie Zwart.  

OECD Synthesis Report on Results-Based Management
OECD Synthesis Report on Results-Based Management

This document summarizes and analyses the challenges facing the different agencies, in terms of how they link their internal results frameworks to long term international development results, how they use standard indicators, and the problems associated with this, how the results and indicators contribute to accountability, how attribution of credit for results is handled in each agency, how they use narratives to make sense of the results frameworks, and the extent to which results reporting contributes to  any meaningful learning – and change, within the agencies

Short summary paragraphs on how 7 aid agencies use Results-Based Management
Short summaries of how aid agencies use RBM
[click to enlarge]

Readers may find the Annex to the report, which summarizes many of these issues by aid agency, useful, before deciding whether to read the individual country reports.
A chart comparing how 7 aid agencies use RBM, using 6 criteria
RBM Comparison Chart for 7 Aid Agencies
[Click to enlarge]

The bottom line:  These case studies can provide very useful superficial overviews of the challenges facing different aid agencies as they implement Results-Based Management, but more useful guidance on each is often available directly from the agency websites for those with the time, and the motivation, to use them.


Greg Armstrong is a Results-Based Management specialist who focuses on the use of clear language in RBM training, and in the creation of usable planning, monitoring and reporting frameworks.  For links to more Results-Based Management Handbooks and Guides, go to the RBM Training website

RBM Training

RBM Training
Results-Based Management

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