New Report Gives Advice To Those Partnering With USAID
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
WDI’s Performance Measurement Initiative (PMI), along with two partners, have compiled a detailed guide for companies and other private sector partners working with USAID to help them meet project goals and generate value.
The report, “Nine Questions Every Company Should Ask to Strengthen their Partnership with USAID,” focuses on how companies can ensure good program management that’s also responsive to data. That begins with the integration of the program design (D) with monitoring, evaluation, research and learning (MERL) activities. Combined, these actions are referred to as D-MERL.
WDI’s past work with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has shown that private companies want to use MERL to support better program management. Integrating MERL practices during the design phase improves the effectiveness of those partnerships. USAID and companies operate very differently; being able to understand those dynamics is vital for a successful partnership.
“This fall, USAID released its updated private sector engagement policy,” said Yaquta Fatehi, PMI program manager. “We wanted to create this resource because it contributes to a larger discussion that USAID is having about the role that companies play in addressing different development challenges.”
The inspiration for the paper came from a 15-month technical assistance pilot with the Women + Water Global Development Alliance. During this pilot, the BalanceD-MERL consortium – made up of World Vision, Innovations for Poverty Action, Institute for Development Impact, Search for Common Ground and WDI – served as D-MERL technical experts to support a private sector partner throughout its first engagement with USAID. In addition to WDI, World Vision and Institute for Development Impact contributed to the paper.
In compiling the paper, WDI and its partners also reviewed relevant literature and interviewed USAID Private Sector Engagement (PSE) experts and the private sector partner from the pilot. And although the paper focuses on the private sector, it also is applicable to non-profit or public-sector partners currently working with USAID as well.
The paper is designed to help private sector managers as they first embark on a partnership with USAID. For instance, the first three questions address the development of the partnership before funding is disbursed. The questions include, for example, “Who will serve as the main points of contact for the program?” and, “What information can be included in the written agreement to set the partnership up for success?”
The next set of questions is under the heading, “Setting the Foundation for Strong Program Management.” They include: “Have all partners co-developed the program’s theory of change?” and, “Have key performance indicators (KPIs) been identified to measure program outcomes?”
The final section is titled, “Integrating Data into Program Implementation,” and include questions such as, “How will the company operationalize their MERL plans?” and “What are partners’ reporting requirements? What type of reporting will be the most timely, relevant, and useful?”
Where applicable, each question may also include helpful resources and action-oriented steps to assist companies.
“Although USAID has worked on nearly 2,000 projects with companies like Gap, Inc. and Coca-Cola, there is definitely still a lot to be learned, especially for those businesses who have never partnered with USAID but would like to in the future,” said Rebecca Baylor, PMI research associate. “These nine questions are intended to help businesses and USAID achieve a measurable strategy that they can track their successes against.”