Monday, April 12, 2004

Thinking about networks of policies

I have just returned from XXXX in west Africa, where I have been working on PRSP M&E. One of my continuing concerns while there was to get a handle on the complex context in which PRSP M&E activities are taking place. As in most countries the PRSP exists in a complex policy context, it does not stand on its own. It links into, or is expected to link into, a number of other policies and associated implementation processes.

I think the relationship between policies is an area that deserves some serious thinking about, in M&E terms. There are at least two types of relationships that need to be considered:
1. The overlap in objectives of different policy documents.
2. The connection between policies created by information flows between them, once they are implemented and monitored

Policies can overlap in their objectives, this is fairly clear. New policies are often expected to overlap with existing polices. For example, new and specific policies in particular ministries might be expected to help articulate relevant sections of a PRSP. We can measure this overlap in at least two ways: (a) By examining the overlaps in sets of indicators used for M&E of both policies. The PRSP M&E Plan in XXXX has a useful table showing how a number of policies overlap in this respect. (b) By getting owners of two policies to rank the relative importance of their own and the other's policy objectives, and see how their rankings compare. I have done this with a UK NGO, to assess the alignment of a country level strategy with project specific strategies within the same country.

Policies can also be linked by information flows between them, once their implementation begins. In the best case, policy documents are integral parts of high level management cycles. They are plans, which are to be followed by implementation and then hopefully some sort of review processes. And then even more hopefully, some sort of revised policy. In other words, a higher-level version of the project management cycle (i.e. a policy management cycle). Where there are multiple policies, the M&E outputs of one policy management cycle can feed into the planning stages of another policy management cycle. For example, the Annual Progress Report (APR) of the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper) in country XXX is meant to inform the contents of the government's annual budget, as in many other countries. There is now some discussion about when is the best time for the APR to feed into the budget planning discussions, which take place in stages over a period of months.

In some cases there is a relative clear directional nature of these linkages. The APR is expected to influence the budget more than the budget influences the APR. In other cases the net direction of influence is less clear to me, at this stage at least. The World Bank's PRSC (Poverty Reduction Support Credit) includes indicators about the progress made with M&E of the PRSP. The APR should provide evidence of progress made with M&E of the PRSP, and help trigger flow of funds from the WB to the government. But the presence within the PRSC of specific indicators about PRSP M&E capacity may also shape how the PRSP is monitored. Whether it does or not, I have yet to find out.

There are of course many other policies that the PRSP might be expected to influence, and some of those may in turn be expected to influences the PRSP. Somehow these need to be identified and the desired linkages identified. Then we need to know enough about the stages of their respective policy management cycles to identify how and whether the linkages do actually work or not. Without this all the government's efforts put into "communicating the results" of the PRSP begin to look like a shotgun blast into the sky.

Right now I feel we have a very partial and incomplete view of how government and donor policies are and should be interlinking, through exchanges of information between their M&E stages and planning stages. It is the scale that is daunting, including the long cycle times that make them difficult to see as whole processes. The longer the cycle time of any policy management process the less likely that it will function in the same in ways as it was before. Right now we don’t know how the upcoming PRSP review and revision process will look like.

No comments:

Post a Comment