“Our objective each day is to seek out best practices, learn from them, and adapt them to everything we do. We are committed to transparency in both our successes and our failures—viewing both as opportunities to learn and improve.” Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, USAID OPEN GOVERNMENT PLAN
Once captured through an effective system for Collecting and Storing Performance Data, USAID intends that information on the status of programs and project in relationship to targets be used in a number of productive ways including: (a) formal reporting to USAID/Washington and onward to the U.S. Congress and the public, (b) Mission-level efforts to foster learning and to "manage for results" across a portfolio and (c) sharing with USAID partners to facilitate learning and improvement on their part.
To be valuable at the Mission-level, performance data must be accessible in ways that are meaningful. Performance information dashboards can, in principle, provide Mission staff at all levels with a clear over view of where the portfolio stands as well as layered access to additional data that can help pinpoint both problems and opportunities. Ideas about structuring performance information dashboards with are still evolving might start with a summary building around a CDCS Results Framework and move to indicators and geographic displays, using colors and symbols to transmit performance highlights.
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Each year, Missions and other operating units in USAID report results in relation to performance targets for the most recent fiscal year, and set performance targets for the next three fiscal years. For USAID standard and custom indicators, performance is reported through a Performance Plan and Report (PPR) that accesses, organizes and sometimes aggregates information from all of the projects and activities for which the Mission has specified these types of performance measures. PPR data contribute to the development of a joint Foreign Operations Performance Report that is issued annually, as shown on the sidebar on this page. In addition, USAID uses Mission level data to help prepare Presidential Initiative Reports such as the Annual Report to Congress on the Presidential President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other specialized reports. Proper identification of indicators before they enter a Mission's information system can help to simplify these increasingly automated processes.
|Selected USAID Long Term Trend Indicators: Economic Growth – Trade Related Indicators||2005 Results||2006 Results||2007 Results||2008 Results||2009 Results||2010 Target||2011 Target|
|Time Necessary to Comply with Procedures Required to Export/Import Goods (days)||N/A||N/A||N/A||80 days||78 days||72 days||72 days|
|Percent Change in Value of International Exports of Targeted Agricultural Commodities Due to U.S. Assistance||N/A||N/A||41.10%||63.30%||70.40%||28.20%||16.00%|
Source: FY 2011 Foreign Operations Performance Report/FY 2013 Performance Plan
While performance information is always shared with USAID/Washington, Missions vary considerably on the degree to which they actively use performance information to foster learning and achieve results at the Mission-level. USAID's emphasis on learning under new CDCS's and improvements in information technology both support further movement in this direction as suggested by the diagram above.
USAID guidance describes the development assistance cycle today as involving more and newer partners, shorter planning and execution cycles, a significantly expanded country partner role in implementation and greater reliance on partner exchanges of and learning from information collected by others. Benefits flow from more open, two-way sharing of performance information both vertically and horizontally. Horizontal sharing enhances peer-to-peer exchanges, fostering learning and planning, or re-planning when performance appears flawed.
Vertically, increased transparency with respect to performance information can also be used to help front line staff who deliver services become aware of how performance in the area where they work compares to performance elsewhere. These are the people who keep records about what is delivered to intended beneficiaries. Their records are the source of much of the performance data that USAID Missions capture and share forward with regional bureaus, Congress and the public. But what do the people on the front lines learn from performance monitoring exercises? When their data is aggregated with data from other sources, do they ever see the "big picture" with respect to what progress is being made? Some USAID projects, like the Deliver Project, which is highlighted in the sidebar on this page for its ideas about broadly sharing information, are looking for a new answer to that question. Imagine for example a project in which USAID and a partner government are working together to reduce the time it takes to clear customs at land border posts. Each border post sends in its data. The project compiles it and may even create a useful display of progress by border post. What would happen if USAID's analysis of performance by border post were shared with the people working at those posts – if posts could see their own progress in compared to other border posts? What changes might a downward sharing of performance information stimulate?
Steps that USID is taking to enhance its sharing of information with its partners and the public aim to fulfill the commitment that President Obama made to open government at the start of his administration. In line with that commitment the United States, in November 2011, became a signatory to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). This important development was announced by the Secretary of State at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness at Busan, South Korea in December 2011. USAID plays a leading role in ensuring that the U.S. Government meets its commitments under IATI to publish up-to-date information in a common, open format that makes it easy for stakeholders to find, use and compare with other donors' information about foreign aid spending.