Value for money

18 March 2011

Rick Davies has published an ‘A-list’ of documents relating to value for money in international development -although this is perfectly relevant for domestic policy concerns.

One aspect of this analysis that I think is missing is the issue of relevance of the intervention (organisation, project, programme, policy) being assessed. Ironically the focus on measurement means that measured decisions are overlooked. What do I mean by this?

A measured decision (or course of action) is one what has taken care to consider all options, look at similar experiences, consult with well informed people, undertaken the necessary preliminary research and baselines, identified key payers, opportunities and bottlenecks, etc. before making a decision on the activities, strategies, programmes, policies to be pursued.

So, if an organisation manages to have a huge impact on the web at a relatively low cost BUT we find that online communications are irrelevant to influencing the behaviour of local chiefs in Sierra Leone then -regardless of how cheap the online strategy was, the number of hits and downloads, etc.- the whole strategy cannot be value for money.

Or if a programme manages to quickly change a policy but the policy is simply unimplementable -and therefore likely to lead to corruption- then how can we say it was good value for money? It should not have even been attempted.

Anyway, enough from me: over to Rick:

[RD comment] Is “Value for Money” becoming anything more than a meaningless mantra? Sounding important, but in practice meaning something different to each and everyone who hears it? And impossible to measure…?