In recent years, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Norad have demonstrated a clear commitment to the results-based management (RBM) agenda. Several evaluations have highlighted weaknesses in the use of results to inform and adjust programming, including Itad’s evaluation of the Norwegian aid administration’s practice of results-based management (RBM), which recognised the need for the administration to improve the link between RBM and learning.
Likewise, a continued challenge has been how the aid administration uses RBM at the portfolio level. As a result, various efforts have been made to strengthen RBM, particularly in the management of grants and ways to strengthen portfolio level theories of change and associated learning. This Itad-led evaluation is a contribution to this ongoing reform effort and aims to provide the MFA and Norad with information on the strengths and weaknesses of current practices that can be used to improve portfolio management of two pilot portfolios – tax for development and the programme to combat marine litter and microplastics – and provide more generalisable lessons for improved portfolio management of Norwegian aid.
Itad’s approach will: 1) ensure Norad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have ownership of the evaluation processes and outputs; and 2) provide the opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on current approaches to portfolio management and identify lessons for improvement.
The evaluation has four specific objectives:
- Identify the portfolios’ theories of change and assess whether they are logically coherent and evidence-based (research and evaluations) and assess the strategic alignment within the portfolio.
- Assess whether the portfolios’ governance structures support effective and efficient aid management and implementation.
- Assess whether the portfolios are set up for learning and management for results and have plans to collect evidence that is relevant, credible and timely, and that may influence decision making.
- Suggest how the portfolios’ theories of change, governance structure and results management can be improved.
The primary audiences for the evaluation are the staff from the tax and marine litter and microplastics portfolios and management within the MFA and Norad, as well as the internal quality assurance functions within both agencies. The anticipated uses of the evaluation include helping the portfolio teams to strengthen portfolio management, supporting sections involved in quality assurance, and informing management of other portfolios across the aid administration.
Itad intends to operationalise the evaluation through four distinct but integrated modules:
- Development and assessment of portfolio ToCs: working with the portfolio teams, we will assess, develop and refine the Theories of Change (ToC), mapping existing partners to examine strategic alignment of the portfolios.
- Assessment of portfolio governance and management processes: we will investigate existing practices, processes, capabilities and resources; assess effectiveness against objectives; and suggest improvements.
- Comparative analysis of other donors: by comparing Norad’s practices with a limited number of comparator agencies, we will distil learnings from their processes and practices of portfolio management.
- Analysis and synthesis: using the evaluation questions as a framework, we will code, compare and synthesise data and evidence from the three modules to produce high quality, accessible findings, lessons and insights.
Image © Credit: Catherine Sheila