Ben Ramalingam has a great post setting out how to incorporate both results-based rigour and necessary but woollier capacity-building type projects, by putting them on a two-dimensional continuum of complexity. I think this is a good way to visualise the issues.
I have only one thing to add, and it links back to Tony Blair’s recent comments (see my previous post on Learning by Doing) and the problems of form vs function. If we want to build the capacity of developing country institutions, then I think there is no better way to do so than to first focus on delivering the simple things, which can indeed be measured using a results-based framework. Moreover, critical self-analysis of the difficulties in improving delivery beyond a certain threshold may well lead the institution on to try tackling the more complex and challenging tasks whilst not forgetting the most important end goal of improved service delivery.
J the Hoodie recently contended that while Aid might be able to deliver some worthy results, it cannot (at least not on its own) ‘fix’ any of the big problems such as poverty alleviation, food shortages or global environmental degradation. In such I think he is right. Part of the problem, I think, is that Aid has even tried. When faced with such intractable problems it is far better to focus on what we know we can do; start with the simple things and build up from there. There’s a lot that we will still never fix with Aid alone (international aid policies and environmental cooperation surely need to see order of magnitude improvements), but you never know, we might even surprise ourselves with what we can do!