Donors: show us your scorecards

A few months ago Lant Pritchett hectored the World Bank Executive Directors to publish their scorecards on the three candidates for the WB presidency. It was a nice idea which unfortunately didn’t get a lot of traction, presumably because WB presidential selection is essentially a political process, despite all the publicly claimed desire to simply find the best candidate.

But why limit this idea just to the WB president’s selection? A lot of aid funding for NGOs comes through competitive calls for proposals. Some donors, the EU comes to mind, define tediously exact criteria by which proposals will be judged, others are rather woollier. Wooliness doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it allows extra weight to be given to proposals which contain that hard-to-define X factor – but for all the fact that judgements are necessarily hugely subjective – often favouring the known, established applicants – precision has a lot of merits in clarifying ranking of proposals. When the number of proposals is high it very probably becomes the only way of effectively comparing the full range of applications, so I assume most donors practice something along these lines.

So why not publish the results? In the age of openness and transparency, why are donor decisions shrouded in mystery? The EU may tell you the score allotted to your proposal, but do not tell you the threshold that was necessary to obtain funding. (When your proposal has averaged over 80% it does leave you wondering exactly how good it needs to be?)

Donor decision-making needs to be final, there is no question of that. Endless appeals against the system, however it is rigged, won’t do anyone any good. But it would still make the lives of NGO fundraisers easier if we knew both what had and had not been successful in the past, and what were the various scores. (It might even save us from writing the odd wasted application.) So donors, how about a bit more sunlight on your decision making? Go on, show us your scorecards!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by David on July 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    This is an excellent idea, and sharing of proposals and scores is often part of community contracting models in peacebuilding practice. As someone who has worked for both INGOs and donors, I can say that the biggest obstacle is the proposal drafters, not the donor, for two reasons – first, there are often “trade secrets” in how a proposal is crafted that offerors desperately want to keep confidential for use in future work; second, many INGOs or contractors will challenge award decisions where they see that the margin of the decision was thin, so donors are incentivized not to share those scores to avoid delays in the awards process. Positive pressure from other groups to be more public with scores and rationales, with associated requirements not to publish intellectual property and not to delay awards as a result, would be great!


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