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Archive for October, 2012

MFAN Network Event

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
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Scaling Up Nutrition: Strengthening Institutional Capacity


Monday, November 5, 2012

12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

(lunch provided)

Bread for the World Institute

425 3rd Street SW, Suite 1200 (12th floor)

Washington, DC 20024

Metro: Federal Center (Blue/Orange lines)

Please RSVP by 11/2 to:

U.S. leadership in the global movement to scale up nutrition has led to increased investments in U.S. health, food security, and nutrition programs.

We need to assess nutrition resources available to U.S. Government agencies, to implementing partners, and to country governments and civil society.  Do they have sufficient technical capacity in nutrition to “scale up” programs? How well-equipped is the U.S. government to support country-led efforts and help sustain their momentum and progress?  How can we further build our capacity?

An approach to nutrition that crosses government departments, bureaus, and offices will help strengthen U.S. programs and use our nutrition dollars as effectively as possible. Strengthened leadership and capacity helps ensure better coodination and accountability for results. Harmonized program strategy, budgets, guidance on implementation, and implementation on the ground will maximize the impact of our work on the critical problem of global malnutrition.


Robert Clay, Deputy Administrator, Global Health Bureau, USAID

Karin Lapping, Senior Director-Nutrition, Save the Children US

Leslie Elder, Senior Nutrition Specialist, Human Development Network, the World Bank

Moderated by:

George Ingram, Co-chair, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network


Please join us and participate in this important event!


Mark Your Calendars — Week of October 29

Friday, October 26th, 2012
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Every Thursday, MFAN will post a list of upcoming events for the following week. For more information about each event and to RSVP, click on the links below. If your organization is hosting an event next week and you don’t see yourself on the list, please email

See below for a list of MFAN Partner events:




Driving sustainable global health programs with local partners

Thursday, October 25th, 2012
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See below for a guest blog from Rosemarie Muganda-Onyando, deputy country director for PATH Kenya, and Aaron Emmel, senior policy advisor at PATH. This is the sixth post in our field feedback series and the second in Save’s “Aid Reform Stories from the Field” series. Click here to read a post from Save the Children in Guatemala and MalawiWomen Thrive in Ghana, Oxfam America in Uganda, and Management Sciences for Health in Bolivia.


When Janerose Temko was five months pregnant with her third child, a PATH-supported community health worker in her village in western Kenya dropped by to talk about the importance of prenatal care. Janerose knew the woman—she was a member of her church and a trusted neighbor—so for the first time, Janerose went for checkups during her pregnancy. And when her labor started, she made her way to a community health clinic, where she delivered a healthy baby girl.

Janerose’s decision to depart from the tradition of an at-home birth and therefore improve her—and her baby’s—chance of a healthy future demonstrates the gains that can be achieved when development organizations and agencies approach global health and development in partnership with local civil society organizations and governments. By combining the personal relationships and community networks built by local organizations with the global networks and resources of international aid organizations, we are able to effectively reach individuals to help them access health services and make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

In recent years, foreign aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations have begun taking steps to more strategically engage the people who they are meant to serve as collaborators—rather than as simply beneficiaries—by giving them the opportunity to plan and execute development programs. Through these efforts, they are increasingly implementing programs based on what is commonly referred to as “country ownership” and they are having an impact.

At PATH, we integrate the country ownership approach in three ways. First, we ensure that key local and national stakeholders are involved in the planning, implementation, and execution of health programs. Second, we help donors to coordinate their aid around current national strategies. And finally, we help ensure that local and national policymakers have the information they need to make the best decisions for their country’s future.

In western Kenya, for example, PATH works closely with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partners to actively engage the ministry of health at all levels through the USAID-supported program AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance Plus project, known as APHIAplus. The program involves the government of Kenya, civil society, and community level structures. One of the greatest contributions is the increased support from international donors for the government of Kenya’s Community Health Strategy, through which millions of people like Janerose are reached with information, mobilized, and linked with essential health services.

By supporting capacity-building at the local and national levels, donors not only promote sustainable programs, but they also put greater responsibility on local communities and governments for their own country’s health. This approach seems to be paying off. The results of a 2012 survey by InterAction, the largest alliance of US-based international nongovernmental organizations, suggest that the US government’s activities are increasingly felt on the ground: local organizations and local staff of international nongovernmental organizations are at the forefront of program planning and implementation, and they see their own governments taking more ownership of national health plans. Our PATH colleagues in Kenya also say that they have seen their government become more deeply involved in development efforts, especially through APHIAplus.

Country ownership remains a guiding principle of USAID’s Global Health Strategic Framework FY2012–FY2016, and has been incorporated into both country programs and the new Office of Country Support that USAID announced as part of its Global Health Bureau reorganization in September. PATH commends USAID for making country ownership a priority, and helping to lead the field into a future built on greater partnership through foreign assistance.

When country stakeholders are heavily involved in the planning and implementation processes, projects are more likely to be sustainable—because they are built to fit within the local cultures and infrastructure—and have a greater impact. Through these efforts, we hope more community health workers and other local practitioners are able to reach more people like Janerose, who said that if she has another child, she will go to a health facility again.


MCC’s First Five

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
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MFAN member John Glenn writes about the importance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s first round of impact evaluations, which were released yesterday. Glenn points to the evaluations as a model for transparency, showing where the programs were successful in meeting targets and where more can be done to have a longer-term impact on improving household income. This post originally appeared on the USGLC blog.


In today’s constrained budget environment, there is a constant drumbeat for focusing on results for taxpayer dollars.  And there should be, but just as often it’s hard to know what the results actually are, let alone whether they worked.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation has led the way in pioneering rigorous evaluation in its country selection and compact evaluations for years in global development, and the release of its first five independent impact evaluations is worth paying attention to.

The evaluations found that the MCC programs met and even exceeded the program targets they set for themselves.  But where most government agencies stop there, the MCC took the next step to ask if their program targets actually met their broader mission – to reduce poverty by raising household incomes. There they found a mixed picture that provides valuable feedback about what worked in the field and what didn’t.  It’s the kind of evaluation that rarely gets done in the risk adverse environment of Washington, and it’s one to be appreciated, given the MCC’s commitment to learning and incorporating the insights from their evaluations.

While impact evaluations have been carried out in other policy areas like labor and education, they’re much rarer in foreign policy.  In part, that’s because they rely upon adapting the experimental method where you measure results by comparing one group that receives treatment with another that doesn’t.  In the dynamic world of foreign policy, you rarely have the opportunity to make such decisions because, more often than not, you’re putting out fires.  In global development, ethical questions have been about how to do this because it would mean choosing who would receive, say, life-saving health treatments or education and who wouldn’t so that you’d have a control group to compare with.  Inspired in part by research by MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (and their book, Poor Economics), new methods have been developed that take into account these challenges and offer a real chance to see what works and what doesn’t.

The MCC’s five impact evaluations (all conducted by independent external evaluators) were done for a small slice of their overall portfolio, for farmer training activities in five countries — Armenia, El Salvador, Ghana, Honduras, and Nicaragua for programs were designed between 2004 and 2005 and implemented between 2005 and 2012.  In the design of these compacts with partner countries, they measured inputs and outputs (such as farmers trained), as well as interim outcomes (such as farmers using new techniques learned through training) and the growth of farmer incomes and household incomes more broadly.

On the measure of inputs and outputs, the MCC’s farmer training programs performed very well, meeting or exceeding their performance targets.  And they also found increases in farm income in some countries (in El Salvador, dairy farmers doubled their farm incomes) and in some regions in some countries (in northern Ghana, farmers’ annual crop income increased, while southern and central Ghana showed no impacts on farm income from the compacts’ farmer training activities).  In others (such as Honduras), they weren’t able to make measurements due to problems in compact implementation.

But did they affect the MCC’s long-term goal of improving household income and reducing poverty?  The independent evaluations scrupulously admit that they don’t know.  In some countries household income has risen during the compact period, but it’s difficult to attribute that growth to the program.  Why?  The evaluations have highlighted that some of the traditional methods of farming training may not work as well as assumed.  Training is often accompanied by starter kits, a package of seeds, fertilizer and equipment, to complement the training with the idea that it will give the farmers materials to apply what they’ve learned.  It turns out that sometimes that works, but some of the starter kits contained materials that weren’t useful.

Changing the content of starter kits is a relatively easy issue to fix, but, to their credit, they asked the harder questions of why they weren’t seeing the results they expected in some cases, given that they met their program targets.  When the MCC compared results across settings, they found that it may not always be effective to provide a little training to a lot of people, one of the more common impulses in situations of need.  Rather, training fewer farmers more intensively may produce better results because it ensures that the training actually takes hold and adapts to local conditions.  They also may need to adopt a longer time horizon – beyond the short term crop cycle to see whether and how training translates into higher incomes.  For the MCC, this will mean going back to re-assess their training programs in Burkina Faso and Moldova, as well as look for broader implications for their models of impact.  It will be challenging, given the time pressures to complete a compact in five years.  It may mean re-evaluating initial assumptions in future compacts.

The five impact evaluations are for just 2% of the overall MCC budget, so they’re just a start but they offer an initial glimpse into both the effectiveness of these programs and real efforts by the agency to take measuring results seriously.  They take the tough step of assessing assumptions – in this case, that farmer training really leads to higher farmer income and overall household income.  The MCC has been a leader in this effort to do rigorous evaluation, one that has supporters in other agencies (such as USAID, which has also committed to releasing evaluations of its programs as part of its evaluation policy).  It’s a good moment at both the policy and the political level, and the kind of commitment to transparency that should make friends on the Hill and in the development community.



MFAN Statement: New Evaluations Advance Transparency and Provide Valuable Guidance for Future Programs

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
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October 23, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN).

With the release of the first round of impact evaluations, MFAN is pleased that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) continues to push forward and insist that we prove the effectiveness of U.S. development programs, be transparent about the successes and challenges, and, importantly, learn from our experiences. MFAN’s Co-Chairs and Principals submitted the following statements in support of the evaluations released today.


“The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s impact evaluations are a tremendous step forward in improving transparency and effectiveness within U.S. development programs. We’ve lobbied for such evaluations for years and are pleased to see the MCC moving forward. They speak to the value and impact of development programs on the ground and will provide a roadmap for improvements. We hope these evaluations encourage Congress to continue to invest in improving the lives of people in developing countries.”

– Rev. David Beckmann, MFAN Co-Chair and President, Bread for the World

“The MCC has been at the head of the movement toward more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of foreign assistance programs, a difficult, complex, and absolutely essential step toward more accountable and effective development.  Tremendous kudos to the MCC for putting its reputation and work on the line through transparent, honest, rigorous evaluations, and sharing the results — thereby allowing us all to learn and setting an example for other development agencies and organizations, both public and private. This path-breaking effort is putting to the test long-held assumptions about how to promote development and is just the type of learning we need if we are to use our assistance resources effectively.”

– George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair

“From its inception, MCC was designed with a commitment to transparency and evidence-based decision making.  The release of these results puts that promise into action.  The discussion that follows from this and future evaluations is vitally important, because it is only through critical assessment that the MCC will be able to fulfill its dual mission to have greater impact in the lives of the world’s poor while at the same time providing better stewardship of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

– Jim Kolbe, MFAN Co-Chair and former Congressman

“We applaud the Millennium Challenge Corporation on the publication of its first round of impact evaluations. In addition to providing more rigorous analysis of how U.S.-funded MCC programs are improving the lives of citizens in partner countries, the evaluations contain lessons that will enable the MCC to advance their future policy and programs. ONE continues to be impressed by the MCC’s dedication to transparency, impact monitoring, and poverty reduction.”

– Tom Hart, U.S. Executive Director, ONE

“The MCC’s release of its first independent impact evaluations has set a high bar for other U.S. agencies and for aid agencies around the world. The challenge for the MCC is to integrate its findings, both good and bad, into its future work. The challenge for the rest of us, including those on Capitol Hill, is to understand the subtleties of the results. We should all want to encourage sensible risk-taking and more honest assessments.”

– Todd J. Moss, Acting President and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

“MCC has set a very high standard by investing in rigorous evaluation and demonstrating its commitment to transparency and accountability for results — a standard that no other U.S. foreign assistance program has matched.  It is evidence of the agency’s overall commitment to holding itself accountable for results:  MCC was recently ranked 9 out of 72 donors globally for its transparency, ahead of Canada, Germany, Japan, and France.  Other donors, and the U.S. government as a whole, should be paying attention and following suit: that the MCC is willing to show the bad with the good is a risk only to the extent that we have few other institutions to compare them with.

“With these impact evaluations, MCC is serving as a model for bi-partisan efforts in Congress.  The bipartisan Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3159/S.3310) sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Howard Berman (D-CA) and Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) (S.3310), would help make this type of rigorous accountability the standard for U.S. foreign assistance efforts.   Congress should act to embrace MCC’s efforts and raise the level of accountability for programs to fight poverty and build a better world.”

– Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America

“MCC deserves an enormous amount of credit for its first round of impact evaluations, which focused on farmer training activities in five countries. Some of the key findings underscore that reducing poverty by changing farmer behavior and improving productivity depends on a number of factors, such as the customizing of training programs, time spent with farmers, and inputs provided. As an organization that is establishing frameworks for companies to measure the social and economic impact of their business operations on individuals and communities, we know how challenging it can be to move beyond the measurement of outputs to fully understand and quantify outcomes. By publicizing its results and sharing how those results will drive program improvements, MCC is modeling a commitment to transparency that other development agencies should follow. The evidence base created will not only inform other development organizations, but also the investments of our member companies in agriculture value chains. Those of us who care deeply about development outcomes, whether driven by business investment or foreign assistance dollars, should support the honest assessment of results embodied in these first impact evaluations as well as the culture of learning they enable.”

– Jennifer Potter, President & CEO, Initiative for Global Development

“Committed to transparency since the beginning, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is truly ‘walking the walk’ through today’s release of its first set of impact evaluations. These evaluations of farmer training programs in Armenia, El Salvador, Ghana, Honduras, and Nicaragua, are honest about what’s working and what could be improved. This transparency is critical to ensuring that women and men are able to make decisions about and truly ‘own’ MCC projects in their countries. We hope that the next series of evaluations will include tools to assess the unique impact of MCC programs on women and girls, such as the use of sex-disaggregated data. For now, though, we hope Congress sees these evaluations as a prime example of the MCC’s leadership in transparency and accountability — principles that we know are vital to ensuring the effectiveness of U.S. international assistance.”

– Ritu Sharma, Co-founder & President, Women Thrive Worldwide

“Impact evaluations aren’t about pass or fail for specific projects. Development programs — and the MCC compacts — comprise multiple complex activities. Some may turn out well, others may flop, and the measure of a strong organization is that it wants to know the difference and learns and improves when it finds out. The MCC is taking brave steps in this direction.”

– Sarah Jane Staats, Director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Initiative, Center for Global Development

“InterAction welcomes the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s release of its first set of impact evaluations. The principles of transparency and accountability are important pillars of effective development for both governmental and nongovernmental organizations alike. The impact evaluations demonstrate the MCC’s commitment to these principles and to implementing programs based on concrete evidence.  The MCC’s willingness to share information on both the successes and challenges of its programs and to apply the lessons learned is a model for the aid community.”

– Sam Worthington, President & CEO, InterAction