These days, project evaluation is a fundamental element of international development. With so many options and approaches to solving problems, it is crucial to have reliable data about what is working and what isn’t so operations staff on the ground can adjust their work to make meaningful impact.
As Senior Evaluation Officer of the World Bank Group (WBG)’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), I validate self-evaluation of the projects of the WBG’s private sector arms, namely International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). I also directly evaluate some of their projects. Summarizing the findings of evaluations, I prepare a sector highlights for infrastructure, the sector I am responsible for.
Like any other development finance institutions working for private sector clients, ensuring that their projects are making meaningful impact is a key organizational challenge for the IFC and the MIGA. Together with my colleagues in IEG, I have been collaborating with IFC and MIGA management teams in their efforts to strengthen development impact by providing feedback on their ex-ante assessment and monitoring frameworks, and jointly updating evaluation guidelines for their projects.
Evaluation has two main objectives: ensuring accountability and enhancing learning. Lessons drawn from project evaluations are fed back to operation teams for preparation and execution of new projects so that they are constantly enhancing their development impact. For evaluators like me, it is a day-to-day challenge to draw meaningful lessons from the data and interpret results so they are accessible and relevant for operational staff, and can actually lead to changes.
Since graduating from the MIDP program 20 years ago, I have worked on monitoring and evaluation, results measurement, and strategic planning for the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and now the WBG. Working in these areas requires more than just number crunching; they require solid foundations in global development agenda, financial and economic analysis of projects, project management skills, and corporate results frameworks. That’s why the MIDP program’s multi-disciplinary approach, and its focus on both theoretical and practical aspects of development work, has been such a pivotal asset to my career development.
My advice for current MIDP fellows is to take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the program—it is broad and flexible enough to build your own course of study based on your interests and expertise. If you are thinking about developing your career in development finance institutions like the WBG, there are three types of broader skills that I have found useful: the ability to provide in-depth technical contributions, the ability to work effectively with people and teams, and the ability to understand how organizations are structured and how they work. Of course, technical skills, particularly in certain sectors and disciplines (e.g. M&E) are the most important thing to bring to the table, but without people skills and organizational savvy, you will not get very far.
I also think that building a personal network, and getting as much practical experience as possible through internships and other networking opportunities, will make a difference.
I was in the 1-year program for the MIDP degree and was working for a Japanese government agency (JBIC), but I wanted to branch out into international development organizations, particularly the Inter-American Development Bank. I knew that only fellows in the 2-year program were required to have summer internships, but I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to try something new. Francis Lethem helped me facilitate this, though I did still have to convince my agency that it was a good idea—I was the first employee to do an internship as part of graduate study! In the end, the two months I was able to spend working in the IADB became critical to my future career. When I returned to Japan, my new skills and experience raised my profile, and I was assigned to work for the Executive Director’s office of the IADB. Years later, I was able to return to that same department where I did my summer internship. The people there remembered me. Creating this network and taking advantage of all the opportunities here, through the support of the MIDP program faculty and staff, changed the course of my career.
– Ichiro Toda (MIDP ’98)