How does the Bank learn? Insights from the World Bank's IEG latest report on learning and results

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The World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) has recently released its second evaluation on learning, titled: "Learning and Results in World Bank Operations: Towards a New Learning Strategy at the World Bank". The report was presented at a learning event held at IFAD Headquarters on 15 July 2015, where Marie Gaarder, Manager, IEG Public Sector Evaluation and John Heath, Senior Evaluation Officer in IEG's Public Sector Unit - one of the leaders of this evaluation - presented the findings and insights from this evaluation.

As learning and knowledge are treated as parts of a whole and are presumed to be mutually reinforcing, this second evaluation report addresses the following overarching questions:

  • How well has the World Bank learned in its lending operations?
  • What is the scope for improving how it generates, accesses, and uses learning and knowledge in these operations?

The World Bank's evaluation team spoke to practitioners in the field to deepen understanding of the Bank's informal learning and tacit knowledge; mindsets and team effects; incentives; the balance to be achieved between global and local perspectives; adaptiveness; and results focus.
Among the main findings illustrated:

  • the importance of tacit knowledge, which needs to be nurtured in organizations through continuous mentoring and by continuously changing team leaders;
  • the need to improve adaptiveness in organizations by ensuring there are mechanisms to restructure projects and allowing for mid-course corrections;
  • the challenge of learning from failures and of promoting learning from failures;

The report's key recommendation is for the World Bank to develop an updated strategy for learning and knowledge. And, in response to the key findings, the World Bank should make optimal use of informal learning and tacit knowledge; adjust institutional incentives to promote learning and development outcomes; balance the focus on global and local knowledge; and, promote adaptiveness.

As part of our video series "Why does evaluation matter?", John Heath also shared with us his views on why evaluation is important, specifically for a multilateral development institution.