Building Capacity While Planning a New National Strategy in Liberia | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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  • With Liberia moving from recovery to sustainable development, a strong need existed to plan development to address goals and outcomes and empower multiple national actors to drive institutional changes.
  • WBI’s results-focused approach and tools enabled the Government of Liberia, together with its stakeholders, to overcome capacity difficulties to form an effective, country-led and -owned national development strategy.
  • The new strategy pulls together different local perspectives and aligns planning, monitoring and budgetary processes to integrate once fragmented development efforts and achieve better development outcomes for its citizens.  
(c) World Bank, Liberia

June 17, 2013—While Liberia has made much headway in its recovery from years of violence and civil war, the country faces challenges that could slow further progress. Liberia’s top leaders from ministries and agencies recognized they needed to develop a new, transformative strategy to advance results toward their new vision of achieving middle-income status by 2030. 

 “The Liberian people want results. They want to be able to send their children to school, to put food on the table,” says Amara Konneh, Minister of Finance of Liberia. We wanted to focus on results that change people’s lives…  And this time, we focused on results at the beginning—in the planning—not at the end.”

So, the government of Liberia made a request to the World Bank Institute (WBI) to partner with the Government of Liberia and the World Bank regional team to support the creation of the country’s second poverty reduction strategy, called the Agenda for Transformation. In planning the strategy, they addressed the capacity difficulties of forming an effective strategy with broad ownership. They used practical,  tools involving multiple stakeholders to build consensus on development outcomes, direct change in institutions, and integrate planning, monitoring and budgetary processes.

Liberia-WBI partnership to create the strategy

WBI partnered with the Liberia government over about 18 months—throughout the planning cycle for the strategy—with a break around the October 2011 presidential and legislative elections. The partnership involved learning by the government while coordinating a step-by-step planning process to design the strategy. Each step involved the use of tools by stakeholders to collect and analyze information for the strategy. 

open-quotesThe Liberian people want results. They want to be able to send their children to school, to put food on the table. We wanted to focus on results that change people’s lives… And this time, we focused on results at the beginning—in the planning—not at the end.close-quotesMinister Amara KonnehOne tool was a multi-stakeholder institutional diagnostic used to frame the strategy around addressing challenges that block Liberia’s goals. Some of these challenges are  the weak legitimacy of social, policy and economic institutions; poor collaboration among government and non-government entities; and the weak confidence of citizens in government.

Another tool was a multi-stakeholder, outcome-based national results framework. In the framework, people working in sectors such as education, human rights or security—agreed on and outlined changes they wanted for the next five years and the local leaders and groups that could drive them.

“We have stakeholders involved across Liberia—citizens, civil society organizations, private sector, donor community and government,” says Minister Konneh, “and we believe that with this mix we have total ownership across the country, and everyone will hold the other person accountable for the implementation.”

Innovations in the new strategy

About 50 coaches (about two per government ministry or agency) were trained to help collect and analyze information for the results framework from each sector or thematic area with advisory support from WBI. National sector working groups prepared diagnostic and analytical inputs with support from the coaches. Rapid work sessions used the framework to guide the medium-term expenditure framework, budget and national monitoring plans.

Thus, stakeholders own the new strategy as a product of national consensus. It is responsive, by incorporating many stakeholder perspectives and building on existing experiences. And, it is integrated, taking first steps to connect all development efforts nationally and across all sectors, including the budget.|

“The Agenda for Transformation has broken new ground for Liberia in engaging the society as a whole in the national development process,” said Samuel Otoo, manager of the WBI Capacity Development and Results team. “This collaborative dynamic and the focus on outcomes instead of activities need to be sustained in the implementation phase.  The government now has the knowledge and capability to manage this with its diverse stakeholders.”

Scaling up and Possible Applications

The lessons that emerged from Liberia’s experience could inform continued efforts to strengthen results in Liberia.  The lessons could also guide other practitioners working in strategic planning in a fragile context:

• Integrate fragmented development planning, monitoring and budgetary efforts for a cohesive strategy
• Use tools to develop capacity of local leadership so they can take the lead on design and implementation
• Step back from a long list of interventions to discuss and agree on needed outcomes and priorities
• Organize stakeholders in a network for collective planning and to overcome limited in-country experience

The success of the Agenda for Transformation will require continual participation and oversight and ongoing capacity development support. If implemented efficiently and effectively, the strategy will help to drive Liberia toward middle-income status by 2030.


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