October, 23 2017

What is the delivery approach? Where does the term come from?
The delivery approach is a methodology that supports problem-solving and systematic implementation of projects. The focus is on delivery and getting things done rather than just planning what needs to be done. The process is much more proactive than more traditional and reactive approaches. The delivery approach can be game-changing for any country that wants to ensure all children and young people are learning and fulfilling their potential.

Why is it important to use this approach?
To deliver the Learning Generation, we want to help countries commit to implementation –  that is, how things will get done. The delivery approach helps countries devote ninety percent of their efforts and resources towards implementation and about ten percent on planning. This is, in our view, the best pathway to achieve positive results for young people and empower them with the skills they need to succeed.

We often see the opposite: countries dedicating ninety percent of their time and efforts on planning for education reforms and only ten percent on actual implementation. As a consequence, we are falling behind on our universal goal of achieving quality and inclusive education for all by 2030.

What is a ‘must have’ for the delivery approach to work? Are there common pitfalls to avoid?
A must: leadership buy-in at the highest level in the country, and especially with the education ministry. This methodology only works when we have the full commitment from the top leadership in the country.

Furthermore, most countries are faced with limited resources (both financial and human capital). This is why ruthless prioritization is necessary. We must avoid the “business as usual” approach – trying to do everything for everyone at once.

Other “musts” include setting measurable goals, ensuring full transparency in the process, and great communications. You can’t communicate enough, especially across all levels. Communicating is critical so citizens know what is going on and how to hold leaders accountable.

Timing is also critical. The delivery process must align with election, national, and regional budget cycles in order to be effective.

How does the process start?  Who needs to be involved?
It’s critical to involve civil society and the private sector from the get-go. The process starts with a “delivery lab” that brings all the stakeholders together for roughly six weeks to collaborate on the development of a highly detailed implementation plan. Participants include the government, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Local Government, private sector, civil society, academia, teachers, and development partners.

All must be involved in determining priorities and setting targets to build consensus and ownership of the plan. After the lab, implementation commences and it’s tightly focused, managed, monitored, and course-corrected as needed.

How has the approach been used successfully? What were the main ingredients for success?
In Tanzania, we have had successes in multiple sectors including health, education, water, and agriculture. We also made great strides in domestic resource mobilization.

In 2013, we held a delivery lab to look at how to increase mobilization of domestic resources. We aimed to triple non-tax revenues from about US$30 million in 2013 to about US$80 million in 2016, three years later. The non-traditional tax revenues raised in the third year were about US$300 million, far exceeding the targets set in 2013.

The resource mobilization lab that kicked off this process succeeded because all key stakeholders involved were present, including the Tanzanian private sector, with key performance indicators that we all then followed. We jointly found areas that could generate domestic resources quickly. We surprised ourselves with the results.

I believe this same success can be achieved to mobilize domestic resources for education by thinking creatively and working in collaboration across sectors to look at different ways to raise funds.

In May 2017, the Commission held a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya to introduce the delivery approach to 12 African countries. What were the key conclusions from this gathering?
The Learning Generation workshop had two main objectives: (1) to expose participants from the 12 countries to the delivery methodology; and (2) to assess the readiness of the participating countries to take up the delivery approach.

In addition to group sessions, we met with each country delegation individually, and through a detailed analysis we assessed countries’ readiness to take up a delivery process. We are currently working closely with the countries that are most prepared to embark on this process. When a delivery lab takes place in country A, country B will be invited to participate. When country B is ready for their lab, they can then invite country C, and so on. This will help build local capacity and share knowledge across countries.

What would you say to those who may question the significant upfront time and financial investment needed to undertake a delivery lab? Is it worth it?
The alternative to a six-week lab (as well as the necessary preparatory and follow-up time) is at minimum a much longer, more expensive process that could last more than one year. The product is often sub-optimal as plans are not collectively developed.

I have heard concerns about having to allocate the six weeks needed for the initial delivery lab. Yet it is a much better use of upfront time than having to spend 12-14 months to prepare a strategic plan in an ongoing manner. When the planning process is spread out over 12-14 months, the expenditures over time are not seen as clearly.

With the delivery approach, the resulting plan is focused. Thanks to the delivery lab, people are in the same room and able to challenge each other, debate priorities, etc.  This is why the resulting implementation plan is supported by all key actors.

Photo: Omari Issa introduces the delivery approach to delegates from 12 African countries at the Commission’s Learning Generation workshop in Nairobi in May, 2017.