For the latest on the Results Data Initiative, visit the program page.


Our goal is to influence the ways that development actors – both internationally and locally – approach the results data that they collect, share, and use. We hope that our findings will prompt agencies and organizations to rethink the data they gather, and make sure that the right people can use this data for the right decisions.

The Issue

The international development community spends a great deal of time, effort, and money gathering data on thousands of indicators embedded in various levels of Results Frameworks. These data comprise outputs (school enrollment, immunization figures), program outcomes (educational attainment, disease prevalence), and, in some cases, impacts (changes in key outcomes over time).

Ostensibly, we use results data to allocate resources to the places, partners, and programs most likely to achieve lasting success. But is this data good enough – and is it used well enough – to genuinely increase development impact in priority areas?

Experience suggests that decision-makers at all levels may often face inadequate, incorrect, late, or incomplete results data. At the same time, a figurative “Tower of Babel” of both project-level M&E and program-level outcome data can make it difficult for agencies and organizations to share and use data effectively. Further, potential users may not have the skills, resources, or enabling environment to meaningfully analyze and apply results data to decisions. With these challenges in mind, the development community needs to re-think its investments in results data, making sure that the right users are able to collect, share, and use this information to maximum effect.

Our Initiative

To this end, Development Gateway (DG), with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed to “diagnose” the results data ecosystem in three countries, identifying ways to improve data quality, sharing, and use in the health and agriculture sectors. Some of our important questions included:

  • Quality: Who collects data and how? Is data quality adequate? Does the data meet actual needs? How much time does data collection demand? How can data collection, quality, and reporting be improved?
  • Sharing: How can we compare results data from different donors, governments, and implementers? Is there demand for comparability? Should data be shared more freely? If so, how?
  • Use: How is results data analyzed and used to inform actual policies and plans? Does (or can) access to results data improve decision-making? Do the right people have the right data? How else can (or should) we promote data use?

The Approach

Beginning in 2015, we aimed to illustrate the situation “on the ground” for results data users and producers, and to outline what the development community can do to improve quality, ensure comparability, and promote effective data use. Our yearlong effort included two main elements:

Component I: Survey hundreds of results data producers and users in Ghana, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka.

How are results data collected, managed, shared, and used at the local and national level? Working with local research partners, we interviewed up to 200 government officials, donor staff, NGO operators, and others in each country – with special focus given to local-level governments and implementers. Our interviews sought to uncover obstacles to data quality, sharing, and use; highlight success stories; and outline what the development community should do to support results data producers and users. We both shared our learning locally, and synthesized and publicized important findings globally.

Component II: Collect, compare, and link results indicator data from 15+ donors in health and agriculture.

How can we link results data from many sources to see what results are achieved where? and Can we collectively show what works? This quantitative data exercise highlighted what donors can do to share existing output data and outcome information more effectively. We “joined up” data from 15 different donors across three countries, to allow for cross-donor and cross-country analysis of results in health and agriculture sectors. We also documented what it would take for more harmonized results reporting across the development community.

Now, we are putting these findings into practice – working with two country governments and three development partners to increase the use of results data for development decision-making. Read more on the RDI program page. 

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