UN-Habitat implements a continuous learning approach in results-based management. As a result, RBM in UN-Habitat is dynamic and flexible, and accommodates change and innovation. RBM in UN-Habitat responds to the higher demands placed on it, and to the fast-changing environment. Moreover, as technology moves forward, opportunities in RBM are opening up.
A number of factors are driving innovation within the main pillars of RBM in UN-Habitat:
- Need for flexible and faster performance management systems. Increased unpredictability, rapidly changing circumstances, and a dynamic environment for public action require more flexible, dynamic and nimble approaches to performance measurement that capture and adapt to rapidly and continuously changing circumstances and cultural dynamics. Traditional approaches of diligently checking if a public policy, programme or service is ‘on-track’ in achieving a pre-defined milestone are often not sufficient anymore. Further, feedback loops of traditional monitoring (with quarterly and annual monitoring, mid-term reviews, final evaluations, annual reporting, etc.) have often proven to be too slow to influence decision-making in time. More real-time updates are required for better use of monitoring information and evaluation findings.
- Theories of change need intermediate outcomes that can be measured quickly and easily. There is an increased emphasis on measuring outcomes (changes in behaviour and performance) as a result of public policy, programmes and service delivery. Due to their nature, however, outcomes are typically more difficult to monitor and evaluate, since data is often not readily available and primary data collection is typically required. A Theory of Change that includes a more proximate series of outcomes or milestones that can be measured and reported on more quickly and easily can be used as a meaningful tool to manage and assure the quality of UN-Habitat’s policies, programmes and service delivery.
- A single method is not sufficient any more. Policies, programmes and service delivery operate in increasingly complex and ever-changing social, economic, ecological and political contexts. No single M&E methodology can adequately describe and analyze the interactions among all of these different factors. Mixed methods allow for triangulation – or comparative analysis – which is better suited to capture complex realities and to provide different perspectives on the effect of policies, programmes or service delivery.
- Need to show evidence of results to donors and Member States. We increasingly operate in an environment marked by resource constraints and dwindling donor contributions, particularly with regard to non-earmarked resources. Donors who are still availing resources for humanitarian assistance and development programmes are looking for organizations that are results-focused and demonstrate value for money. The emphasis is no longer on what organizations can do but rather on what they were able to achieve in the past. UN-Habitat therefore strives to come up with innovative ways to show concrete evidence of results achieved in view of securing needed funding and political support from Member States.
- An innovation is the introduction of something new, a new idea, method, or device. Typical categories of innovations for performance management are a) technological innovations, b) innovative products, c) innovative services, d) innovative processes, or e) innovative interactions and partnerships. It is worth noting that in UN-Habitat we consider a product, process, service or a technology to be an innovation in RBM if at least two of the following criteria are met:
- Significant process improvement. Innovations in RBM are technologies, products, services, processes or interactions that have shown a significant impact on how planning, monitoring and reporting and evaluation are done (not just innovation for innovation’s sake), or have a clear potential to change RBM in order to improve the value or usefulness of performance information. Typically, innovations with a great potential impact also address a core need or core challenge in RBM.
- Catalytic change. Innovations in RBM have to go beyond incremental change and re-frame, re-imagine, or re-combine different existing elements to yield a new pathway. In other words: an innovation in RBM is not simply a better, faster, cheaper way of doing the same thing. It requires going beyond current models of thinking in RBM. That is why it often takes outsiders or unconventional partnerships to break down old paradigms in RBM.
- Concrete. Innovations in RBM must be sufficiently concrete. Ideas and theoretical approaches are not innovations (although they can lead to innovations). Innovations are concrete if they are already being implemented (at least as pilots), can be replicated and are potentially scalable across different contexts and regions.