Evaluation report: knowledge management should be strengthened in development policy and development cooperation
In order to improve its decision-making and to make use of the lessons learnt, the management of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs needs more extensive information about the means that have led to results in development cooperation.
The Ministry has not yet managed to make knowledge-based approaches an established element of learning and decision-making in development policy and development cooperation contexts. The personnel are highly motivated to use the acquired information on results, but learning is mainly based on unofficial work practices and private exchange of views. According to the findings of a recent evaluation, decision-making has usually relied more firmly on, for example, political guidance or the amount of appropriations than on evidence from results information.
The evaluation report, entitled How do we learn, manage and make decisions in Finland’s development policy and development cooperation. Management of results information and knowledge at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, aims to strengthen the use of evidence-informed learning and decision-making in development policy and development cooperation at all levels of the administration. The independent evaluation supports the ongoing, more extensive reform of the practices used in development cooperation, and it looks into both documented information and so-called tacit knowledge and factors behind these.
According to the evaluation, data on results should be saved more systematically and it would be important to verify their accuracy. The Foreign Ministry’s specialists possess much institutional memory and knowledge but preserving, transferring and using the data poses challenges. Much information is lost, one reason being the staff rotation system. Based on the report, there is too little time and opportunities for learning. The Ministry’s management support results-informed decision-making and learning, but there is not yet enough evidence to prove that the organisation learns from the experiences gained while implementing development cooperation activities.
The evaluation recommends that the Ministry should improve access to information related to the results reached in development cooperation, enhance documentation, update the current IT systems, and diversify the employment opportunities of specialists working on results-information and knowledge. In order to make sure that data on results are used systematically, personnel should be provided opportunities for learning, and job descriptions, assessment criteria for leadership competencies profiles, and the annual performance and development review should be re-examined. The implementation of the recommendations should be included in the ongoing reform processes, and its long-term impacts should be closely monitored.
The evaluation is based on individual and group interviews conducted at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, on an external assessment, a study on other similar development cooperation organisations, and field trips to partner countries.