Lessons about Results Data from Sri Lanka

We are proud to debut our Results Data Initiative: Findings from Sri Lanka report. The report delves into the real-world experiences of results data users in the development sector – with a special focus on local governments. We explore how these actors collect data on results (outputs/outcomes), how the data is shared between actors, and to what extent people actually use this data to inform projects, policies and plans.

Combined with the other outputs of the Results Data Initiative (RDI), we hope these voices from local-level data users will inform future investments in results-based management in Sri Lanka. These lessons also have critical implications for the international data-for-development community, and we hope that development leaders, monitoring & evaluation (M&E) thinkers, and data advocates of all types will take a close look at what we’ve learned and provide feedback to help enrich the discussion.

We base our findings on interviews with 150+ local government, donor, and NGO officials in the health and agriculture sectors. We describe the results data “landscape,” highlight successes and failures, and outline a way forward for improving the quality and use of results data. Key findings include:

  • Data analysis is limited to trend and time analysis at district and provincial levels, as the overall lack of understanding and accountability for results places perceived responsibility for data analysis at the national level. Widespread demand for results-oriented data is naturally lacking as a result. But positive deviants do exist – offering powerful examples of how a focus on results and good data can catalyze positive change.

  • For most local actors, “results data” is actually just output data at best – largely activity-based, with little or no reporting of outcomes to reflect changes in health, status, income, or employment. Several forward-thinking respondents called for disaggregated outcome data to inform and improve their work.

  • Across the board, respondents reported that spreadsheets are still the primary – if limited – data management tool. Both agriculture and health sectors are ready for more robust, web-based, real-time data management systems. But these systems must be designed to meet the analytical needs of local actors, and not merely report to national-level systems.

You may access the full report here, which includes recommendations, and more detail about our findings. To discuss this report further, join us for a learning event in DC (or join us online) on July 13. Feedback in any form will be very welcome as we continue to refine our learning.

Stay tuned as we release the Tanzania report over the coming weeks; to download the Ghana country report, click here.

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