// Current donor approaches toinvestment prioritisation
Informal consultations were held with repre-sentatives from seven donor organisations todiscuss their current priority setting mecha-nisms. Representatives were interviewed fromBMZ, CIDA, DFID, EC, GIZ, OECD, USAID andthe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.Most donors reported using informal processesto set priorities because they lack capacity,resources or staff time to conduct formal,technical priority setting exercises. Somedonors have at times engaged in formal prior-ity setting, but not on a regular basis. Donorsindicated that the provision of reliable evi-dence is their most important criterion inevaluating priority setting mechanisms.Several interviewees hinted that easier-to-use methods might lead to more widespreadformal priority setting.Donors had a favourable impression of analyt-ical methods, but none use them on a regularbasis. Some stated that increased sharing ofexperience among donors and formal collabo-ration with other donors might improve theirability to utilise these methods. Few have in-house capability to conduct the exercises.Some were concerned that the evidencebase―in favour of agricultural research―isweak for nonefficiency objectives. They feltthat much of the academic priority settingliterature focused too closely on efficiency,while many politicians currently favoured non-efficiency objectives.Donors are concerned about tradeoffsbetween objectives and would like means ofevaluating these tradeoffs when settingresearch priorities. In addition, there is aneed to consider aid effectiveness principlesand to ensure that objective priority settingmethods address the needs of developmentpartners. A challenge for donors will be toensure that analytical priority setting processescomplement the priority setting processes oflocal, national, regional and global researchpartners―i.e. GCARD, CAADP, CGIAR, SROsetc.Given the feedback through donor interviews,the following distillation of the completereport may provide insights on ways to moreeffectively use systematic approaches to pri-ority setting for agricultural research andnonresearch investments.
THE HOW-TO OF INVESTMENT PRIORITYSETTING
Most donors employ informal, semi-structuredprocesses to set agricultural research priori-ties―and lack capacity, resources or time toconduct formal, technical priority setting exer-cises. However, it is possible to improve the pri-ority setting process and facilitate greater coor-dination and cooperation among donors.To that end, the authors recommend that donors• Systematise the prioritisation process• Make use of accepted theory and availableinformation• Use quantitative tools where practical andcredible
A five-step sequence of practices can be usefulfor setting priorities for most donors1. Identify goals2.Specify potential alternatives (topics or institu-tions) to be prioritised3.Project contributions of research topics(institutions) to the goals4.Consider tradeoffs associated with alternativepriorities5.Compare priorities to the current portfolio oftopics or institutional investments and vet anychanges against political acceptabilityProjecting contributions of research to specificgoals can be accomplished by applying a subsetof impact assessment tools, can make use of theresults from meta-analyses of previous researchon the topics, or can make use of indicators ortheory. A formal prioritisation process is notcompleted each year but should be undertakenwhen a new strategic plan is developed or atleast every five years. Adjustments to prioritiescan be made more frequently, and targetedimpact assessments can be undertaken toinform those changes.To effectively prioritise research investments, itis critical to understand potential impacts fordifferent research investments by using variousmethods for research impact assessment(table 1).
Platform Policy Brief I No. 8
Global Donor Platformfor Rural Development
Tackling rural poverty,together