Delivering technical assistance through a facility is increasingly understood to be the most effective method of delivering aid in an environment which is politically complex and fast moving, offering excellent value for money and aid impact.
Unlike a regular technical assistance programme, a facility sees the donor define the outputs they would like to see while leaving the technical detail of the approach which should be taken fluid, placing a premium on the adaptability, connections and technical ability of the implementing partner. For a more detailed exploration of what a facility entails, please see our Guardian Development Professionals Network article here.
The advantages of a facility programme are often seen as being counterbalanced by the risks involved for the donor in delegating authority to the implementing agent. However, as Adam Smith International’s award winning Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Programme (NIAF) has shown, it is possible to significantly mitigate risk through the combination of a trusted implementing partner with a facilities track record and a clear articulation of the programme’s place in the donor’s overall strategy.
With these mitigation measures in place, the facility model offers the following advantages for donors:
1. Facilities provide demand driven support. This means that because interventions are developed in response to an existing government demand they benefit from existing political buy-in and institutional ownership. A well designed facility allows immediate, unconstrained response to such demand.
2. A facility is able to rapidly scale-up and replicate successful interventions when it is apparent that they have strong client support and are effective.
3. On the same point, facilities can learn lessons quickly, adapting or abandoning approaches which are failing early in their development. This works to maximise value for money by minimising spend in low- or no-impact areas.
4. A facility captures economies of scale for many small interventions through a single, centralised management unit with financial and administrative capacity spread across interventions meaning these interventions can be delivered much more cost effectively than if individually managed.
5. Facilities are able to respond in a fast, flexible manner to developments on the ground. This means they are best positioned to take advantage of short-lived windows of opportunity as they arise.
6. The flexibility of the facility model allows it to build much better relationships at a client level – rather than rigidly defining the scope of an intervention from above, facilities build trust by working constructively with clients to identify and address needs from the inside, making them highly trusted development partners.
7. Small technical assistance interventions under a facility model can be completed in weeks or months rather than years meaning cumulatively better outcomes with substantially lower time costs.
8. Facilities are ideally suited to rapidly evolving situations on the ground – they allow donors to specify broad objectives without locking in a technical strategy which may be rendered void by developments on the ground.
9. The logical framework for a facility should also be dynamic. This allows the donor maximum flexibility to vary its scope over the course of its lifecycle, capitalising on opportunities arising from the relationships developed by the programme and giving space for developing donor priorities.
10. A facility hands control to the technical experts on the ground who are engaged with the clients. It establishes the outcomes the donor wants to see achieved but allows technical experts to determine how best to deliver those outcomes given the constraints on the ground.
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