The World Bank is firmly committed to becoming an organization that is more agile, efficient, and effective. Over the past fiscal year, it has continued to improve its operations, policies, and processes to better serve its member countries.
The Agile Bank Program
The Agile Bank Program was launched in late 2016 to improve ways of working and promote a culture of continuous improvement through a staff-driven approach. Its goal is to enhance client value through more efficient resource allocation and empowered staff.
The Agile approach is an iterative process to make continuous improvement through incremental gains. New ideas are incubated, tested, rolled out if they work, and discarded if they do not. In fiscal 2018, a community of 200 Agile Champions—from across all operational units—was established to accelerate the testing and mainstreaming of the Agile approach. Although the program is still in a relatively nascent phase, hundreds of staff were engaged through training, testing of ideas, and awareness-raising activities. Task team leaders tested Agile innovations in over 230 operations, while more than 15 ideas completed the testing phase and are being mainstreamed. These include more focused project documentation, streamlined meetings, and a more efficient way to co-create solutions with clients. Delegated restructuring and a new multiphase programmatic approach to lending were mainstreamed and influenced by the Agile Program. Preliminary data from a subset of pilot projects show potential improvements on project quality, staff time redeployed to higher value activities, and faster delivery of projects.
Simplifying the way the Bank works
The World Bank has simplified the way its staff works through streamlining, standardizing, and automating processes to make systems more user-friendly and information more easily accessible. Among these measures, expenditure management processes have been simplified; 20 human resources processes have been automated; an eSignature solution has been introduced to accelerate the signing of legal documents; apps have been developed to facilitate approvals, transactions, and access to operational and administrative policies; and current budget information has been made available to all budget holders online. The Bank’s IT infrastructure has been improved through new collaboration tools, a personalized workspace, and a simplified and decluttered intranet, while technology such as robotics is being leveraged to render transaction-heavy processes more efficient. The Bank is also implementing a shared services strategy to find further efficiencies.
Improving the design and use of trust funds
The World Bank manages a portfolio of 751 trust funds, which serve as an important source of development finance and partnership. Complementing IDA and IBRD financing, trust funds account for about 10 percent of the Bank’s disbursements to its clients, and they are critical to the knowledge agenda, financing about two-thirds of all Advisory Services and Analytics activities. Although they provide vital support, the purpose, focus, and alignment with the World Bank’s top priorities vary among trust funds. The largest of them are clearly linked to high priorities for the Bank. The long tail of smaller, highly customized trust funds—the 70 percent that account for only 7 percent of the total value of the Bank’s trust fund portfolio—are more fragmented, making a clear link to priorities and managing tradeoffs more difficult. They also have higher transaction costs for their establishment, fundraising, governance, and reporting requirements.
The World Bank has been working to strengthen the link between funding and strategic priorities and to improve efficiencies by organizing its portfolio around two main instruments: larger trust funded programs (“Umbrella 2.0”), with a strong focus on results; and simpler, more nimble trust funds using fully standardized governance, reporting, and results features. The larger programs would lower transaction costs through coordinated governance and reporting, and elevate the dialogue with partners around shared priorities and mutually desirable outcomes. The Bank is implementing these reforms in an iterative process. Roll-out of the new instruments will start with a pilot phase in the second half of calendar year 2018, with lessons learned informing the final design of the program, before a Bank-wide launch in mid-2019.
The World Bank Environmental and Social Framework
The World Bank is launching a new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) in October 2018. The ESF will progressively replace the current Safeguard Policies for Investment Project Finance operations, with the two operating in parallel for about seven years. The ESF offers broader and more systematic coverage of environmental and social risks, including issues such as labor, climate change, and stakeholder engagement.
Ahead of the launch, intensive preparation and trainings have been implemented. Bank environmental and social specialists are working with government officials, project implementation staff, and key stakeholders—including civil society, the private sector, universities and training centers, and in-country bilateral agencies—to deepen their understanding of the ESF and its requirements. Internally, a management information system to track and manage environmental and social risks is being developed, while guidance materials, good practice notes, templates, and other resources are being created and will be updated over time based upon implementation experience.
Training is being offered to Bank management and staff and includes eLearning and in-person workshops on application of the ESF through case studies. More than 900 staff have completed the training. The Bank is also working with development partners to harmonize environmental and social risk management approaches across institutions.
The World Bank’s Grievance Redress Service
The Grievance Redress Service (GRS) is an avenue for people and communities who believe a World Bank–funded project has caused or will likely cause them harm to raise their concerns directly at the Bank’s corporate level. By fostering dialogue and acting as a facilitator in conflict resolution, the GRS embodies the Bank’s emphasis on proactive problem‐solving and has become an effective complement to mechanisms at the project level and the Inspection Panel. Since its creation in 2015, the GRS has collaborated with operational teams across the Bank in working with complainants to understand their concerns, and identify and monitor actions to resolve them. Building on its growing experience and track record, the GRS is well positioned to support operational teams in early identification, assessment, and resolution of complaints and in channeling knowledge garnered through this work to help identify systemic issues and devise appropriate solutions.
The World Bank Procurement Framework
The World Bank’s Procurement Framework, effective since 2016, plays a strategic role in helping countries achieve better development outcomes in implementing Investment Project Finance operations. It uses a fit-for-purpose approach to allow countries to develop procurement strategies that are tailored to their specific needs, unique characteristics, diverse markets, and project development objectives.
Progress has been made in the implementation of the new framework. All new projects using the framework now prepare Project Procurement Strategies for Development, strategy documents that assess a project’s operating context, the potential impact on procurement, and market conditions, and help to develop procurement arrangements based on these assessments. The use of Alternative Procurement Arrangements, one of the framework’s new features to help countries strengthen their national institutions and improve efficiency, is also underway. Bhutan’s Thimphu Thromde and India’s Power Grid are among the first borrower agencies whose procurement rules and procedures shall be relied upon in future World Bank–financed investment projects. Another new feature is the Hands-On Expanded Implementation Support, which helps to expedite project implementation by offering additional Bank procurement support as appropriate. This arrangement has been used in an emergency health project in Papua New Guinea and a disaster risk management project in Myanmar, and is planned for use in other countries, especially those with fragile or conflict-affected environments.
To date, 202 investment projects valued at $20 billion are or will be subject to the new Procurement Framework, along with 107 small recipient-executed trust fund investment projects worth $137 million. To ensure smooth implementation, several guidance notes to operational teams, borrowers, and the private sector have been developed. Numerous global outreach efforts have taken place to disseminate the framework’s new features, and participating companies consistently confirm that it has helped to create a stronger enabling environment for business.