Valuing the unquantifiable? How VFM can be applied to complex projects
Paper Type:
Briefing Notes
October 2012
Increased public and political scrutiny of aid budgets has prompted governments and aid agencies to place even greater emphasis on assessing the ‘value for money’ (VFM) of their aid programmes and projects. However, the impacts of many programmes are not easily quantified. This Briefing Note outlines a solution to this problem, based on a VFM analysis of a large, multi-dimensional development project in Kenya.

Key points in the Briefing Note include:
  • Many aid interventions, such as market development or community led approaches, are designed to facilitate a process of change, rather than to deliver a well-defined physical output. At the start of such a process, there are only informed assumptions. So the projects in question cannot be expected to supply a detailed statement of the precise activities, events and outcomes that will eventually emerge from that process;
  • Moreover, this process involves other players, with the result that attributing the credit for ‘success’ to any one or any group of players will invariably be judgemental. In addition, the complexity of the direct and indirect impact pathways makes it difficult to evaluate them;
  • Despite these hurdles, it is often possible to demonstrate VFM of a programme as a whole by concentrating on a few quantifiable elements, as OPM’s VFM assessment of Kenya’s Financial Sector Deepening Programme illustrates. While not all impacts could be quantified for this project, gains valued at £103.9 million were measured – more than three times the cost of the project.