In June, the Development Portfolio Management Group (DPMG), an organization that aims to help governments, organizations, institutions and their funders monitor projects and rescue investments from potential failure, began working within USC Dornsife’s Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR), an interdisciplinary center that researches topics in the social sciences and economics.
According to Xavier Legrain, DPMG’s director, the breakdown of success is a step-by-step process.
“We break down what we mean by quality or success into a number of key elements,” Legrain said. “We put our minds on defining those, and then rating each one of those criteria allows us to pretty accurately project how things have gone or how things will be going.”
DPMG hopes to assist development funders.
“We hope to basically help the development community do a better job. Development is not an exact science, unfortunately,” Legrain said. “A lot of mistakes have been made and a lot of money is being wasted.”
The DPMG originated in the late ’90s at the World Bank, where it was called the Quality Assurance Group (QAG). It was created in response to a report showing that the success rate of the bank’s projects was alarmingly low.
“What was basically a self-assessment method monitoring how well the projects were doing was just wildly off the mark,” Senior Advisor to DPMG Sue Berryman said. “What we needed was an independent group to come in, look at the projects, at design, as they implement it.”
When Berryman and Legrain’s colleague Arie Kapteyn moved to USC Dornsife and created the CESR, the group’s roster of 600 experts made the move as well.
“[USC] seems really businesslike. In other words, it’s practical,” Berryman said. “It has a large array of faculty in various fields. We’re working on water, on environment, on forestry, on education, health, financial management, procurement, poverty reduction — all sorts of things. So we need a very broad array of knowledge and skills.”
The group hopes to become further integrated with the USC community. This includes creating a pool of candidates for positions as junior researchers and research assistants.
“When we usually need people, we need them very quickly. In order words, we don’t have three months to spare to find the right person,” Legrain said.
Berryman recognizes the importance of working with others outside the group’s roster.
“You put 600 people together, that’s real bench strength in economic development. So we don’t really look to USC for that, but you also need up-to-date theoretical knowledge, you need up-to-date methodological skills, and these are places where USC has got some real strength,” she said.
Both Legrain and Berryman wish to emphasize the breadth of fields with which the group works to the USC community.
“What USC provides in a faster way [is] knowledge and skill to complement ours,” Berryman said. “By putting together our people and USC people, we’ve got a real powerhouse.”
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