Delivering on grants-plus

November 02, 2010
IDRC Communications

Strategic evaluations, appropriate human resource policies, communicating results and contributing to key debates, and investing in technology: all contribute to IDRC’s successful implementation of its grants-plus model.

Evaluation Unit

The Evaluation Unit supports Centre programs in articulating and demonstrating the results of their development research interventions. It manages, conducts, and supports three main types of evaluation:
  • Strategic evaluations that cut across various programs and projects to assess corporate results and programming modalities;
  • External reviews of IDRC programs; and
  • Evaluations designed and led by programs of particular projects, themes, results and organizations.
The Unit also supports the development of tools and methods for development research evaluations and strengthens the evaluation capacity of IDRC staff and partners and creates learning processes. In addition, the Unit supports the development of evaluative thinking as a core process within IDRC.
 
Strategic evaluations
 
Strategic evaluations broaden IDRC’s understanding of issues of importance to staff, management, and partners. They provide evidence of the success and/or failure of Centre efforts in particular areas, identify ways to improve how the Centre works, and strengthen the Centre’s evaluative culture. Two strategic evaluations were completed during 2009–2010:
  • The devolution of activities from Centre programs or secretariats to independent entities. Since 1992, IDRC has established and subsequently devolved or closed 15 international secretariats. The strategic evaluation of past devolutions developed seven guiding principles for effective future devolutions.
  • IDRC’s participation in large conferences. This evaluation identified the need for more conscious planning to maximize efficiencies and to make it easier for the Centre to monitor the real costs and outcomes from large conferences.
External reviews
 
Every five years, we undertake external reviews of each program. Panels of independent experts in the relevant fields conduct these reviews.
During 2009–2010, we organized reviews of programs within the Social and Economic Policy area, of the Canadian Partnerships Program and of the Evaluation Unit itself. The latter review strongly endorsed IDRC’s approach to evaluation and the decentralized nature of the Centre’s system. It also noted the importance of the efforts to search for improved approaches to evaluation. The review recommended that the Unit needs to strengthen the communication of its work to the rest of the Centre.
The results of these reviews are being used to develop new program prospectuses and strategies. During 2010–2011, we have planned reviews of five initiatives, including:
  • Information and Communication Technologies for Development (Acacia, Pan Asia Networking, and Connectivity and Equity in the Americas)
  • Innovation, Technology and Society
  • Governance, Equity and Health
These reviews will complete the third cycle of external program reviews at IDRC.
 
Program and project evaluations
 
In 2009–2010, the Evaluation Unit received 22 projectand program-level evaluation reports from various IDRC stakeholders. A quality assessment noted a drop in the overall percentage of acceptable reports over the previous year. This issue will be followed up with programs in the coming year.
 
Promoting an evaluative culture
 
The Evaluation Unit organizes Innovation in Evaluation: Ideas Worth Sharing, a series of presentations and workshops on evaluation for IDRC staff and leading experts in monitoring and evaluation. This past year the Unit held three events:
  • Practical implications of complexity for evaluation
  • Talking evaluation with Michael Quinn Patton: Taking use to the next level
  • Impact evaluation seminar

Web analytics The Unit also explored the use of Web analytic tools to observe the flows of information and ideas in real time and evaluate the dissemination and uptake of research through the Internet. IDRC’s exploratory research focused on outcome mapping as a case study. The research determined that when the Internet is used as a repository of research and ideas, Web analytics can be used to infer meaningful information about their spread, use, and potential influence.

 

Human resources (HR)

On March 31, 2010, IDRC’s workforce was composed of 387 Ottawa-hired staff (OHS) and 118 locally engaged staff (LES) compared with 371 OHS and 114 LES as of March 31, 2009. About 90% were paid from Parliamentary appropriations; 10% were paid through projects from donor contributions obtained as a result of partnership agreements.

In its third year of implementation of the Human Resources Plan 2007–2010, the Centre remained focused on three HR themes in 2009–2010: 1) investing in our people; 2) enhancing our capacity to manage HR; and 3) attracting and retaining talent.
 
Investing in our people
 
The nature of IDRC’s work requires a highly educated and experienced workforce. In 2009–2010, the Centre continued to invest in language and professional training: More than 450 employees participated in learning events within and outside the Centre. More than 80 employees went through orientation training, while more than 125 managers and employees participated in “HR Cafés” to quickly learn about a variety of human resources-related subjects in an informal setting.
 
More than 100 employees took part in language training (French, English, Spanish). Centre staff also pursued training in specialty areas, including information technology, accounting, evaluation, workplace health and safety, project management, and epidemiology.
 
During the year, we continued to focus on developing leadership and management skills. We launched a 360 degree feedback project on a pilot basis. We constructed this exercise using the senior management and middle management IDRC competency profiles. We offered leadership and management training and coaching to more than 40 managers at various levels.
 
As well, we undertook several other new initiatives, including the approval of a new Career Development Policy and the organization of the first Forum for Administrative Professionals to address this group’s professional development needs.
 
Enhancing our capacity to manage HR
 
IDRC’s culture is one of consultation, respect for diversity, high performance, and continuous improvement. In managing human resources, this translates into robust mechanisms and processes to hear from staff.

In 2009–2010, there were exchanges at town hall meetings, a forum for administrative professionals, HR Cafés, a regional learning forum, and quarterly meetings with the Advisory Committee on Regional Offices and Human Resources Management Committee.

We also launched a systematic review of HR policies and guidelines. Our aim is to provide managers and employees with clear and useful documents outlining the unique characteristics of IDRC’s HR management regime. Finally, IDRC began collecting feedback on key HR services. We found that for services surveyed — documentation of new employees, health briefings for first-time travellers, provision of pension estimates and advice, conducting of staffing processes — we met or exceeded client expectations in 97.5% of cases.

Attracting and retaining talent
 

IDRC continued to advertise widely available positions to attract the people we need to achieve our mandate. We received 8,753 applications during the period — an average of 123 applications for each of the 71 positions advertised. Staff turnover rate — the percentage of employees entering and leaving IDRC as a proportion of the average number of employees — declined to 11.37% from 13.39% in 2008–2009. This decline is consistent with what is reported by the Conference Board of Canada and is in part attributed to economic circumstances. Unplanned departures represent a risk to an organization, but IDRC’s rate is not alarming, although the financial and human resources implications do create pressures. For this reason, we continue to closely monitor the turnover rate.

The diversity of IDRC’s workforce is critical to its success and the Centre strives to create a workplace that reflects the Canadian population. In 2009–2010, IDRC conducted a self-identification awareness campaign for the purpose of employment equity. This showed that women and visible minorities are well represented in IDRC. However, despite special initiatives adopted in 2008–2009 and continued throughout 2009–2010, we must still make progress in the representation of Aboriginals and persons with disabilities.

Human Resources Plan 2010–2013

With the adoption of the Strategic Framework 2010–2015, the Centre approved a new Human Resources Plan that aligns with corporate objectives and builds on existing strengths. The plan recognizes IDRC’s unique organizational requirements as well as global HR challenges.

The new plan establishes three key HR themes:
  • Finding and growing talent globally
  • Providing a stimulating workplace
  • Enhancing the Centre’s capacity to manage human resources
We have grouped the activities planned over the life of the plan into four categories:
  • Harnessing staff strengths;
  • Facilitating meaningful communication;
  • Modernizing HR operations and processes; and
  • Enhancing wellness initiatives.

Communications

The Communications Division works to ensure continued and increased support for research, to raise awareness and knowledge of IDRC, and to build the communication capacity of staff and grantees.

 

The division also works with program staff to ensure that results from IDRC-supported research are disseminated, known, and used by a wide variety of publics, both nationally and internationally.
 
Expanding our Canadian network
 
IDRC increased its efforts this year to engage with parliamentarians and other Canadian decision-makers responsible for the future of the Centre. One of the key means for doing so was the India Lectures series, launched in 2009: 15 eminent thinkers participated in these public conferences held at IDRC’s head office, 10 of them in 2009–2010. Guest lecturers at IDRC also included 14 leading development experts. In February 2010, we launched our Speakers of Renown lecture series to mark our 40th anniversary. Two lectures in that series were held this year and we plan a further 11 before the end of December 2010.
 
IDRC also published six opinion pieces in the Hill Times Policy Briefing supplements and provided briefings to parliamentarians throughout the year.
 
Raising awareness of IDRC and sharing knowledge
 
In 2009–2010, IDRC published 27 books on IDRC-funded research through co-publishing agreements with 19 commercial and academic publishers in Canada, Europe, and developing countries. All IDRC books are fully open access. More than 101 titles are available free of charge on the IDRC website and on an annual corporate CD, of which some 30,000 were distributed this year. The books can also be accessed through Google Book Search and from Library and Archives Canada, as well as through a variety of e-book vendors.

This year, we started a new flagship collection, Insight and Innovation in International Development, in collaboration with Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. We plan to release the first title later in 2010.

To reach Canadian academic audiences, a dozen IDRC staff and alumni spoke at universities across the country during CIDA’s International Development Week. IDRC also had information kiosks at two major academic gatherings. Program staff and grantees hosted and participated in numerous events around the world, including the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

In future, IDRC will increase its efforts to reach nonresearch audiences, particularly policymakers and other stakeholders in policy debates.
Media coverage of IDRC tripled this year: 3,640 reports reached an estimated 126.5 million people, compared to 1,071 reports with an estimated reach of 46.5 million the previous year. Domestic coverage increased by 128% while international coverage increased by 54.7%. The primary source of coverage was online media, including Internetbased newspapers, radio, and television. This year, as last, the tone of media reports on IDRC was overwhelmingly positive.
 
IDRC’s public website is a vital medium for reaching the Centre’s varied audiences. Some 3.5 million people visited the site in 2009–2010. We are now working on a redesigned site that we will launch in October 2010. We feature new website content in our e-newsletter, IDRC Bulletin: We send 10 issues of that newsletter annually to 15,000 subscribers in 120 countries.
Our website also prominently features the results of 40 years of IDRC-supported research. We added some 5,000 research documents to our digital library, a cornerstone of our communication and information management system. Some 45% of the 42,000 documents are accessible full-text online.
 
Increasing communications capacity
 
IDRC staff and grantees need the right tools and skills to communicate research results effectively. Hundreds of grantees received training this year in various aspects of communications. For example:
  • 15 journalists from Cameroon honed their ability to report on development research at a 3-day workshop.
  • 50 participants at a Pan Asia Networking meeting in Malaysia were trained in strategic communications.
IDRC’s Communications Toolkit for Researchers is available in English, French, and Spanish on the IDRC website and on CD-ROM.

Increasing capacity in research communications is a key objective of IDRC’s Communications Strategy 2010–2015, which we will submit to the Board of Governors for approval in June 2010.

IDRC’s 40th anniversary in 2010 provides enhanced opportunities to raise awareness of the Centre in Canada and internationally. We have organized a series of 40th anniversary events in Canada and internationally through our regional offices, all of which focus on the results of 40 years of research. Print and Web products and an increased presence in social media support these anniversary events.

In October, Wilfrid Laurier University Press and Les Presses de l’Université Laval will publish a history of IDRC by two independent historians.

Information management and technology

 
Research information is a core IDRC asset. In 2009–2010, IDRC adopted an information technology/information management strategy to
  • create a single entry point to the Centre’s information and business processes;
  • improve how staff collaborates, shares documents, and preserves knowledge, both internally and with partners and grantees;
  • make the sharing of knowledge through the Internet more effective; and
  • explore, deploy, and support useful new technologies, economically and quickly.
To achieve these objectives, IDRC started to implement a Basic Content Services initiative to help manage its information infrastructure. A high priority for this initiative will be to support the redesign of IDRC’s website.

The Committee on Corporate Architecture assesses and aligns IT/IM initiatives against existing and future requirements, ensuring that IDRC systems are up to date. During 2009–2010, the Information and Technology Division upgraded the server rooms and introduced server virtualization technology into every IDRC office. Advances in server hardware and processor technology enhanced efficiency within the server environment and reduced IDRC’s global server environment from 75+ servers to fewer than 25 physical machines to reduce the Centre’s carbon footprint. The reduction in power and cooling consumption will bring IDRC one step closer to greening the server rooms while achieving significant cost reductions.

Risk management

IDRC operates in environments where research infrastructure is weak, institutions fragile, and political and economic conditions unstable. Innovation is rarely risk-free. IDRC is mindful of the risks that it takes and seeks to manage them to achieve its corporate objectives.

IDRC manages risk:

  • Strategically — by ensuring a sound governance and accountability structure overseen by our Board of Governors;
  • Programmatically — by working within a defined strategic and program framework and employing sound management processes to achieve results; and
  • Operationally — by applying a set of systems and internal controls designed to manage the risks to achieving corporate objectives in the context in which IDRC works.
Identifying and assessing corporate risk
The Centre’s corporate risk profile identifies and assesses the key risks to be monitored, managed, and mitigated.

Strategic risks are related to the Centre’s reputation, the continued relevance of its work, the Centre’s accountability for program and financial results, and for the provision of necessary and reliable information on performance. We address funding risks by maintaining constant contact with the Canadian government and with our donors.


Programming risks
arise with regard to
  • the countries where IDRC works;
  • the donors, research partners, and recipient institutions we work with;
  • the research methodologies used; and
  • the potential for results.
These risks form the core of IDRC’s corporate risk profile and are addressed by the Centre’s formal risk management processes.

Operational risks
relate to the Centre’s operations and its financial, human, and information resources. Risk management strategies include:
  • ensuring the adequacy of financial controls;
  • maintaining an adequate staffing complement;
  • ensuring a healthy and safe work environment; and
  • providing effective systems to capture, secure, and disseminate information for decision-making.
Managing risk
 
The professional expertise of IDRC staff deployed in a systematic, proactive, and continuous manner allows us to manage innovative approaches and their associated risks. IDRC relies on its staff to apply their specific knowledge and skills to particular situations. It is this key element that allows the Centre both to innovate and manage risk.
 
Internal audit
 
Internal audit is a key element of IDRC’s accountability framework and is managed by the Risk Management and Internal Audit Unit. The Unit assists the Centre achieve its objectives through evidence-based analysis. IDRC employs a co-sourced internal audit model, and in 2009– 2010 entered into a three-year agreement with Ernst & Young to be the Centre’s primary provider of internal audit services.

In 2009–2010, IDRC’s Finance and Audit Committee received the results of two audits:

  • The Information Management audit provided assurance on the generally good structure and system of controls in place for managing IDRC’s information stores. Changes that resulted from the audit include the development of an information management vision and strategy for the Centre. The audit also highlighted the importance of ensuring that user system and training needs are met by the planned replacement of the Centre’s information management system.
  • The Project Management and Monitoring audit reviewed one of the Centre’s core business processes. The audit confirmed that IDRC has established and is operating within a project management framework to align research projects with program goals, objectives, and outcomes, while safeguarding the organization’s assets. Management’s response to the audit will result in improvements to the Centre’s project management processes for risk management, performance monitoring, and documentation protocols.
In addition to these completed reviews, two audits were in progress at year-end on contracting and on the Centre’s Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa. 

Senior Management Committee 2009–2010


D
AVID M. MALONE President (Chair)

FEDERICO BURONE Regional Director, Latin America and the Caribbean

 
MICHAEL CLARKE Director, Research for Health Equity; Director, Information and Communication Technologies for Development
 
SYLVAIN DUFOUR Director, Finance and Administration Division
 
NASER FARUQUI Director, Innovation, Policy and Science
 
CONSTANCE FREEMAN Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa
 
RICHARD FUCHS Regional Director, Southeast and East Asia
 
BRENT HERBERT-COPLEY Director, Social and Economic Policy (resigned October 13, 2009)
 
JEAN LEBEL Director, Agriculture and Environment
 
STEPHEN MCGURK Regional Director, South Asia and China
 
ROHINTON MEDHORA Vice-President, Program and Partnership Branch
 
LAUCHLAN T. MUNRO Vice-President, Corporate Strategy and Regional Management
 
ANNETTE NICHOLSON Secretary and General Counsel
 
LINE NOREAU Director, Human Resources Division
 
ANGELA PROKOPIAK Director, Communications and Parliamentary Relations (appointed August 4, 2009)
 
EGLAL RACHED Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
 
CHANTAL SCHRYER Director, Communications and Parliamentary Affairs (resigned April 30, 2009)
 
GERD SCHÖNWÄLDER Director, Policy and Planning Group
 
SUE SZABO Director, Social and Economic Policy (appointed March 15, 2010)
 
KATHRYN TOURÉ Regional Director, West and Central Africa
 
DENYS VERMETTE Vice-President, Resources and Chief Financial Officer