AgResults Shares Achievements and Findings During World Bank Webinar Series

May 3, 2021

corn sprouting in a field

These days, with the shift toward blended finance in development funding, Pay-for-Results (PfR) prizes and other pull mechanisms are gaining momentum to solve market challenges. But they are still not widely understood. A recent World Bank webinar series explored different facets of AgResults’ experience with PfR prize competitions.

Hosted by the World Bank’s Open Learning Campus, “Pay-for-Results: From Concept to Design to Lessons Learned” comprised three hourlong sessions, unpacking the initiative’s overall goals, best practices in prize design, and learning over the last eight years. Each session featured remarks from a representative from AgResults’ Steering Committee followed a short presentation, culminating in a robust Q&A with the audience. Chris Brett, Lead Agribusiness Specialist at the World Bank and AgResults Steering Committee member, moderated the three sessions.

“The funding landscape is really shifting toward blended finance and private sector resources,” said Mr. Brett. “We’re trying to demonstrate how important it is for the private sector to invest and transform agricultural markets.”

Setting the Stage of How and When to Use Pay-for-Results

The first session, “What are Pay-for-Results Prizes and Why Do They Matter?” (full recording here) took place on April 15 and introduced AgResults’ PfR prize competition model, highlighting certain contexts in which it can be a powerful method that engages the private sector and drives resilience.

“We’re looking at questions of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness to see how pull mechanisms do versus push mechanisms,” said Orin Hasson, who represents the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the AgResults Steering Committee. “There are certain places where this approach works really well and others where it does not.”

The session also reflected on opportunities and challenges around embedding Pay-for-Results approaches into the larger business environment.

“We’re creating mini enabling environments that encourage the private sector to scale these technologies and create a more resilient and functional market,” said Justin Kosoris of the AgResults Secretariat.

A Deeper Drive into Impactful Prize Design

The second session, “Designing Impactful Prizes to Address Development Challenges,” (full recording here) took place on April 22, focusing on AgResults’ prize design process. During this webinar, the experts provided an overview of the five phases of prize design, from concept sourcing through prize structuring to verification.

Attendees learned about AgResults’ recent prize design toolkit, an interactive PDF that provides step-by-step instructions on the design process and includes real-life examples and worksheets to teach best practices.

“As donors, a fundamental goal is to intervene in markets in a way that achieves the most positive, long-lasting development impacts for the least cost,” said Tristan Armstrong, who represents the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the AgResults Steering Committee. “Through experimentation and iterative design optimization, AgResults has built evidence about what does and what doesn’t spur sustainable market change.”

Reflections on Achievements and Setbacks

The third session, “Learning from 8 Years of Using Prizes to Transform Markets” (full recording here) took place on April 29 and explored the most important – and surprising – learning from AgResults. During the hour, the panel reflected on lessons that have emerged from prize sourcing and design, competition launch, and project oversight. The discussion highlighted the value of learning from both success and failure.

“If we expect people to take risks – and we do that in most of our programs – we have to accept that a lot of what we do won’t work,” said Alan Tollervey, who represents the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) on the AgResults Steering Committee. “But by drilling into the reasons why things have been less successful, we can really capture the key evidence of what’s happened.”

As the third session wrapped up, it was clear to attendees that AgResults is well-positioned to contribute to the development sector’s collective knowledge about how, when, and where to apply Pay-for-Results for maximum impact.

“Now we’re at the richest phase of AgResults yet,” said Rodrigo Ortiz of the AgResults Secretariat. “We have lessons, we have results. We want to make this a mainstream methodology – which is not to say that it should be used in every case – but Pay-for-Results is a tool just the same as you have other tools. And we have the robust evidence base to prove it.”

For more information, check out the recordings of all three sessions:

The World Bank’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) provides dynamic learning opportunities where diverse audiences around the world can learn at their own pace and access critical knowledge and materials to tackle development challenges.

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