Rapid Results: Quick fixes for long-term change
For more than half a century, international agencies have tried to help developing nations free themselves of poverty, with too little success. Success has been limited due to systemic barriers; methods have been largely of the ‘big-fix’ kind (typically, grand design development projects, created by external development professionals) and countries have lacked the grassroots implementation capability to make these big programmes succeed. An innovative ‘Rapid Results’ approach turns this development paradigm on its head, offering ‘quick fixes’ that lead to long-term change…
The Rapid Results approach breaks from top-down big-fix programmes and focuses on quick, short-term achievement projects. While the approach doesn’t ‘change the system’ in and of itself, the initial progress and experience of success generated by slicing big problems into manageable pieces create the energy, momentum and confidence people need to tackle systemic barriers to performance and change.
Rapid Results initiatives are “bite-sized pieces of social change”[i] that a village, government office or business will choose and try to accomplish in just 100 days. It is rooted in a results-focussed learning process aimed at jump-starting major change efforts and enhancing implementation capacity. Supported by the Rapid Results Institute and the World Bank, these initiatives have been used successfully in Nicaragua, Eritrea, Kenya and other countries to tackle developmental goals in public health, education, agriculture and economics, producing immediate results and building implementation capacity.
The ‘how’ of the rapid results approach provides a vehicle for strengthening three critical ‘capacity levers’ – the capacity of local leaders to challenge and motivate; local empowerment and accountability; and capacity for cross-institutional collaboration. With each wave of initiatives and each cycle of results achievement, confidence is built at the leadership and local levels, and capacity for implementation and change strengthened:
“Results beget capacity, and capacity begets results … Rapid results initiatives have shown that you don’t need outside experts to run development programmes – local leaders can do it. Through these initiatives, the ‘target population’ ceases to become a target and becomes the driver for change.”[ii]
While the approach is not a silver bullet, it is effective in helping “overcome the implementation gap – the gulf between knowledge of what is important and actually making it happen.”[iii]
[ii] Shaffer R H & Ashkenas, R N (2005) Rapid Results! How 100 day projects build the capacity for large-scale change
[iii] Matta, N & Morgan, P (2011) Local empowerment through Rapid Results, Stanford Social Innovation Review