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2009 CGI: Commitments

September 23, 2009

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If you're familiar with the Clinton Global Initiative, you know that Commitments to Action are the foundation on which much of its good work is built. The CGI site describes them as "new, specific, and measurable initiatives undertaken by CGI members. Varying in size and duration, commitments may focus on diverse concerns, regions, and types of activities."

The tradition at the annual CGI meeting is for President Clinton (or a leader of one of the conference tracks) to preface each plenary and the special sessions with an announcement of new commitments. A day into this year's meeting, new commitments include:

  • A commitment of $30 million from the Omidyar Network to help entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa and India;
  • A $2 million commitment from Peter and Jennifer Buffett's NoVo Foundation to three organizations -- the International Rescue Committee, V-Day, and Women for Women International -- aimed at ending violence against girls and women in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
  • A second commitment from NoVo to alleviate poverty and create sustainable livelihoods for women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovnia, the DRC, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sudan;
  • A commitment by ExxonMobil, Ashoka's Changemakers, and the International Center for Research (ICRW) to help women in developing countries fulfill their economic potential through technology and innovation;
  • A three-year commitment from Plan USA to provide vocational skills and media training to no fewer than 140 adolescent girls in West Africa.

More will be announced over the next two days.

But after the applause has faded, here are a couple of questions we need to ask: How many of these commitments are completed? (According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Ian Wilhelm, the Clinton folks say one-quarter of the 1,400 commitments announced since 2005, the first year of CGI, have been completed.) And, perhaps more importantly, how many have clear and measurable goals attached to them that allow others to evaluate whether they succeeded in making an impact and changing lives.

The Clinton folks are sensitive to this issue and have taken steps to make the whole commitment process more transparent. (There's a dedicated section on the CGI site where you can search/browse previous commitments.)

And, of course, many commitment partners have embraced and are working on their own to be more transparent and accountable for results. For example, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), an international nonprofit that works to help leaders, health managers, and communities in developing nations build stronger health systems, circulated a press release on the first day of this year's event that details results from the first year of its four-year, $12.5 million commitment to introduce and expand performance-based financing (PBF) for millions of people in Rwanda and Haiti.

These are modest but important steps in the right direction, and we look forward to reporting on more such efforts over the coming days, weeks, and months.

Now we'd like to hear from you. What advice would you give the folks at CGI about evaluation and outcomes measurement? And what do you think they could or should do to infuse more accountability for results into the commitments mechanism? Use the comments section below...

-- Mitch Nauffts

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