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Results based management

Denmark spends about DKK 16 billion on development assistance every year. The funds should be used where it produces most development. This is why Denmark is constantly working to become better at aiming towards goals and results.
A worker at Uganda’s election committee with registration forms from new voters for the presidential and parliamentary elections. Democratic elections secure political influence for the citizens and contribute to the development of stable societies. Photo: Mikkel Østergaard

For all larger programmes and projects objectives are set for the results that are expected to be achieved. The results are assessed both annually and at completion. 

Concrete objective can very. In general a distinction can be made between three different types of goals:

  • Output goals are goals for specific products and services, for example 100 schools that were built or 1000 wells that were dug.
  • Outcome goals are goals for the effects the programmes are to have for the users in the developing countries for example that more children complete basic school or easier access to clean water from new wells.
  • Impact goals are goals for the long-term benefits of a programme to the society, for example, fewer illiterates, fewer deaths due to waterborne diseases, or a more productive workforce.

Whereas output goals are connected with a specific activity, impact goals are usually assessed for the country as a whole.

What are goals and results used for?

Goals and results are worth nothing if they are not acted on. Therefore they form part of a general five-step process. This ensures that the goals are followed up.

  1. Set up the objectives and draw up a strategy for how they are to be achieved
  2. Allocate the necessary resources
  3. Monitor the results to see if they are achieved
  4. Communicate the results to the users and to other interested parties
  5. Take past successes and failure in achieving the objectives into account in the future.

Knowledge about which programmes achieve their goals and the extent to which the results match the resources used forms part of the deliberations concerning the future distribution of development funds.

The partners monitor

In practice it is not Denmark but the partner countries and organisations that are responsible for the programmes and for realising them. It is the partners who create the results – with Danish support.

For this reason it is also the partners who are responsible for monitoring and reporting the results. As a rule, assessment of progress takes place in board-like committees with the participation of Denmark. It is Denmark’s responsibility, together with the other investors and partners in the recipient country, to follow up on the reports.


Setting objectives and measuring results is a challenge. Three of the most important objections to development assistance managed according to pre-determined objectives are:

  • The objectives that can most easily be weighed and measured become those that are pursued. However, they are not always the most important.
  • Development requires that many factors are to be dealt with. A whole programme cannot be assessed on the basis of one single objective or a few objectives.
  • It is often impossible to establish the effect of a small project or of a programme from the large figures for growth, unemployment and life expectancy. Therefore, in practice the objectives often are output targets or outcome targets.

The objections are connected and make working in accordance with pre-determined objectives a challenge. This applies not only to development assistance, but also when working with measurement of hospitals and the primary and lower secondary school in Denmark.

For the challenge to be met, solid, research-based knowledge is necessary — knowledge based on the connection between output goals, outcome goals and impact goals. This is in focus for Denmark and many others, and the discussion takes place under the heading ”Is aid effective?”