New scorecards expose what’s going wrong in the climate finance delivery chain – and pilot how to fix it
With new accountability scorecards able to track how money for climate adaptation projects reaches local communities, ICCCAD's Afsara Binte Mirza explains how they work and the initial findings.
Climate finance for adaptation projects is delivered through a chain comprising actors that provide the funds, intermediaries that allocate those funds and local communities and organisations that implement projects with the money they receive. But not enough money is reaching local communities. The chain needs fixing so more climate finance gets into local hands for local adaptation priorities.
360-degree accountability scorecards examine the journey of climate finance at every stage – shining a light on how the money flows from donors through to intermediaries and down to the local level.
We talked to Afsara Binte Mirza (ABM), research officer at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh. ICCCAD has been piloting the scorecards to assess how well adaptation projects delivered through large development agencies meet the needs of local communities.
Q: What are the scorecards designed to do?
ABM: Currently, donors channel funds to intermediaries and these intermediaries disburse finance to local communities. But very small amounts are trickling down to recipients. They are on the frontline of climate change and in most need of finance to adapt to the impacts.
It’s this top-down structure that is causing bottlenecks and allows money to leak out all the way down the chain.
The scorecards are essentially an assessment tool to build a picture of how climate finance is flowing. ICCCAD co-developed the scorecards with IIED and rolled them out with intermediaries. The information we’ve gathered has given us great insights into what’s happening with the climate finance delivery chain and what could be changed.
Q: What’s the link between the scorecards and the principles for locally led adaptation?
ABM: The scorecards align with the principles for locally led adaptation (LLA). These eight principles have been developed to empower communities to lead sustainable and effective adaptation projects at the local level. At the heart of the principles is a commitment that climate finance should be delivered to local communities that decide how to invest in adaptation in line with their needs and priorities.
These scorecards are a tool for evaluating how well communities are involved in decision making in an adaptation intervention.
Q: What’s the format of the scorecards and how are they used?
ABM: The scorecards consist of 40 questions that link to the LLA principles and can be tailored to local contexts. You can also choose to focus on specific principles of LLA.
We often hear from local communities that there is no consistent clarity around project budgets, so we focused some of our questions on the principle of accountability and transparency. For example, we asked how transparent project budgets really are, were there opportunities to receive and provide feedback, and how that feedback is incorporated into the project.
We also hear that local communities find themselves under pressure to report back to intermediaries to very short timeframes, and that intermediaries feel the same time-pressured reporting demands from donors. So we included questions such as: what was the process of channelling funds to the local level? Who did you engage in this process? How did you incorporate flexibility into the project?
That’s a couple of ways we tailored our scorecards to the Bangladesh context.
Once finalised, the scorecards were translated to Bengali and used to assess projects on the ground. We arranged further interviews and focus group discussions with local partners and local communities implementing adaptation projects.
Q: What did the answers to the scorecards show in terms of addressing the broken elements of the climate finance delivery chain? What could different stakeholders along the chain be doing differently?
ABM: Donors could be more proactive by getting involved from the very beginning, at the project planning stage. They could visit the research area, learn about the community’s culture and socioeconomic and political contexts. All these factors tend to influence the project’s outcomes and can determine the flexibility of funding.
Currently, there is little connection between donors and communities and there is little opportunity for building trust. Donors are hesitant to give large pots of money to local organisations because the trust is not there. To build trust, we need more dialogue, more consultation and more collaboration between donors, intermediaries and local communities.
There is no doubt that intermediaries play an important role, acting as the facilitator between donors and communities. But we saw scope for them taking a step back, to look at the finance flowing to them, and asking: could more of this money go directly to local communities?
Another key issue the scorecards highlighted was around the need for greater flexibility in budgets. We asked a question around how far budget indicators are fixed, and whether there is scope to change budgets mid-project? The responses showed there is little flexibility.
In the case of unforeseen events – from political insecurity to climate disasters such as flooding – communities need to be able to respond quickly. If there is no flexibility to redirect resources, they can’t respond.
This links back to my point about donors being connected to projects – with a clearer idea of realities on the ground, donors would be able to see why project budgets need to be more flexible.
Q: What did local communities see as the biggest benefit of the scorecards?
ABM: The community thought this approach was useful for understanding the finance flow of the whole project. One of the interviewees shared with me that the biggest benefit was the potential to increase the level of involvement of local actors.
We had feedback that the scorecard methodology – which draws information and perspectives from the different actors along the chain, separately – addressed tricky issues around power dynamics. Local communities can sometimes be reluctant, or don’t have the means, to share project feedback with intermediaries, particularly negative feedback. Intermediaries may also be hesitant to have frank discussions with donors about how the project is progressing.
The whole scorecard approach makes the sharing of information easier, more open and more comfortable.
Q: How could the scorecard approach be improved?
ABM: Feedback from one of the respondents of the scorecards – an intermediary ─ was that the scorecard questions seemed superficial and that responses would be based on the subjective experiences. To make this exercise more fruitful there needs to be further investigation into the specific mechanisms within the delivery chain and ways to consider the context of the respondent: a UN organisation for example will be bound by different structures than would an NGO or a think tank. The scorecards could also have questions related to policy landscape and institutional barriers.
Subjectivity could also compromise the quality of responses. It’s possible that responses from actors within the delivery chain could be influenced by thinking about what the overall score might be – for example, responding with ‘high’ or ‘medium’ rather than ‘low’ to protect the image of donors, intermediaries and local NGOs accordingly.
Going forward the scorecards can be framed to assess governance mechanisms within the delivery chain. This will encourage reflection on the challenges and bottlenecks of involving the communities in every step of the project.
Q: What’s next for the scorecards?
ABM: The information gathered in the scorecards brings rich opportunity to share and exchange knowledge for different adaptation projects in different geographical locations, and across different sectors.
There are lots of adaptation projects happening all over Bangladesh but there are few synergies and lots of duplication. The scorecards can be an instrumental tool to draw lessons from projects that are working well. There is so much scope to learn from failures and avoid replicating mistakes.
Additionally, quantitative methodologies could be added to qualitative scorecards to make the process more robust. A valuable next step would be a dialogue across the different organisations that are developing scorecards to learn from each other’s experiences.
It would also be useful to collate and crystalise all the scorecards' findings into a guiding document. Donors, intermediaries and implementing NGOs could use this guidance to be more accountable to local communities in their own contexts going forward.
- Join us at our learning event at COP28, on 3 December at 10am at the LDC pavilion, where we share our experiences contextualising the scorecards and evaluating LLA.