"We can come out with beautiful policies, but policies alone will not do the job."
This is how President John Mahama of Ghana captured the challenge political leaders face in bridging the gap between the vision and the reality, the plan and the results. He was speaking at the Global Network of Delivery Leaders, an event hosted by World Bank President Jim Kim and Tony Blair, and attended by the heads of government of Ethiopia, Malawi, Senegal, Haiti, and Albania.
There is no manual on how to be a President or Prime Minister. And leaders rarely have the space to stop and reflect on how they go about their work. But there is wealth of experience and knowledge out there – in the heads of others doing the same job. This Network is a unique chance for heads of government to learn from each other’s experience of getting the job done.
The group of leaders met to share their experiences of delivering their priorities, the challenges they have faced and how they have overcome them. We and the World Bank will provide technical support to each government to build the institutions and systems they need to deliver progress faster and more efficiently. The leaders have extended an invitation to other leaders around the world to join the network.
In April, the World Bank hosted a meeting on the “science of delivery” to think about how governments can prioritise policy reforms, set up systems of accountability, and monitor progress. The Network is one outcome from that conversation recognising that leaders are central to successful delivery.
I had the honour of observing the first meeting of the network. It was a fascinating insight into the challenges of political leadership and, while the specifics of the discussion were private, I was struck by some themes that we have found in our own work with African Presidents.
First, although the countries represented at the meeting are very different – in terms of size, geography, and history – the leaders all wanted to focus on implementation and shared a frustration that change wasn’t happening fast or deeply enough. As Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said
“We have to focus on getting things done and demonstrating leadership by focusing on delivery.”
Second, they agreed that prioritisation and focus were essential for effective implementation. As President Mahama put it
“We intend to ruthlessly prioritize, and ensure reforms are translated into noticeable results”.
Finally, delivery can never be reduced purely to technical systems and processes, it takes political leadership. As Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania said “I strongly believe that getting this right means you need a combination of the rational and the inspirational. The rational is making sure you set up an effective delivery system, and be on top of collecting information, analyzing it, and then putting it to use. The inspirational part is making the case of why this is really important: doing delivery well means improving education, health care, and all government services for people.”
The work described here was carried out by the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, it is now being continued by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.