How UK aid learns
Departments with new aid budgets are increasingly developing their understanding of how to use aid effectively - but more should be done to integrate learning into international development spending across government to ensure value for money.
We published our rapid review looking at how UK aid learns in September 2019 and made four recommendations. When we followed up a year later, we found the government’s progress towards implementing our recommendations to be inadequate. More details about next steps can be found in the ‘Further scrutiny’ tab.
As ICAI has observed in many of its reviews, applying learning to programmes is fundamental to the quality, impact and value for money of UK aid. Since 2015, the UK government has involved more departments in the spending of UK aid. Around a quarter of the £14 billion annual aid budget is now spent outside the Department for International Development (DFID). This has given rise to a major organisational learning challenge, as 18 departments have worked to acquire the knowledge and skills to spend aid effectively.
This rapid review assesses the quality of the learning processes around non-DFID aid. Building on a 2014 ICAI review of How DFID learns, it looks across the other aid-spending departments. It draws on findings from past ICAI reviews of particular funds and programmes, together with light-touch reviews of learning processes within each department, using an assessment framework developed for the purpose. Our findings are intended to encourage departments to look in more depth at their own learning needs and capabilities. We also assessed how well aid-spending departments exchange learning with each other and with DFID.