Understatement of the year, but so true: Supervision matters for effective public services

This is obvious and true, but well worth the experiment because it has to be reinforced over and over again for NGOs and government:
We conclude that sustained supervision is crucial for achieving persistent improvements in contexts where the lack of external competition fails to create incentives for the adoption of effective managerial practices.
After 15 years of running Friends of African Village Libraries, if there is one lesson from experience that is reinforced over and over again it is this: a community librarian that is not enmeshed in a network of supervision and support will quickly become a “sleeping librarian” if he or she even shows up at all.  Effectively delivering public services in scattered locations is very expensive for this reason, but few donors want to recognize this issue.
Many NGOs keep waiting and hoping that technology will help with the problem.  Many NGOs are still waiting for Duflo to deliver those promised inexpensive tamper-proof digital cameras that send (for free!) pictures to a central server and automatically flag absences (and then deduct from paycheck according to rule) and then automatically respond (with compassion but firmness) when librarian sends in four page handwritten letter explaining absences as due to funeral of great-aunt.
The sentence is from a sobering paper “Management, Supervision, and Health Care: A Field Experiment” by Dunsch, Eze-Ajoku, @MMacis, & @tukopamoja.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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