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Putting people at the heart of institutional change


The application of Results-Based Management (RBM) facilitates UNESCO’s Strategic Transformation and associated change management in a number of key ways. It does this firstly by putting people at the centre of its transformative actions, and secondly by helping construct a collective vision of where UNESCO wants to be – enhancing the Organization’s focus on interdisciplinarity, Agenda 2030, and the Sustainable Development Goals, to achieve better results for Member States populations.

Results-Based Management helps UNESCO focus its Strategic Transformation. It asks, what is the change you want to see in five to ten years? Then it generates a collective reflection which translates into a pathway to that change, and engages people to achieve it.

Othilie Louradour du Souich, Strategic Planning Officer and RBM Team Leader

RBM is a participatory and team-based approach focusing on performance and achieving results. It is applicable to all interventions ranging from projects (led by Field or Headquarters) to Organisational Strategic documents such as the Medium-Term Strategy, and Programme & Budget. It is applied at all stages of the programme cycle – planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting – to improve programme delivery and strengthen effectiveness, efficiency, learning and accountability. Othilie’s familiarity with RBM, and how it applies in UNESCO and within the UN System, help her paint a detailed picture of the role of RBM in moving UNESCO forward with people at its centre.   

Results-Based Management & Change Management define the pathway to sustainability

UNESCO has applied Results-Based Management to its Strategic Transformation to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its means of action. A results framework was developed for its various transformative initiatives, which defines a clear set of desired results and an understanding of how these results will be achieved. This ensures linkages and direct contribution of ground-level outcomes to higher-level Organisational outcomes, and ultimately favours the Strategic Transformation’s sustainability.

Using RBM to monitor the implementation of, for example, staff empowerment or digital transformation, has underlined the importance of keeping people at the centre of the transformation process. This is also the case for the integration of RBM practices in UNESCO’s work, and exposes some of the complexities of change management. For example, where there is inconsistent application or resistance, this can present a barrier to inclusive and participatory approaches. However, these kinds of challenges can be – and have been – successfully addressed through consultations, training and coaching; giving people the means to contribute significantly to the outcomes.

“Coaching was a really good exercise for RBM application, and within one of the Strategic Transformation initiatives the youth team in the Social and Human Sciences Sector especially was really great in carrying the momentum and sharing RBM knowledge. It turned into colleagues helping colleagues, which is excellent,” Othilie explains.

Facilitating UNESCO’s interdisciplinary comparative advantage

UNESCO is currently in the process of preparing its 2022-2029 Medium-Term Strategy, which will direct the Organization’s work for the decade leading up to 2030. RBM, in this context, provides a useful approach for developing and shaping such a complex plan: it helps direct UNESCO’s multidisciplinary mandate towards collective results and objectives.

To some, RBM sounds new, but it is actually a management tool that dates back to the 1950s. In 1997 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi-Annan introduced it to encourage UN system entities to work together towards collective outcomes and impact, harnessing one of the UN’s key comparative advantages: its multidisciplinary mandates. In 1999, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura recognized its potential (with the support of SISTER) to similarly unite UNESCO’s multidisciplinary mandate under one integrated, interdisciplinary, comprehensive framework.

Successful implementation of RBM ultimately helps UNESCO to both clarify and institutionalize its interdisciplinary narrative, while embracing people, and supporting institutional change. This is not only important to stakeholders – beneficiaries, Member States, partners and donors – it also helps UNESCO better pursue its mandate as a specialized, multidisciplinary UN agency. This further facilitates conveyance of the Organization’s mandate and key messages, thereby favouring and increasing stakeholders’ engagement and partnerships.

UNESCO’s vision of Strategic Transformation today is aimed at focused interdisciplinary programmes. This really corresponds to a transformation of working culture in the house, rather than of UNESCO itself. UNESCO is inherently interdisciplinary – RBM just helps us to walk the talk.

Othilie Louradour du Souich

Putting people at the centre of sustainable Change Management

“Change Management itself can happen in many ways: it can be limited to processes, for example, or to structural changes up to transformational changes. But change management must be about people. Placing people at the centre is crucial for it to succeed and be sustainable. It’s not change management otherwise,” Othilie says.

RBM and change management are very much linked: they are defined by the people that make them. UNESCO’s Strategic Transformation, says Othilie, has fit this bill because it incorporated a focus on culture change from the start. This, she says, is a sustainable approach to change management because rather than being imposed, change can be carried forward by the people involved.

Current flagships provide foundation for future success

UNESCO’s focus on interdisciplinarity and people-centred approaches will ultimately manifest itself in the strength of its future results achievement. This is already reflected in some of its current flagship projects, which will provide us with valuable lessons for the future.

There is a programme focused on fundamental freedoms and human rights, especially freedom of expression and safety of journalists and artists implemented jointly by the Communication & Information Sector and the Culture Sector. The results of this project have proven the vitality of interdisciplinarity. They show how UNESCO can achieve results that are greater than the sum of their parts; they actually even go beyond this. Then there’s Net Med Youth – it incorporates all five principles of RBM, and it was carried by youth.

Othilie Louradour du Souich

Other examples are the 2003 Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which have set a framework ensuring that on-the-ground initiatives work simultaneously towards ground-level impact, and Organisational results and international goals.

The Five Principles of RBM + their application in UNESCO’s work

  1. Outcome- & Impact-oriented: RBM defines a set of desired outcomes and impacts. For UNESCO, defining these is not only a logistical boon, but also a key way to facilitate the cooperation of many people of diverse backgrounds – and encourage beneficiary buy-in and ownership for sustainability.
  2. Interdisciplinarity towards collective results: RBM defines a cooperative, inter/intrasectoral path towards its outcomes and impacts. The complexity of the challenges faced by UNESCO necessitates an integrated, interdisciplinary comprehensive response from UNESCO.
  3. Inclusive & participatory approach (including Leave No One Behind):  Successful application of RBM requires inclusive and participatory processes. UNESCO engages with the UN’s whole-of-government, whole-of-society, whole-of-UN approach, as well as whole-of-UNESCO, and is committed to inclusive and participatory work.
  4. Transparency: RBM defines clear pathways of change and facilitates planning, programming, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting along the lifespan of a Strategic framework, programme or project. The sustainability of UNESCO’s work is contingent on the transparency of its processes and approaches.
  5. Adaptive management: RBM allows for and institutionalises adaptation to the multifaceted realities of a Strategic framework, programme or project in complex contexts. In UNESCO this requires an understanding right from the beginning that circumstances on the ground are subject to change. It ensures the use of results information for learning, adaptive management and decision-making.