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Portfolio Review and CDCS Mid-Course Stocktaking

What is it?

Portfolio reviews and the Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) mid-course stocktaking are complementary approaches for a Mission’s ongoing learning and adapting within the Program Cycle.  Both processes serve as key “pause and reflect” moments for the Mission to generate and apply continuous learning across a broad range of programmatic and operational approaches.  

In a mid-course stocktaking, as in portfolio reviews, Missions can further enhance strategic collaboration and stakeholder engagement, strengthen knowledge transfer among staff and partners, and address organizational practices and culture to better enable adaptive management.  Beyond compliance with the ADS, conducting these exercises helps ensure that lessons learned and changes in the Mission’s internal and external environments are reflected in programming.

Both approaches:

  • Examine: (1) the status of cross-cutting themes; (2) what can be learned from monitoring data, evaluations, partners and program participants, or other sources of information; (3) challenges and next steps for improving performance and (4) what to adapt as a result of learning.
  • Constitute pause-and-reflect moments focused on progress toward achievement of the CDCS, and project results and expectations regarding future progress.

As directed in the ADS, a mid-course stocktaking is required at least once during the lifetime of the CDCS, while portfolio reviews take place annually and sometimes biannually. While a mid-course stocktaking can be used to fulfill the requirement for a strategy-level portfolio review for that year, the main purpose is to assess strategy-level results to align program implementation with contextual changes, guide near-term course correction, revisit assumptions and inform future planning. Portfolio reviews offer opportunities to focus on progress toward results at different levels, whether at the development objective, project, activity level, or a combination of these. However, there are a variety of purposes for conducting either approach, and strategic choices will help define their focus depending on what makes sense for the context and programming outcomes.

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Launch the Mid-Course Stocktaking Module to begin the process.

    Guidance and Tools

    Important Tips

    • What is it you need to know? Build consensus early in the planning process with the Mission Director and leadership to identify clear objectives for the session, to avoid turning the portfolio review into an annual briefing that may prevent focusing on learning and adapting or addressing higher level results.
    • Think about your intended outcomes. What are you hoping to achieve through this process? Both types of reviews may require changes to the strategy. For information on how to document changes to strategies, projects and activities, see ADS Amending and Updating the CDCS and ADS Modifications to Activities.
    • Plan for engagement and follow-through. The success of your efforts will depend not only on its substantive focus but also on who is engaged, the format of the engagement, and appropriate documentation of and follow-through on action results. Engaging local external stakeholders during the mid-course stocktaking is key.  While portfolio reviews are often an internal discussion, there are no limitations on involving external stakeholders when their contributions support the PR goals. An information memorandum, recording any substantive changes in the country context or strategic approach must be developed for the Regional Bureau’s review.
    • Divide and conquer. Co-planning an event like this doesn’t have to mean endless meetings and everyone doing a bit of everything. Often it makes sense to take a divide-and-conquer approach to spread the effort of planning and facilitating across several colleagues. But you’ll be better able to weave together the threads of the event - its format and structure, information gathering and analyzing, topical priorities, and implementation - if you regularly discuss the whole agenda as a team, paying particular attention to where sessions can build on and reinforce each other.
    • Do you have the resources you need? When planning for portfolio reviews or mid-course stocktakings, it is highly encouraged that you consider the extent to which current allocation and management of budgetary and human resources support Mission objectives.