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Annual performance statement

Introductory statement

Results

Under the enhanced Commonwealth performance framework, ACIAR achieves its purpose through a single government outcome (Outcome 1) and program (Program 1).

Purpose

To contribute to reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of many in the Indo-Pacific region through more productive and sustainable agriculture emerging from collaborative international research.

Outcome 1

To achieve more productive and sustainable agricultural systems for the benefit of developing countries and Australia through supporting international agricultural research and training partnerships.

Program 1

International agricultural research and development

During 2019–20, ACIAR instigated, brokered and managed research partnerships and programs with approximately 500 research organisations and institutions, across 35 countries in the Indo-Pacific region. There were approximately 200 active research projects and programs (ongoing or commencing).

ACIAR performance for the reporting period was monitored and reported against three key areas of work:

  • multilateral research collaborations and co-investments
  • bilateral country research partnerships
  • capacity building programs.

The investment and design of our projects, programs and partnerships are guided by our high-level strategic objectives (ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027) and evaluated against our performance criteria and targets (ACIAR Corporate Plan 2019–20 and ACIAR Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20).

ACIAR manages and monitors its investments in research and partnerships to maximise impact and returns. We have a well-established approach to assessing adoption of research results and their subsequent impact at a project level. More recently, we developed a portfolio-scale approach to help refine our priorities, learn lessons from current and past projects, and report accurately to our Minister, the Parliament and the Australian public.

We assess our performance through an integrated approach to monitoring and evaluation at a project level and at a portfolio level.

The impact of ACIAR projects, programs and partnerships is complex to measure, as it involves technological and sociological changes in developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, which may be realised over many years, even decades, after the original research investment. The ACIAR monitoring and evaluation framework continues the development and refinement of indicators and their measurability.

The following tables record the performance of ACIAR during 2019–20 against performance criteria and targets set out in the ACIAR Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20.

Multilateral research collaboration and co-investments

ACIAR performance against targets, 2019–20

Performance criteria

Delivery in line with the ACIAR 10–Year Strategy 2018–27 of multilateral research collaborations and co-investment with development partners through the Global Program

Target

Through case studies (quantitative and qualitative), mid- and end-project reviews, long-term adoption studies and impact pathway analyses, and financial activity indicators, as appropriate to each performance criteria, ACIAR will measure the extent to which these are:

· achieved

· on track

· not on track

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 110, Corporate Plan 2019–20, page 12

Area monitored

Consistency as a donor

Performance indicator

% variations in financial support from previous financial year

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

The target was to achieve less than 5% increase or decrease in support for all organisations from the previous financial year and the result for 2019–20 was 6% increase from 2018–19, marginally exceeding the target 5% range. The jump in multilateral spend was the result of a one off injection of funds to support the development and launch of the CGIAR GENDER Platform. GENDER (Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results) is designed to put gender equality at the forefront of global agricultural research for development. This expenditure is in line with the ACIAR Gender Strategy and ACIAR commitment to tackling gender inequity in research design, delivery and impact.

Area monitored

Influence as a donor

Performance indicator

% of supported multilateral research collaborations in which ACIAR is represented on a governance body

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

The target was representation on governance committees for 100% of the supported multilateral research collaborations and the result for 2019–20 was 100%. The result is considered achieved. ACIAR builds and maintains multilateral partnerships with a range of international organisations, institutes and associations that are engaged in agricultural research and the delivery of global public goods. Our goal is to be a valued, engaged donor and a strong, innovative partner in international agricultural research. Partnerships built by the ACIAR Multilateral Collaboration program contribute to Australia’s global citizenship goals. Representation through governance positions provides deep engagement in global forums and ensures that Australia is influential and held in high esteem by the international agricultural research sector, national governments and donor communities.

Area monitored

Complementary expertise accessed through co-investment in emerging areas

Performance indicator

% of ACIAR portfolio managed through a co-investment partnership

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

The target was to continue an upward trajectory towards an 8% level of co-investment by 2022, in line with commitments made in the ACIAR Strategic Plan. This level of 8% was achieved during the 2019–20 financial year. This was largely the result of ACIAR attracting co-investment from national research agencies in partner countries to advance areas of mutual interest.

Area monitored

Maximising investment in priority areas

Performance indicator

Ratio of total ACIAR committed funds: total co-investor committed funds

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

The target was to achieve a ratio of between 1:0.5 – 0.99 and result for 2019–20 was a ratio 1:1 of ACIAR funds and co-investor funds. This is a significant improvement on the previous financial year and means that performance exceeded expectations for this financial year. This result was largely the result of the strengthening co-investment relationship between ACIAR and the International Development Research Center in Canada including through Cultivate Africa's Future Fund.

Bilateral country research partnerships

ACIAR performance against targets, 2019–20

Performance criteria

Delivery in line with the ACIAR 10–Year Strategy 2018–27 of bilateral country research partnerships through ten research programs

Target

Through case studies (quantitative and qualitative), mid- and end-project reviews, long-term adoption studies and impact pathway analyses, and financial activity indicators, as appropriate to each performance criteria, ACIAR will measure the extent to which these are:

· achieved

· on track

· not on track

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 110, Corporate Plan 2019–20, page 12

Area monitored

Project management

Performance indicator

% of annual deliverables submitted on schedule

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

During 2019–20, ACIAR worked with over 70 commissioned organisations, who work with over 457 overseas research organisations to submit deliverables in a timely manner. For 2019–20, ACIAR aimed to have more than 50% of annual deliverables submitted within expected timeframes. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ACIAR was on track to achieve this target, however the pandemic has limited the ability of both Australian research institutions and international collaborators to deliver, resulting in the timely submission of just 32% of deliverables. As business practices adjust to new operating conditions and we implement improved tools for tracking and reporting on deliverable status, ACIAR anticipates it will be able to work with commissioned organisations to improve performance in this area.

Performance indicator

% of annual and final reports submitted on schedule

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

ACIAR aimed to have more than 50% of annual and final reports submitted within expected timeframes during 2019–20. Achieving this target was significantly impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting flux in the Australian University system. As a result just 28% of reports were submitted in a timely manner. This is significantly less than in previous years. As business practices adjust to new operating conditions and we implement improved tools for tracking and reporting on deliverable status, ACIAR anticipates it will be able to work with commissioned organisations to improve performance in this area.

Area monitored

Delivery of intended project objectives

Performance indicator

% of projects concluded during the financial year that rated as good quality or above on the effectiveness criteria in final project reviews

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

ACIAR aimed to have over 70% of concluded projects demonstrating effective delivery of project objectives during 2019–20. The goal was comfortably exceeded with 93% of concluding projects demonstrating achievement of objectives. This is a significant achievement given the complex contexts in which research activities are conducted.

Performance indicator

% of projects concluded during the financial year that rated as good quality or above on the gender equity criteria in final project reviews

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

To reflect the emphasis that ACIAR, and the Australian aid program more broadly, gives to improving the status of women and girls through our activities, ACIAR tracks and reports on how consistently our projects contribute to improved gender equity. In 2019–20 ACIAR aimed to have over 70% of concluded project reviews showing a positive contribution. The result exceeded expectations, with a total of 83% rated as good or above in relation to contribution to gender equity. This places ACIAR ahead of the aspirational threshold of 80% established across the Australian aid program.

Area monitored

Contribution to development outcomes

Performance indicator

% of long-term adoption studies completed during the financial year showing evidence of significant use of identified project outputs by next and/or final users

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

Three to five years after project conclusion, ACIAR revisits a sample of projects to establish how intended users are making use of the knowledge, practice and/or varieties produced through our research. In 2019–20 we aimed to see over 70% of ex-post adoption studies showing evidence of significant use of identified project outputs by next and/or final users. The result exceeded expectations with 93% of studies showing uptake and use by intended users. As researchers can manage for but not guarantee the eventual use of knowledge by intended users, this is a strong result. In this set of cases the projects reviewed were well-judged investments and the implementing contexts were conducive to adoption at the time innovations were delivered.

Performance indicator

% of long-term economic impact assessments completed during the financial year showing benefit:cost ratio of 3:1 or above

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

Five to 10 years after project conclusion, ACIAR revisits a sample of projects to assess the value returned from our research investments (expressed as a benefit:cost ratio). In 2019–20 we aimed to see over 70% of benefit:cost studies show a return on investment of 3:1 or higher. In this financial year, all studies completed showed a return of more than 3:1.

Capacity building programs

ACIAR performance against targets, 2019–20

Performance criteria

Delivery in line with the ACIAR 10–Year Strategy 2018–27 of capacity building programs targeted to agricultural researchers in partner countries

Target

Through case studies (quantitative and qualitative), mid- and end-project reviews, long-term adoption studies and impact pathway analyses, and financial activity indicators, as appropriate to each performance criteria, ACIAR will measure the extent to which these are:

· achieved

· on track

· not on track

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 110, Corporate Plan 2019–20, page 12

Area monitored

Project management

Performance indicator

% of annual deliverables submitted on schedule

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

The target for this area was 100% of annual deliverables submitted on schedule. This includes delivery of the John Dillon Fellowship program, mobilisation of any new John Allwright fellows, progress towards research goals of the existing John Allwright Fellowship cohort, finalisation of the first John Allwright Fellowship executive leadership cohort and the launch of the Meryl Williams Fellowship. This was achieved in the 2019–20 financial year. Key highlights during this period include agile approaches to delivery to account for COVID-19 travel restrictions, including online training approaches delivered and the continuation of research outputs from the John Allwright fellows through re-negotiation of research staging.

Performance indicator

% of total participants identifying as female or non-binary

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

In line with the ACIAR Gender Equity Policy and Strategy, our target is to ensure 50% of participants in capacity building programs are women or non-gender conforming. In 2019–20 this target was exceeded, with 61% of participants identifying as female. ACIAR is committed to increasing women’s voices and access to agricultural technology in developing countries in our region. The Meryl Williams Fellowship, named after a prominent Australian Agricultural Scientist, supports female international agricultural researchers and scientists across the Indo-Pacific to improve their leadership and management skills. The Fellowship contributes to more productive and secure food systems in developing countries by providing women with greater access to resources and decision making. In addition to the targeted Meryl Williams Fellowship, ACIAR has mainstreamed gender equity across all our capacity building programs.

Area monitored

Delivery of intended project objectives

Performance indicator

% of total program participants successfully completing

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

ACIAR acknowledges that completing post-graduate studies in Australia is challenging and in 2019–20 we aimed to have more than 50% participants in capacity building programs complete their training successfully. We massively exceeded this minimum standard, with 98% of participants successfully completing. To maintain standard in 2020–21 we will be continuing to undertake oversight activities of the universities involved in the John Allwright Fellowship program to ensure they are adequately supporting the fellows to complete their masters and PhD programs, especially given the difficult circumstances they are facing in light of the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Performance indicator

% of participants who self-assess their experience of the program as satisfactory or above at completion

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

ACIAR aimed to achieve over 70% of participants self-assessing their experience of capacity building programs as satisfactory or above at completion. In 2019–20 we achieved 100% of participants with a minimum satisfactory rating on their program, and 66% rating their experience as highly satisfactory. This reflects the high quality of capacity building programs, and positively reflects on our providers and design of these courses.

Area monitored

Contribution to development outcomes

Performance indicator

% of total program alumni profiled in qualitative case studies annually who are engaged in relevant sectors

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

ACIAR is on track to achieve the target of over 50% of total program alumni profiled in studies annually who are engaged in relevant sectors in the 2019–20 financial year (91% in 2019–20). In this financial year, ACIAR commissioned an independent review of the John Dillon Fellowship Program, the review demonstrated the relevance of our training program, with 91% of alumni of this program remaining in the agricultural sector over the tracer study period (10 years).

Performance indicator

% of total program alumni profiled in qualitative case-studies annually who self-assess the program as a significant contribution to career development

Target

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Result

Achieved

On track

Not on track

Analysis

ACIAR aims to see over 70% of program alumni profiled in qualitative case studies annually, who self-assess the program as a significant contribution to career development. In 2019–20, 91% of alumni surveyed assessed the program they undertook as having a significant contribution to career development. In 2020–21 we are increasing our efforts in engaging with alumni of ACIAR capacity building programs to gain further insights into the relevance of our programs and re-design approaches accordingly.