IFI governance


World Bank global practices and cross-cutting solution areas

25 September 2015 | Inside the institutions

In 2013, the World Bank Group adopted a new strategy which introduced two goals: to “end extreme poverty” by 2030 and “promote shared prosperity” for “the bottom 40 per cent of the population in every country” (see Observer Autumn 2013). The strategy identified three pillars to support developing countries to achieve the two goals in a sustainable manner: delivering development solutions for clients; servicing clients as “one World Bank Group”; and leveraging the resources and expertise of partnerships.

A new operating model was put in place in July 2014. The new model is centred on a global matrix of six client-facing regional units with country offices in most borrowing countries, 14 global practices (GPs) that bring together technical staff working across all six regions, and five cross-cutting solution areas (CCSAs), smaller teams focused on global issues, such as gender; fragility, conflict, and violence; and climate change, which cut across countries and sectors.

According to the Bank, the operating model is designed to improve the way Bank Group staff share knowledge and solutions with clients and with each other, enrich the global knowledge base with lessons from work in specific countries, and better integrate country, regional and global work – to better serve clients with more integrated programmes.

Global practices

The GPs replaced the Bank’s old matrix management system, which had functional networks, such as “sustainable development” and “human development” with broader remits based in regional areas (see Observer Winter 2014). The GPs are grouped together under three separate vice presidents (sustainable development; equitable growth, finance and institutions; and human development) to strengthen the management of the practices and to make it easier to coordinate with the regional teams.

The 14 GPs bring together the Bank’s technical staff on different themes. The move of technical staff from a geographical area focus to a subject expertise focus was designed to “improve the sharing across all regions of technical expertise and knowledge.” In the old model staff working on water in East Asia, for example, were part of the East Asia regional team and did not necessarily interact with staff working on water issues in other regions. Each GP has four broad tasks: to define the strategic direction and the World Bank’s activity in their respective sector; to develop and deploy expertise globally; to deliver integrated solutions to client countries; and to capture and leverage knowledge in their respective fields.

The GPs consist of pools of specialists and technical staff grouped by expertise in three areas:

Sustainable development

Equitable growth, finance and institutions

Human development

The GP groups are headed by a vice-president, supported by directors and chief economists. Each GP is led by a senior director, supported by one or more practice directors. Below them are multiple practice managers (PMs) with geographical, technical or functional remits. Lastly, technical leads drive the knowledge strategy in key areas within the GP.

Cross-cutting solution areas

The CCSAs focus on five areas identified by the Bank as cross-cutting development challenges, which require integration and collaboration across the GPs. They focus on global advocacy, leadership and action, and integration of these agendas into country-level work. While the Bank Group is more visible globally in areas spearheaded by the CCSAs, the GPs intend to provide global leadership in areas as diverse as Ebola, road safety, urban development, health data and public financial management.

The five CCSAs are:

CCSAs consist of smaller teams than GPs and contribute to a project by addressing issues which fall into their area of expertise. For example, the fragility, conflict, and violence CCSA has experts in procurement of goods and services in fragile environments and worked with countries responding to the Ebola crisis. Each CCSA is led by a senior director, with internal and external advisors providing guidance. Leads from other areas of the Bank Group are involved, creating a channel of representation between, for example the CCSA and a GP or the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private sector arm). Experts from relevant GPs and Bank Group areas are also assigned to the CCSAs to provide knowledge and technical expertise from their practice or area. Lastly, staff who have expertise on gender, for example, but who are based in the transport practice are affiliated with the CCSA. The aim is for the leads, advisors, experts and other staff to share knowledge and capability, while ensuring integration with the rest of the Bank Group.    

Operational structure

The collaboration with the client (borrowing country) is led by the country management unit (CMU). These teams are grouped by region. The country management unit is led by a country director who is the main interlocutor with the client government. The country director and his/her team brings together staff from the global practices and CCSAs to support projects and other activities in the country.

For example, if a country wanted to set up a conditional cash transfer programme, the request may come from a discussion with the country director who would then connect with the global practices and appropriate CCSAs to bring together expertise from similar programmes in other countries, as well as the gender CCSA, for example, to help with targeting.

According to the Bank, the new operating model is making it easier for Bank Group institutions to work together on approaches tailored to individual country contexts. Mechanisms to coordinate at the regional level have also been established to identify opportunities for joint Bank and IFC work on potentially “transformational” engagements. The new model also features joint units, including all CCSAs and two integrated GPs – trade and competitiveness; and finance and markets – which draw on resources of the Bank and the IFC.