Determining the Optimum Cost Structure for a Development Programme

Aim of the Project

A Caribbean development programme, designed to support community development through the provision of grants for community projects, was labelled as high cost due to its relatively high Country Administration Cost to Grant Making Ratio. In other words, the administrative cost of providing the grants far exceeded the total value of the grants that were actually provided. One possible explanation could be that the structure of the programme was either not cost effective or it did not allow for the generation of sufficient grants. Antilles Economics undertook a study to assess the root cause of the high costs and determine the most efficient, effective, results-generating, sustainable and cost-mitigating structure to manage the programme. One unique characteristic of the programme was that it was designed to ensure that support was provided on a country-by-country basis and it was important that this decentralized approach was maintained in any solution.

What we did

We began by reviewing a number of documents on the programme to ascertain background information as well as to lay the foundation for the other approaches to be used. We also gathered information on the management and cost structure of similar programmes internationally to identify best practice.

We then conducted interviews with key stakeholders to establish an initial assessment of the pros and cons of the current system as well as to gather details on the process for approving and providing grants. We also solicited ideas from the volunteers that drove the execution of the programme on the ideal management and cost structure as well as where cost-cutting measures could best be applied. This ensured that any recommendations reflected the experience of those working within the programme, were framed within a set of feasibility parameters and allowed volunteers to maintain the flexibility necessary when utilizing a decentralized framework.

Finally, information was gathered on cost-effective technology solutions that could supplement the existing systems and allow for further cost savings. Wherever possible, these solutions were incorporated as complements to the existing system.

Impact of Project

Four reorganization options were identified and compared in four main areas: ability to maintain the spirit, practice and objectives of the programme; flexibility in the business environment; organisational structure and processes; and, ability to effectively manage staff and volunteers. Criteria were established for each key area and each option was scored based on its ability to achieve the criteria. The best-performing option was recommended to the client. Since adopting the new structure, the client reported improved motivation of staff and increased grant requests.