ISE Toolbox

Citizen-centered tools, techniques and solutions

Founded on global best practices, ISE’s tools deliver results to make governments, international organizations and communities more inclusive and accountable to citizens.

Our toolbox offers analytics and mechanisms for leaders and citizens across all levels of government and society to identify their existing assets, design and implement critical reforms and coalesce stakeholders around a shared transformation agenda. ISE’s tools address process and systems challenges to governance – from public finance and communication to agenda setting – and can be adapted for various contexts.

Explore our tools below.

Asset Mapping

Institutional & Organizational Assessment

National Accountability Diagnostic

Communications Assessment

Donor Plan Review & Gap Analysis

Reform Sequencing Tracker

Critical Stakeholder Inquiry

Data Asset Mapping

Collaboration for Delivery Workshops

Asset Mapping

An asset map is a comprehensive attempt to identify, categorize and value the tangible and intangible public assets—from traditional financial and fixed capital to other important categories like human, heritage and natural capital.

Rooted in its expertise in state institutions and building on existing techniques like asset-based community development, ISE has developed asset mapping as a reframed perspective in which a country’s assets and opportunities are recognized as drivers of progress. Shifting the conversation, it recognizes internal actors and resources as critical catalysts for change and the foundation of state progress.

Shifting the focus from short-term needs and risks to long-term assets and capabilities

By shifting the focus from risks, liabilities and annualized cash flows, asset mapping supports a holistic and sustainable consideration of assets in the long term, including those that have accrued in the past.

Improving asset management and the strategic use of a country’s resources

Knowing your asset base is a central strategy for effective asset management. The asset mapping process can deepen a state’s understanding of key regional systems, linkages and clusters to stimulate more imaginative approaches to existing assets.

Strengthening accountability around the use of a country’s assets

Asset mapping—as well as the creation of asset registries and improving the coverage of the country balance sheet—documents assets securely and transparently to prevent capture.

Building networks of stakeholders around shared strategic visions to improve state capability

The process of creating asset maps engages community members and other stakeholders in a local, regional or national development effort—forming the cornerstone of future development activities.

Asset Registry
  • The database of all tangible and intangible assets
  • Provides the basis for asset management
Balance Sheet
  • A measurement of assets and liabilities to assess viability and potential
Asset Map
  • Geographical visualization of the asset registry
  • Can be combined with data on poverty, population, etc.

Institutional and Organizational Assessment

ISE conducts institutional and organizational assessments to diagnose institutional capacity and organizational effectiveness within government ministries and agencies—either generally or to support the implementation of specific policies, programs or reform agendas.

Strong governance and institutions are critical to taking advantage of opportunities, dealing with modern threats—from pandemics to climate change—and bolstering state effectiveness. Understanding the performance of governance systems is key to improving the effectiveness of state institutions, but existing assessments are insufficient. In response to the need for developing a more effective system to assess the capabilities of public institutions and organizations, ISE has developed an Institutional & Organizational Assessment that diagnoses institutional capacity and organizational assessment using an appreciative approach and can tie into partner reform priorities.

Assessing public sector institutional capacity and assets

ISE’s I&O assessment evaluates the capacity and assets of public sector organizations, networks and systems, generally or in relation to a specific reform agenda.

Diagnosing the root causes of organizational effectiveness and bottlenecks

In addition to uncovering assets and capacity, the I&O assessment diagnoses the root causes (rather than the symptoms) of governance effectiveness and bottlenecks to existing organizational structures, processes and systems.

Guiding institutional and organizational reforms to improve governance

Because its findings are often tied to specific reform agendas within targeted organizations or networks, the I&O assessment can provide recommendations for improving institutional and organizational systems, based on its findings and appreciative discussions with stakeholders.

Assessment Report
  • Report that includes data, visualization of findings and an analytical narrative discussing the interrelated impact of institutional and organizational factors on governance
  • Outlines recommendations for improving organizational and institutional systems
Policy Roadmap
  • Outlines sequencing of reforms and policies intended to respond to recommendations set out in the I&O assessment report
  • ISE can support the implementation of these reforms through follow-on advisory support, including on reform planning and sequencing

National Accountability Diagnostic

Similar to the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) Plus framework, ISE’s National Accountability Diagnostic presents a thorough view of the performance, capabilities and bottlenecks within existing accountability systems. It recognizes the centrality of accountability to other functions of government and takes a systems-level view of diagnostic findings to present areas for public financial management (PFM) and accountability reform.

Accountability—which is about ensuring that those with public authority are responsible to people for their decisions made and resources used—is central to state effectiveness. Strong accountability systems are built around public financial management, and improving a country’s budget cycle is a key mechanism to strengthening efficient, effective and accountable government. ISE has developed a National Accountability Diagnostic (NAD) as a tested tool that produces a comparable review of accountability systems across countries, promoting PFM, anti-corruption and accountability reform.

Diagnosing the performance and capability of accountability systems

The NAD views the multiple building blocks of accountability systems both independently and together, illustrating the effects of each element’s performance on overall state effectiveness as well as the combined effects of the system.

Viewing accountability and PFM as a system, not a technical area

While prominent international diagnostics consider PFM as a technical area, the NAD demonstrates the interlinkages between accountability and other functions of the state, allowing a broad set of stakeholders to understand and use diagnostic findings—not just officials within budget offices.

Supporting the design of reforms to accountability systems

With a systems-level view of accountability, the NAD identifies and recommends specific and feasible reforms, working with counterparts to develop holistic plans to build accountability systems.

Diagnostic Report
  • Report with findings on the capabilities and performance of accountability systems
  • Considers overall accountability performance and trends, capabilities of accountability building blocks and priority areas for reform
Follow-on Activities
  • Meetings with relevant stakeholders to develop accountability reform roadmaps
  • Future programming with ISE to support the implementation of reforms (e.g., performance management, citizen budgeting, etc.)

Communications Assessment 

ISE’s communications assessment diagnoses the processes, capabilities and performance of a state’s communication systems, including its mechanisms for internal communication within government as well as mechanisms for external communication between government, citizens and the private sector.

Communication is a critical tool for an effective state and is central to building change coalitions inside and outside government, ensuring equitable and efficient service delivery and fostering systems of accountability and transparency. In response to the central need to improve communications performance, the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE) has developed a communications assessment that diagnoses public communication systems with a systems-level view of other state functions (instead of a siloed view of media freedoms and transparency). With this systems-level approach, ISE views communications as a tool of policymaking, civil service effectiveness, accountability and citizen relations.

Expanding and integrating ISE’s core governance framework

Communication systems are essential to state effectiveness. The communication assessment offers a diagnosis of systems that cut across state functions as well as communication modules that can be included within other ISE assessments (e.g., the National Accountability Diagnostic).

Responding to the top needs of government leaders, particularly during a crisis

Most government leaders indicate that communications within government and with citizens are among their most difficult challenges. Leaders need proper diagnosis of communication systems to produce more effective open government platforms, communicate leaders’ visions and implementation of those plans, promote trust in government operations, particularly during times of disasters and humanitarian crises, and design mechanisms that make governments more effective.

Assessment Report
  • Report with findings on the capabilities and performance of the state’s internal and external communication systems
  • Can be provided as a standalone assessment or as part of a larger diagnostic or reform
System Recommendations
  • Recommendations on how to improve communication system capabilities
  • Based on ISE expertise and input from various stakeholder groups (i.e., government leaders and staff, NGOs, media groups and citizens)

Donor Plan Review & Gaps Analysis

ISE’s Donor Plan Review & Gaps Analysis (DPRGA) is the assessment of a host government’s plan against its partners’ plan to determine overall alignment in development priorities and execution. Conducting a donor plan review exposes aid fragmentation, duplication and gaps and enables better coordination between governments and the development community.

Many governments—especially in fragile contexts—require support from development partners, but these partners often focus inadequately on the governance frameworks, needs and priorities of government recipients. However, there are known solutions to this common problem. Leveraging its significant experience working with governments to navigate aid partnerships, ISE has developed the DPRGRA as a tool to help partners navigate development relationships, improve the impact of partners and increase the value for money of assistance.

Assessing alignment between government and development partner priorities

As its name would imply, the key goal of the DPRGA is to review donor and government plans and assess alignment—or, often, gaps—between stated and operationalized priorities, which is essential for more effective delivery of assistance, government functions and citizen outcomes.

Exposing areas of aid misalignment, fragmentation and duplication

Misalignment, fragmentation and duplication of aid projects are common problems among international partners. The DPRGA thoroughly assesses these problems and provides specific recommendations for governments and their partners on how to reduce fragmentation and duplication.

Guiding better coordination between governments and their partners

By examining existing coordination mechanisms, the DPRGA focuses on how governments and their partners can set up accountability frameworks, harness opportunities for external oversight and mitigate damaging power dynamics and incentive structures to strengthen the delivery of assistance.

Report & Presentation
  • Report with findings on alignment between government and partners, based on a desk review and key stakeholder interviews
  • Recommendations for improving partnership frameworks and addressing aid gaps
Follow-on Activities
  • Consultations with stakeholders on how to implement recommendations of the analysis
  • Roundtables that gather government and partners to discuss reforms and align incentives around new assistance frameworks

Reform Sequencing Tracker

ISE’s Reform Sequencing Tracker is an ambitious endeavor to codify the sequence and performance of government reforms during periods of transition. To date, nearly 30,000 reform actions have been coded for over 50 countries.

The Reform Sequencing Tracker is a tangible tool for users to analyze to track reforms over time. The Reform Tracker codifies country strategies into databases and presents reforms in visual and usable dashboard formats to allow leaders to view how their visions have been manifested and progressed over time. This provides states with a concrete managerial tool to track the realization of their visions, guide public servants and provide accountability to citizens.

Understanding how governments sequence and prioritize reforms during periods of transition

The Tracker aims to understand how governments sequence and prioritize reforms during periods of transition, including but not limited to the use of reform plans, strategic planning, resource distribution, incentive structures, communication and visioning exercises.

Developing operational tools that allow for improved management and transparency of reforms

The Tracker supports the development of operational tools that allow for the improved management, success and transparency of government reforms, projects, strategies and cabinet decisions by tracking the delivery of government reforms.

Reducing the burden of tracking reforms by improving existing tools with digital techniques

The Tracker attempt to improve existing reform tracking initiatives by incorporating digital tools and reducing the burden on civil servants to maintain and update information.

RST Database
  • 30,000 reform actions as a starting point for states tackling similar areas
  • Provides an overview of varied reform roadmaps taken by similar countries
Reform Analytics
  • Research and understand the sequence of reforms over time and across different areas
Reform Dashboards
  • Visually track and manage the delivery of reforms
  • Provides accountability to citizens

Critical Stakeholder Inquiry

A Critical Stakeholder Inquiry (CSI) is a process that facilitates dialogue between government leaders, citizens and market stakeholders on what they see as challenges and solutions at local, regional and national levels to achieve consensus across diverse groups on future strategy and what needs to be done.

Effective strategic design, reform prioritization, consensus-building and citizen inclusion are priorities for governments, but also often critical challenges. Traditional mechanisms for the design of reforms are often driven by external experts, only include a small group of relevant stakeholders and do not align effectively with the goals and aspirations of local citizens and policymakers. ISE has developed CSI processes to identify and engage a wide range of local stakeholders—including citizens and market representatives—to break through common divides, improve the prioritization of plans and reach a consensus on common goals. By appreciatively engaging stakeholders and focusing on “the best of what could be” in multistakeholder forums, participants and facilitators are empowered to both elaborate new visions and build capabilities for collaborative, citizen-focused governance.

Forging consensus on current challenges, future opportunities, and the path forward

CSIs help forge consensus between public, private and citizen stakeholders about the challenges facing a jurisdiction, its assets, a new vision for the future and a strategy to meet that vision.

Empowering local stakeholders to tackle contextualized issues

CSIs are participatory processes that ISE facilitates to empower leaders and citizens to identify issues of top concern and discuss challenges and solutions at local, regional and national levels. Participants also discuss what contributions they could make to help realize the overarching vision.

Building institutional capacity to manage multistakeholder execution of reform

ISE’s analysis of successful transformations demonstrates the importance of not only setting strategy but building the institutional capacity necessary for execution. CSIs help jurisdictions develop the structures and capabilities to manage multistakeholder governance processes and implement more inclusive policies and programming.

Consensus Scenarios
  • Indicates stakeholder consensus on the possible scenarios for the future
  • Outlines risks and opportunities
Roadmap Report
  • Sets out policy and program designs to tackle critical tasks based on a common roadmap
  • Indicates governance systems for delivery

Data Asset Mapping

ISE works closely with governments to develop data ecosystems that are informative, comprehensive and responsive to evolving needs. By mapping existing data assets and supplementing the information with free open-source datasets, governments can build robust and cost-effective data ecosystems, providing them with the information needed to make critical decisions and deliver to citizens.

In increasingly complex governing environments, the need for data-driven decision-making has grown— but governments still struggle with limited data coordination and analysis. In response, ISE has adopted a Data Asset Mapping approach that recognizes the central importance of data assets and the profound potential they have for government efficiency and accountability.

Reviewing and consolidating existing data assets

Data asset mapping provides partners with a full picture of current datasets, information, and reports to better understand the existing data assets that can inform decision-making or inform citizens.

Supplementing existing data based on decision-makers’ needs

Data asset mapping provides a base to understand the needs of decision-makers, analyze gaps in current data assets and supplement existing datasets with open-source data from outside of government to aid decision-making.

Developing an analytical framework for a sustainable data ecosystem

Visualizing the data ecosystem as a data asset map is important to articulate areas of existing data sharing, remaining siloes and opportunities to fill gaps or leverage currently underutilized data assets.

Providing data-driven insights and analytical products

ISE works with partners to answer specific questions to form new policy approaches or programming using cutting-edge analysis that can feed into future decision-making.

Data Asset Map
  • Illustrated and dynamic view of data assets, including where the data is housed, interconnections, gaps and other key points for interoperability.
Analytical Report
  • Narrative of data ecosystem and assets
  • Recommendations for greater data integration to improve decision-making and/or transparency

Collaboration for Delivery Workshops

ISE’s Collaboration for Delivery workshops aim to link ambition to action by providing an opportunity for leaders to convene face-to-face, build sequenced and collaborative agendas and work toward a shared vision.

Collaboration is a central element of effective governance, helping various institutional actors at all levels of government to build teams, share visions and build systems for stronger performance and accountability. ISE conducts Collaboration for Delivery workshops because it recognizes that progress depends on effective leaders across society who share a common vision, know how to collaborate and demonstrate the skills integral to fostering inclusive institutions, all while managing tensions and divisive forces that any transformation process invariably brings to the fore.

Creating a space for decision-makers to convene face-to-face

Workshops bring together decision-makers with the purpose of building new leadership groups that can solve difficult problems with governments—both during the workshop and sustainably beyond.

Building a cohesive agenda around a common vision

Workshops provide a space for participants to create a shared narrative for future policymaking and governance agendas by taking time away from daily work to imagine visions for the future.

Breaking down silos and barriers to collaboration and delivery

During workshops, participants identify dependencies and shared priorities across government to leverage economies of scale and reduce bottlenecks—all while learning best practices to have open lines of communication through direct dialogues and self-reflection.

Fostering the relationships, skills and tools necessary to deliver

Workshops provide an opportunity for leaders to gain the skills necessary to address public sector challenges while fostering the relationships and coalitions necessary to deliver on reform.

Context Review or Portfolio and Data Analysis

Analyzing priorities to identify commons visions and paths

ISE’s Reform Sequencing Tracker

Custom dashboards to support reform strategies developed at the workshop

Deep Stakeholder Stocktaking

Mapping actions, goals and issues to key stakeholders and reforms