The project cycle is the framework used by the World Bank (‘the Bank’) to design, prepare, implement, and supervise projects. In practice, the Bank and the Borrower work closely throughout the project cycle, although they have different roles and responsibilities.
The World Bank project cycle includes six-stages:
- Completion/validation and evaluation
Below is an outline of the six stages, the key documents produced during the various stages, and links to access them.
The task of identifying and proposing projects for World Bank financing lies mainly with the Borrower. The Borrower and the World Bank Group (WBG) produce a Country Partnership Framework (CPF) to identify the country’s main priorities for ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. Used in conjunction with a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD), the CPF is a key tool that guides the WBG’s partnership and support for a Borrower’s development program. For further information, click on the WBG Directive and Guidance.
Once a project is identified, the Borrower and the Bank agree on an initial project concept and its beneficiaries, and the Bank's project team outlines the basic elements in a Project Concept Note. This document identifies proposed objectives, risks to these objectives’ achievement, alternative scenarios, and a likely timetable for the project preparation process. Two Bank documents are prepared and disclosed to the public during this phase. The Project Information Document which outlines the scope of the intended project and the Environmental and Social Review Summary (ESRS) for investment projects starting in October 2018 that apply the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). For investment projects under the previous Safeguard Policies, an Integrated Safeguards Data Sheet is made available to the public. The transition from the Safeguard Policies to the ESF will take several years, as projects approved under the Safeguard Policies continue to apply those policies through the end of the Project cycle.
The borrower is responsible for the project preparation phase, which includes conducting technical, economic, social and environmental assessments and preparing feasibility studies, engineering and technical designs, among others. Most Borrowers typically contract with consultants and private sector firms for goods, works and services, as needed, during this phase and later during the project's implementation phase. During preparation, the Borrower and the Bank team also give attention to other important concerns including citizen engagement, gender, climate change, fraud and corruption, and grievance redress mechanisms. Beneficiaries and stakeholders are also consulted during this phase to ensure the project considers their needs.
In addition to providing financing, the World Bank serves as a vehicle for global knowledge transfer and technical assistance and generally takes an advisory role and offers analysis and advice during this phase. The Bank team supports the Borrower in developing the project design, identifying implementation arrangements, and conducting various reviews and studies. The Bank assesses the relevant capacity of the implementing agencies at this point to reach agreement with the Borrower on arrangements for overall project management, such as the systems required for financial management, procurement, environmental and social risk management, reporting, and monitoring and evaluation.
Earlier screening by Bank staff may have determined that a proposed project could have potential adverse environmental or social impacts. For new IPF projects, the Bank currently applies the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). The ESF sets out the World Bank’s commitment to sustainable development through a Bank Policy and a set of Environmental and Social Standards that are designed to support Borrowers’ to better manage environmental and social (E&S) risks. It uses an up-to-date and risk-based approach, addresses a wider range of environmental and social risks and potential impacts and better integrates the Bank’s Environmental and Social policies. The ESF clearly defines the role of the World Bank versus the Borrower, whereby the Bank applies due diligence to the project under the Environmental and Social Policy (ESP) and the Borrower follows the requirements of the ten Environmental and Social Standards (ESS1-10). Development Policy and Program-for-Results financing do not apply the ESF and have their own provisions for environmental and social risk management.
Appraisal gives the Borrower an opportunity to review the project design in detail and resolve any outstanding questions. The Borrower and the Bank review the work done during the identification and preparation phases and confirm the expected project outcomes, intended beneficiaries, application of ESF requirements (for IPF) and evaluation tools for monitoring progress. Agreement is reached on the viability of all aspects of the project at this time. The Bank team confirms that all aspects of the project are consistent with all World Bank operations requirements, assesses the project’s readiness for implementation, and that the Borrower has institutional arrangements in place to implement the project efficiently. All parties agree on a project timetable and on public disclosure of key documents and identify any unfinished business required for final Bank approval. The Project Information Document and Environmental and Social Review Summary (for IPF) are updated and disclosed during this phase.
Once all project details are negotiated and accepted by the Borrower and the Bank, the Bank team finalizes the Project Appraisal Document (for IPF), the Program Appraisal Document (for PforR) or the Program Document (for DPF), along with other financial and legal documents, for submission to the Bank's Board of Executive Directors for consideration and approval.
Project implementation is the responsibility of the Borrower, while the Bank’s role is to provide effective implementation support to improve results, help manage risks, and increase institutional development. With technical assistance and support from the Bank, the Borrower prepares the specifications for the project and carries out all procurement of goods, works and services needed, as well as any environmental and social impact mitigation set out in agreed plans, including those described in the Environmental and Social Commitment Plan (ESCP). Financial management and procurement specialists on the Bank's project team ensure that adequate fiduciary controls on the use of project funds are in place. Changing circumstances, project delays and unexpected events can sometimes require adjustments to the project design, such as implementation arrangements or even objectives, resulting in a restructuring.
The implementing agency reports regularly on project progress and results. The Borrower and the Bank also join forces at least twice a year to prepare a review of project progress. Based on this review, the Bank team prepares an Implementation Status and Results Report.
6. Completion/Validation & Evaluation
When a project is completed and closed at the end of the loan disbursement period, the World Bank, with input from the Borrower and other stakeholders, compiles an Implementation Completion and Results Report, which evaluates the project’s outcomes; challenges, and lessons learned to determine what additional measures are needed to sustain the benefits derived from the project. In addition, the evaluation team assesses how well the entire operation complied with the Bank's operations policies and accounts for the use of Bank resources.
Validation and Evaluation
The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) evaluates the development effectiveness of the World Bank Group. IEG is independent of the Management of the World Bank Group and reports directly to the Executive Board. IEG conducts different types of evaluation, validation, and synthesis exercises. At the project cycle level, IEG validates 100% of the self-evaluations that WB operational teams conduct upon project completion. In addition, IEG conducts strategically selected project-level evaluations through Project Performance Assessment Reports. Learn more about how evaluation is conducted at the World Bank by reviewing the World Bank Group Evaluation Principles.
Some project and bidding documents are made available to public.