Jun 13
June 13, 2016

Elsa Palanza

Director of Commitments, Clinton Global Initiative

Learning from the CGI Commitment Portfolio


In the Commitments Department at the Clinton Global Initiative, we have the privilege of helping our members change the world for the better. Since 2005, CGI members have made more than 3,400 Commitments to Action — new, specific, and measurableplans that they implement to make a positive impact in our communities and around the world. 

The Commitments staff at CGI helps to develop those commitments and share the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Building on our 2014 portfolio analysis, we’ve realized the great opportunities that come with sharing and analyzing our data to learn as much as we possibly can about what’s working, what isn’t, and what trends can be identified to inform our work, as well as to help guide practices for the broader social sector. 

To date, the vast majority of CGI commitments have been successful or are ongoing in their efforts to make a positive impact around the world. This includes 1,570 (45%) that have been completed and 1,257 (36%) that are ongoing in their efforts to address critical efforts around climate change, increase opportunities for girls and women, alleviate poverty and spur economic development, and improve health and wellness worldwide. Because of the CGI community, more than 46 million children have access to a better education; more than 2.7 billion metric tons of CO2 were cut or abated; more than 11 million girls and women have been supported through empowerment initiatives; more than $313 million in research and development funds has been spent on new vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics; more than 27 million people have increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation — and so much more. 

It’s clear that CGI commitment-makers share the common goal to improve the world around them, yet the challenges they face in developing and implementing Commitments to Action are as diverse as the issues they address. When commitments don’t go as planned, they still yield data and valuable lessons about why they didn’t work. 

That’s why today we’re releasing a study on the small subset (approximately 6%) of commitments that are unfulfilled — identifying key trends that may have hindered a commitment’s successful completion. Key findings over the years include:

  1. Of 3,452 commitments made between 2005 and 2015, 190 (6%) have been reported unfulfilled. In addition, 1,570 (45%) have been completed, 1,257 (36%) are ongoing, and 59 (2%) are stalled. True to the CGI model, commitment-makers are asked to report progress on their work annually. When a commitment has not reported progress in over two years, CGI considers that commitment “unresponsive” and removes related target and impact metrics from its portfolio; 376 (11%) commitments are in this category, but can be re-activated at any time through the submission of a progress report.
  2. Countries with the highest commitment occurrence also had the highest occurrence of unfulfilled commitments. The United States, India, Kenya, Uganda, and Haiti are the five countries with the highest occurrences of unfulfilled commitments. These countries also have the highest occurrences of commitments overall. 
  3. The most common reason commitments were unfulfilled was due to a lack of funding. Of the 190 commitments reported unfulfilled, 27% of commitments reported that the primary reason they were unfulfilled was due to a lack of funding. 
  4. The percentage of unfulfilled commitments with partnerships, in a given year, is generally lower than the percentage of commitments made that year with partnerships. This trend aligns with CGI’s finding in the 2014 report that commitments with partnerships tend to be more successful than commitments implemented by a single organization.
  5. CGI has observed a relative spike in the percentage and number of unfulfilled commitments around the Global Financial Crisis. The highest percentage and count of reported unfulfilled commitments, year over year, occurred in 2007, 2008, and 2009. 
  6. Information and Communications Technology (I.C.T.) is the most common primary subtopic among unfulfilled commitments. CGI has observed that due to the high investment of financial and human resources necessary to implement I.C.T. commitments, these commitments tend to be more vulnerable to barriers, such as a lack of funding, that lead to failure among unfulfilled commitments generally.

These are not signs that commitment-makers have or should give up. In fact, these lessons are useful to ensure work is even more effective and efficient going forward. As a result of this analysis, CGI adopted the below approaches over the years to increase the likelihood that commitments are successful include: 

  1. Facilitating more detailed conversations with commitment-makers during the development process to understand a given commitment-maker’s funding strategy and contingency plan should the primary funding source fall through;
  2. The development of a new measurement framework with increased specificity to capture the breadth and depth of commitments and more accurately understand the scope and potential impact of a given commitment;
  3. The creation of a glossary to define terms referenced in the measurement framework and to ensure increased standardization of CGI metrics measurement and reporting; and
  4. Increasing programming of CGI convenings – such as the session we are hosting at CGI America entitled “What Works (and What Doesn’t): Learning from CGI Commitments to Action” – to share best practices and lessons they have learned through the process of designing and implementing commitments. 

We believe that learning from the obstacles our members face and the challenges they overcome is critical to cultivating a community of continuous learning and maximum impact on challenges around the world. This can help to guide both our own practices and assist the entire sector in building better solutions and more accurate measures for impact. We’re confident that this report will further strengthen our members’work and ability to learn from one another, ultimately allowing them to improve even more lives around the world.

In addition, with the release of this report and in line with an announcement we made in April, we have shared to the best of our ability the reasons why this 6% of commitments are unfulfilled – all available on our online search directory

To learn more, we encourage you to read the full report here.