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Understanding effectiveness from the perspective of NGOs working in Cambodia

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  1. Understanding effectiveness from the perspective of NGOs working in Cambodia By Rhonda Chapman A paper for the Measuring Effectiveness Conference, “Communities & Development” September 2007, Melbourne.

  2. Introduction • The ACFID research into NGO Effectiveness – a recap and why this led to research with NGOs in Cambodia • What the research in Cambodia is doing and how • Some of the preliminary findings • What does this suggest about measuring effectiveness?

  3. Australian NGO Research With ACFID from 2001-2004 NGO Effectiveness Framework identified principles, policies, strategies and program standards agreed across the sector Critical Approaches : • long term engagement • high quality relationships • mutual learning • flexibility • working together

  4. The Critical Finding • That NGO effectiveness is WHAT they do – as well as WHO they are and the more synergistic these elements, the more effective the outcomes for poor people and communities. • Typical approaches to measuring NGO performance are inadequate – assumes that we can understand the effectiveness of their work by understanding WHAT organisations do.

  5. Asking NGOs in Cambodia

  6. Methodology • Appreciative Inquiry and Grounded Theory • In-depth interviews with 35+ NGOs • Discussion groups to validate

  7. Who are the NGOs • Range of size, type, approaches used, geographic location and sectors of work

  8. What have they said ….

  9. … about Relationships • Relationships with communities have central importance, • intuitive appreciation of the subtleties and complexities, and the links with organisation The change happened because of staff who really know how to work within the community, always very close…attitude is most important, put themselves low, motivate to learn, be humble, …important to motivate the community through difficult times Have to respond to the REAL need, spend time, stay, listen, learn from them

  10. … about NGO Partnerships • Relationships with ‘partner’ NGOs as donors– not the mutuality suggested in Australian research • The only positive experiences with donor NGO revolve around support, capacity building and empowered decision making [NGO] donors only mostly fund project specific, used to have annual retreat for organisation review but no funding… Too much work complying with their reporting but don’t get comments so don’t write better reports just report results.

  11. … about their own organisations • Staff recruitment and capacity building is central … • Difficult to find the time and resources for developing organisational systems and capacity that is expected of them by donors… Try to find a person with heart and commitment then train them. We recruit staff who are kind, with good attitude, understand community… technical qualifications are less important Staff have a problem with the log-frame and monitoring tool – they don’t like to write a lot.

  12. …. on reporting There is not a focus on written reports but verbal reporting and discussions with each other at these meetings and informally Report to donors is focused on service delivery but we like to encourage the community to present stories. Mostly informally, spare time, sometimes in formal reports, especially when establishing relationships with other key NGOs, but rarely not reporting the investment of time it takes to develop these relationships Not happy with existing monitoring tools and format

  13. …. about risk & innovation • That programs often evolve organically & iteratively from need and lessons but donor requirements usually stifle innovation and risk taking to experiment …we took a leap in the dark – that throughout the various steps of the program as it evolved, we knew that there was something more and next that they needed to do but were not sure how to do it. We could not have taken these risks if the program had been donor funded

  14. … about time • Time to develop and sustain relationships • Time to learn and build capacity • Time to make sure we have agreed objectives at the beginning • Time to listen and understand

  15. The Tension…. Understanding and knowing what are the important processes for development, how we assess and make sense of effective practice and the relationships underlying it. Their time and efforts consumed in surviving as NGOs, responding to donor reporting requirements, implementing systems in order to measure service delivery and results not central to the effectiveness of their work.

  16. … about development • Ready adoption current development terminology and trends that suggest attention paid to relationships and power balances

  17. So what…? … can we learn from the experience of our partners?

  18. Measuring effectiveness? • Aid as a complex system governed by dynamics of power and relationships • How do we value and understand these dynamics? • How do we measure the invisible bits in this complexity, if at all? Is it even possible or useful?

  19. Moving forward…