Carolyn Aeby, InterAction
As the NGO sector faces unprecedented times with shrinking funding, disinformation, and a global pandemic that continues to worsen, it is more important than ever that NGOs take a moment to review organizational policies and practices to ensure that we are transparent and accountable to our stakeholders. And if we are not, what can we do now to change that.
Thirty years ago, InterAction led the community in developing NGO Standards to strengthen public confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of member organizations and their programs. Over time, the Standards have been amended to improve accountability practices, and they remain the ethical code of conduct for InterAction and its member organizations.
To further its commitment to accountability and transparency practices, InterAction became a founding member of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. InterAction and its nine international partners developed 12 commitments reflecting good civil society organization practice. In addition, dynamic accountability was positioned as an approach for organizational accountability that was grounded in meaningful, inclusive, participatory, and continuous engagement with all stakeholders.
In 2018, the InterAction Board of Directors and InterAction’s Membership took accountability one step further and included recommendations on three outcomes measurements to its Standards. The outcomes focus on monitoring and evaluation, accountability and learning, transparency, and responsiveness.
So how does your organization measure up?
Monitoring and Evaluation
If organizations do not have specific, measurable, realistic objectives related to the organizational mission, how does an organization know when to pivot? Periodically comparing your program outcomes to the objectives laid out at the onset will help determine the next steps. Program evaluations should utilize the best feasible methods and should consider any unintended or indirect outcomes in addition to the intended outcomes.
Accountability and Learning
Now you have program participant feedback and data from your evaluations—what are you doing with it? Are you sharing it with your board and donors? Taking the information and putting it in a drawer or placing it in an online folder helps no one. Using it in your daily operational practice to make improvements and learn from mistakes is critical to building trust with stakeholders and NGOs succeeding in their programs’ objectives.
Transparency and Responsiveness
How do your evaluation activities provide an opportunity for feedback? Do you involve the community you serve, including partners and program participants? Adopting dynamic accountability and its upward and downward adaptive approach and incorporating feedback loops increases stakeholder trust, which aides in NGOs achieving their objectives. Publicly sharing the results demonstrates an organization’s commitment to transparency and the community it serves.
We know that these outcomes measurements can be a stretch for some organizations, but we should strive to do better with program participants, donors and boards. If we don’t continue to review our processes and challenge ourselves, our objectives may never be realized.
So during these challenging times, how does your organization measure up?