The use of the Rendir APP for developing a joint perspective by Desco workers
Interview with Molvina Zeballos Manzur, President of the Centre for Development Studies and Promotion – desco Perú.
Founded in 1965, Desco Peru is currently composed of three organizations (descoCiudadano, descocentro and descosur). It is focused on promoting development by combining applied research and training with public policy advocacy. Currently, desco is a member of several networks of civil society organizations (CSOs), including the Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana (GPC) in Perú (which is a consortium of ten organizations aimed at promoting civil society participation and its impact on the good use of government and private sector resources) and Rendir Cuentas at the regional level (which comprises a group of CSOs from Latin America) which is one of the partners of the Global Standard.
We recently talked to Molvina Zeballos Manzur (MZM), President of Centro de Estudios y Promoción del Desarrollo (desco) in Peru, about her experience with the implementation of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability (GS) and the use of its Rendir App.
GS: How did desco learn about the Global Standard (GS)?
MZM: desco has been involved in initiatives to promote accountability for several years. First, at the beginning of 2000 -and for a 2-year period-, desco joined a group of organizations in an initiative promoted by the two Peruvian organizations, the Center for Rights and Development (CEDAL) and the National Association of Centers (ANC). This initiative would resemble what is nowadays defined as (financial) transparency and reporting to those in key positions. In 2010, as member of the Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana (GPC), descojoined the Latin American initiative Rendir Cuentas together with Pro-Ética (Transparency International’s chapter in the country) and ANC, and a broader call for Peruvian CSOs was then made, resulting in an accountability exercise undertaken by approximately 30 organizations.
More recently, with support of the German cooperation, GPC and the ANC embarked in another project to strengthen civil society, which incorporated a component on accountability of Peruvian civil society. This made it possible to give continuity to previous accountability efforts. In addition, in 2018, we were invited by Rendir Cuentas to join efforts in applying the GS.
Currently, we have formed a voluntary group of four workers at descoCiudadano in Lima in order to apply the Global Standard, for which I serve as liaison with Rendir Cuentas and GPC.
GS: How useful was it for desco to adhering to the Global Standard?
MZM: The Global Standard has been a step forward in terms of accountability for civil organizations in the country. Personally, I believe it was important for desco to be at the forefront of this issue in Peru, by testing the tool, getting involved, and promoting its use across other CSOs. For this reason, and in order to lead by example, it was crucial that desco applied the Global Standard tool so other organizations could also join in this endeavor.
While there are reasons for undertaking a conventional process for developing a CSO report and make it available to other stakeholders, the benefit of the Global Standard lies in its self-assessment process. That is to say, the Global Standard entails a self-assessment exercise, which is particularly useful for the organizations themselves; instead of being an assessment to report to a third party.
GS: How has the Global Standard contributed to civil society accountability in Peru?
MZM: The accountability concept and practice have evolved over the last 30 years. At first, it started as a demand for accountability of state institutions, and then the focus shifted towards financial accountability (through financial reports and audits) of civil society itself; and its emphasis on annual reporting requirements adopted by various agencies within the Peruvian government, including the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (APCI), the National Superintendence of Customs and Taxes (SUNAT) and the Ministry of Labor. As with international donors, these were mandatory reporting requirements. In Peru, this led us to re-consider an accountability approach that was not only limited to financial aspects, but that would also give an account of the results achieved as well as oriented towards diverse audiences.
Likewise, more recently, the concept of accountability has expanded further; here, the contribution of the Global Standard has been invaluable, as it entails a more articulated vision around ‘dynamic accountability’ and, in particular, by promoting accountability to our primary constituents or communities with which we work. In line with the Global Standard, desco recognizes that accountability is not an exclusive matter for our board of directors, but an exercise of our entire organization; therefore, we do involve all our regular as well as voluntary staff with whom we work.
GS: Could you share with us desco’s experience with the Global Standard self-assessment exercises?
MZM: In December 2018, desco applied the full self-assessment tool of the Global Standard as part of a regional project implemented by Rendir Cuentas. However, out of the total of 100 workers, only a limited group of approximately 15 people – mostly members of our Board of Directors and project managers – scored the progress indicators, while the whole of desco staff reviewed the feedback indicators related to the four GS commitments that refer to CSO staff and volunteers. To this end, an on-line survey was disseminated among all desco staff. Based on this exercise, an improvement plan was then developed, which led to the implementation of a set of actions within our organization. For example, although our work already incorporated a gender focus and we had implemented specific projects to support women, we lacked an updated institutional gender policy. Therefore, we adopted a gender policy in 2019. As a result of the improvement plan generated from such self-assessment exercise, an internal working group on climate change was also established. In addition, our policy on child protection was approved. Moreover, descoCiudadano agreed to update its stakeholders mapping, while descocentro and descosur prioritized other actions.
GS: How did desco make use of the Rendir App?
MZM: In 2019, desco decided to carry out its GS self-assessment through the Rendir App, which is an easy to use tool that allows for a quick assessment exercise. At descoCiudadano’s annual evaluation meeting held in December 2019, the Rendir App was shared. This exercise allowed us to collect quick feedback from our staff. One week later, during the annual evaluation meeting of the three desco partner organizations -in which five workers per organization participated-, the other two partner organizations were encouraged to conduct the self-evaluation exercise through the Rendir App ahead of their 2020 planning meeting. As a result, approximately 43 people from all three desco partner organizations completed the Rendir App self-assessment exercise.
GS: How did the first self-assessment exercise in 2018 differ from the rapid self-assessment exercise supported by the Rendir App in 2019/ 2020?
MZM: Our 2018 self-assessment exercise against the Global Standard was carried out by a small group of desco management, made up of regular and senior-level staff; therefore, the responses collected were biased towards this specific audience. However, we were interested in the Rendir App rapid self-assessment exercise to find out, for example, the opinion of younger people who had recently joined our organization in order to understand the extent to which a common perspective was shared among all workers. Although the development of the improvement plan from the late 2019 desco self-assessment exercise has yet to be completed, it became clear that some aspects need to be reinforced or refined in order to complement our organization’s induction policy for new workers.
GS: Are there any recommendations that you would like to share with other CSOs interested in embarking in a self-evaluation process?
MZM: I would recommend to all organizations that they first use the Rendir App to become familiar with the Global Standard, as it allows for a quick self-assessment and, if necessary, the more extensive GS self-assessment questionnaire can then be more easily applied. Further, the Rendir App provides recommendations for action based on the scores obtained. In addition, the results of the self-assessment exercise should feed into each organization’s own processes, taking advantage of an organization’s planning, monitoring and evaluation processes, in order to incorporate the Global Standard. I would also like to highlight that it is important that the entire personnel within an organization completes it in order to reflect a diversity of viewpoints. Finally, I would like to emphasize the importance of the participatory nature of the evaluation by involving the primary constituents within each organization.