The double function of the Global Standard for CSOs in Ecuador: a tool for self-learning and for collective political standing
Interview with Estefanía Terán Valdez and Paula Castells Carrión, Grupo FARO, March 31, 2020
Grupo FARO is a research and action-oriented center based in Ecuador, that contributes to evidence-based public policy. A member of the Rendir Cuentas network, Grupo FARO is made up of 4 thematic areas: education; research and evaluation of public policies; sustainable development and cities; and democracy, transparency and active citizenship.
Grupo FARO promoted the creation of the Ecuadorian Confederation of Civil Society Organizations (CEOSC), which it presided over until 2017. CEOSC is composed of 6 federations: 4 provincial and 2 thematic ones. Currently, Grupo FARO holds the Technical Secretariat of CEOSC and the Presidency of the Pichincha Federation.
We recently spoke with Estefanía Terán Valdez (ET) and Paula Castells Carrión (PC) from the Democracy, Transparency, and Active Citizenship Area of Grupo FARO in order to learn about the work undertaken concerning the Global Standard for CSO Accountability in Ecuador.
GS: How did Grupo FARO learn about the Global Standard?
PC: Grupo FARO has been a member of the Rendir Cuentas network since 2010. In that context, we became familiar with the existence of the Global Standard. To date, several accountability exercises have been carried out both as Grupo FARO, but also as part of CEOSC, in which the accountability of the civil society organizations (CSOs) that make up the network – has been promoted. We are currently in the process of applying the Global Standard within Grupo FARO as well as among CEOSC members.
GS: Why is Grupo FARO interested in the Global Standard?
ET: One of Grupo FARO’s institutional strategic objectives is to help strengthen CSOs not only regarding their organizational aspects, but also in their collaborative and networking efforts. Thus, Grupo FARO’s interest lies in the fact that the Global Standard, in addition to being a self-evaluation mechanism, constitutes a political standing instrument, whose methodology has been tested in different countries.
As the Global Standard embraces a set of principles and values, civil society organizations applying the Standard share these principles and values. Thus, the Global Standard is a tool for political positioning. In other words, adhering to the Global Standard does not only mean implementing a self-assessment tool, but also taking a position on certain issues, such as the relationships with other civil society organizations and their own staff, on gender or climate change. Sharing the same message around different issues that concern organized civil society facilitates and promotes cooperation and strengthens advocacy actions.
GS: Was there a specific element or dimension of the Global Standard that had most resonated for the Grupo FARO?
ET: All Global Standard’s 12 commitments are relevant, although one aspect that requires more attention in both large and small organizations is the strengthening of feedback mechanisms by the people or communities that we work with – which is a cross-cutting issue of the Global Standard. Further attention is also needed in regards to permanent and systematic feedback of CSO actions and results, that is, to constantly obtain information from these groups and communities about the actions carried out by our organization. With respect to measuring CSO results, it is important that CSOs carry out joint evaluations with the beneficiaries themselves.
PC: While we are conducting the Global Standard self-assessment exercise as Grupo FARO, we are also encouraging other organizations to do so. Thus, the Global Standard and its tools allow for CSOs’ joint reflection, as well as for individual review as an organization.
GS: Has Grupo FARO used the Global Standard’s Rendir app?
PC: We recently held a workshop in Quito on February 13, 2020, in which 14 leading organizations from the various provincial federations and other networks of organizations from 6 provinces across the country participated to tailor the Global Standard tool to our local context. Although the tool had been validated in several instances, and the Global Standards same principles and indicators were followed, we needed to come up with a common language regarding the meaning of each score and the possible existing means of verification. Consequently, the participating organizations were asked to carry out a first exercise prior to the workshop using the Rendir App. Fifty percent of the participating organizations completed the exercise of the Render app while the others committed to do it immediately afterwards. We are currently in the process of analyzing these results so we they could later be shared.
GS: What does implementing the Global Standard mean for Grupo FARO?
PC: In order to implement it, we adapted the Global Standard’s implementation guide. The first step was to learn the Global Standard, and to become familiar with its 12 commitments and the meaning of each of them, as well as their indicators and means of verification. This is essential in order to later generate a space for interaction among various people who would participate in applying the Standard, and carrying out an informed and joint evaluation exercise. Then, based on the scores generated by the self-evaluation exercise from the Rendir app, we proceed to prioritize the pillar(s) and the types of commitments, followed by the identification the of actions for improvement to be implemented during a specific period of time, and taking into account the available resources.
ET: I would like to stress that the implementation of the Global Standard contributes to the use of a common language among organizations located in different countries. So, this use of a common language leads to mutual learning. Therefore, the Global Standard serves a double function: not only does it contribute to accountability on key CSO’s issues towards their beneficiaries, the state, the citizenry and other civic organizations, but it also helps strengthening the internal capacities of each organization while learning from other experiences. Furthermore, based on the various reports compiled from many organizations through the use of the Rendir App, the Global Standard allows us to get a landscape of civil society in different regions and make comparative analyses based on the same tool. This, in turn, serves to make political pronouncements that go beyond the concerns of organizations in a particular country or context. In short, the relevance of the Global Standard lies in the fact that it helps CSOs to speak the same language and it promotes mutual learning.
GS: Lastly, are there any lessons learned or recommendations from applying the Global Standard that you could share with us?
ET: From our implementation of the Global Standard with a group of local CSOs so far, it became evident that some adjustments are needed, and a light version for small organizations be used in order to avoid the frustration that could be generated from the subsequent identification of a large set of CSO gaps. This gap would not be only a matter of resources but of the nature of priorities by small organizations which are often linked to basic or subsistence needs.
PC: For my part, I would like to emphasize the opportunities for further improvement derived – in general – from the Global Standard concerning feedback for most CSOs due, in some occasions, to the lack of clarity in identifying who their ultimate beneficiaries are and/or the lack of systematic ways for collecting feedback from beneficiaries.
Based on our emerging experience, one recommendation is the importance of being honest, as an organization, when conducting the self-assessment, and doing so in a group or collective manner for each organization.