10. Sector learning

NGOs should collaborate in a collective effort to continually improve performance and use resources as effectively as possible across the sector.

Each NGO is part of a wider effort to tackle the worst effects of poverty and injustice. They share a collective responsibility to use the available resources as effectively as possible across the sector, rather than for the maximum benefit of their own organisation. NGOs also share responsibility for maintaining the sector’s credibility.

NGOs should allocate a reasonable level of resources to learning and improvement at the sector level. For instance, they should collaborate through organisations like Bond, InterAction, HAP and ALNAP, as well as on standards like Sphere, research resources like ELDIS and less formal networks like Pelican.

There are particular opportunities to improve performance by developing shared standards and performance measures for similar NGOs, like the Keystone partner survey. These encourage benchmarking and comparison between NGOs, which create incentives for improvement. Joint evaluations can reduce costs and allow comparisons.

NGOs should start new enquiries and planning processes by finding existing research, experiences and initiatives, and considering what they can contribute to it. In many cases, this is cheaper, easier and more effective than starting from scratch.

NGOs should publish their own experiences and provide honest accounts of successes and failures, so that others can learn from them. This can be particularly helpful for keeping donors up to date with developments, so future funds are directed towards the most effective work.

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