Keystone Partner Survey: powerful new data on NGOs’ performance

If an NGO funds and supports local partners, how do you assess if it is doing a good job? Simple: ask them. It’s not the only way to measure performance, but it’s got to get you most of the way there. Better still, bring together a group of NGOs and use the same questions to ask their partners to rate each NGO’s performance. Then compare answers, so you can tell which NGO is doing better in which areas and which worse.

That’s exactly what Keystone did with their Partner Survey. (Disclosure: I was the project manager for this project and the report’s principal author.) The report was launched this month. It has two major findings: Continue reading

Managing performance in NGOs

Policy makers need simple ideas; but Tom chose the wrong one.

In the 2007 film ‘Lions for Lambs’, Tom Cruise plays a slick US senator pushing new military tactics in Afghanistan. Meryl Streep is a sceptical journalist. At a central moment, he stands over her and asks: “Do you want a win in the war on terror?  Yes or no?”

It’s impossible to answer. The idea of ‘war’ gets people thinking the wrong way about tackling terror – setting up the idea of military conflict and battlefield victory. The idea is good for winning public support and making complex social issues seem simple. But it’s bad for doing much about them.

In the same way, the idea of ‘impact’ is not much use for managing the performance of NGOs or holding them to account. Continue reading