NGOs can manage their performance better by focusing on factors that are within their control; and on their own performance, rather than other people’s results.
Specifically, NGOs can focus on the contribution they make to people’s own efforts to help themselves. Building on the Two Golden Rules, this leads to a new agenda for management.
Let's focus more on how NGOs work with people and partners, and whether NGOs are doing a good job, rather than what NGOs and local people are doing.
Impact can be re-framed as ‘the value that an international NGO or donor adds to the efforts of the people and organisations it works with directly, in strengthening their abilities to tackle their own social issues’.
This can help shape an organisation’s whole approach to managing and reporting its performance, and using its funds effectively.
- High quality interactions
NGOs can focus their attention on the interactions between their front line staff and the people / organisations they aim to help. This is where NGOs’ performance takes place, so these interactions have to be consistently high quality. In particular, NGOs need to develop effective relationships with people, based on mutual respect.
- Downward accountability
Downward accountability provides important, practical principles for managing front line interactions – and making sure they ‘help people help themselves’. It puts particular emphasis on staff and managers’ personal values, attitudes and behaviours.
- Resource allocation
Within a specific project, downward accountability can help make sure that resources can be allocated in line with people’s real priorities. Between projects, resources can be allocated on the basis of our capacity to make a difference, rather than results.
Front line staff need the freedom to work with the people they aim to help, and make careful judgements about the specific situations they face. As each situation is different, NGOs need decentralised ways of working, rather than centralised approaches.
- Reporting performance
A central element of reporting performance can be feedback from the people we aim to help: how useful did they find our contribution? NGOs can also manage and report the key factors that determine the quality of their work, like the strength of downward accountability actually achieved, or the skills and experience of key staff. These factors could potentially be reported to donors.
If you have put any of these ideas into practice, please share your experience with other Mango users by submitting a case study.