Learning from the good AND the bad


January 21st, 2011

There was an interesting article published in the Guardian newspaper’s online Poverty Matters Blog earlier this week posing the question – should development NGOs be more open about their failures as well as their successes (NGO Hopes to Benefit from Failure)?

It’s an age old question for charities – how to balance the need to tell positive stories of change to recruit and enthuse supporters against the reality that we are working in very difficult environments and things don’t always go according to plan.

As the article points out, one of the very good reasons in favour of being more open is that we learn from failures as much as we do from successes.  Another very good reason is that a spirit of openness and transparency breeds trust.

 In an effort to learn a bit more about our own performance we have recently taken part in a survey of local partners managed by the organisation Keystone Accountability on behalf of 25 International NGOs (INGOs) from the UK and US.  

The survey was in the form of a questionnaire administered by e-mail asking for the partners’ view of our performance against a range of criteria including financial support, capacity building support, other non-financial support, administration, relationships, and understanding and learning. 

We submitted 101 partner names and 33 responded, anonymously, directly to Keystone (close to the average response rate for the partners of all 25 INGOs). A report prepared for Practical Action benched marked us against the 24 other INGOs, placing us 10th out of 25 on overall ratings of partner satisfaction. We are seen to have particular strengths in capacity building, the use of participatory approaches, technical issues and support on board and governance issues. We are rated relatively low on involving our partners in the development of our strategy and promoting our partners in the media and to other donors.

 As we are just starting the process of developing our next five year strategy we have been able to take quick action already to include partners more in the strategy development process as one response to the report. We will look carefully at what other lessons we can learn. In line with our commitment to transparency and openness we have also placed a copy of the report on our website. If you would like to read it please click on the link:  Keystone Accountability Report

One response to “Learning from the good AND the bad”

  1. David Bonbright Says:

    Congratulations on publishing your partner feedback report. This principled and pioneering step will strengthen your learning and improvement, already in evidence in your blog post.

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