By Akash Ghai, Co-Founder and Managing Partner and Muneezay Jaffery, Co-Founder of Development Three
Picture the scene, you’re a newly established NGO, starting a project. The funding hasn’t come in yet and you’re getting worried. You spend more time worrying about securing the money than the actual project. Then when the money comes, there are donors you’re answerable to and targets to achieve. How do you manage this situation? Without a suitable tool in place it becomes difficult to meet donor requirements and gauge achievements.
Results Based Management (RBM) is a widely used management tool among donor and NGO communities to assess programme and project effectiveness. It focuses on outputs, impact and prerequisites for sustainable benefits. It encourages performance management, as results determine access to money, relationships with partners, beneficiaries and other stakeholders in addition to organisational development.
For successful RBM, organisations need to develop a culture of results where inquiry, evidence and learning are viewed as essential management practices. There is also a need for strong organisational leadership to foster a learning culture. In short, RBM requires project managers to focus on the results of delivering outputs and the outcomes to be achieved, and to track how the delivered outputs should lead to desired outcomes. Outcomes by definition are results which managers do not have control over. Managers and their programmes influence and contribute to these results through their activities and outputs.
RBM suits the larger, hierarchical NGOs particularly International NGOs (INGOs), as it has the capacity to push a standardised approach to development. Despite this, support from senior management within a large INGO is imperative for successful roll-out. RBM implicates accountability, where managers are responsible for managing outcomes.
Some drawbacks of RBM, when reporting NGO performance:
- Assuming that social changes can be predicted. NGOs operate in different fields of work and impact different kinds of social change.
- NGOs cannot control the outcome of their actions thereby social projects become difficult to evaluate on a results basis.
- It can promoting a standard view that all parties think the same way.
- Measuring intangible goals is difficult like motivation; however one might argue that an increase in productivity is a quantities assessment, which potentially demonstrates high motivation.
- Lastly, RBM is set within experiential learning, i.e. running a project or programme to understand the strengths and flaws, then adjusting implementation of future projects with a purpose. At times NGOs, particularly disaster relief NGOs cannot simply learn from experiences, as they constantly enter new situations and have to adapt their projects and programmes to meet requirements.
For smaller, growing NGOs the flexibility to adopt RBM early means there is a learning opportunity and it can be embedded as best practice from the beginning. It can help with reporting to donors as it simplifies data interpretation. It can also help foster competition which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Smaller NGOs tend to focus solely on meeting the remit of their organisation, in some cases “by any means necessary.” RBM may not fit within the organisation scope resulting in lost time and resources. Thorough assessment of the concept is needed to see whether it can be adapted to a specific project or organisation. Small NGOs have the added benefit of trialling RBM without investing heavily.
Have you been thinking about adopting the Results Based Management model? Or perhaps you have used it and were unsuccessful. Share your experience with us through the comments section below or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org