Managing development organizations: a process-based assessment of Australian based Non-governmental development Organizations
This study focused on Australian-based non-governmental development organisations (NGDOs) (also referred to as non-governmental aid agencies). The study used a telephone survey of eleven agencies and a mail survey of forty-five agencies to make inferences about organisational processes of delivering development assistance, together with an evaluation of the contribution of organisational factors and external environmental factors to the delivery of that assistance. Those aspects of organisational factors that were selected for examination were restricted to two areas, namely (i) organisational structures, and (ii) strategies for financial resource mobilisation and service delivery. The external factors selected were (i) the external stakeholders of non-governmental aid agencies (development clients, partner agencies, donors, governments, other aid agencies) and (ii) the macro environment factors. In examining these issues, the study found that: 1. In spite of the diversity within the non-governmental aid agency sector, the processes of service delivery could be broadly labeled into the following subprocesses (i) project identification and initial assessment; (ii) project implementation; and (iii) project monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment. Within each of these three sub-processes, a fourth sub-process – a project sustainability process was identified. These processes, and the microprocesses within each of them, were identified in a wide range of organisations, representing different development sectors, size, scope of operation, goals, policies and objectives. This suggests that irrespective of the diversity within the sector, there are underlying principles that govern the development assistance role of aid agencies. 2. Within the broad service delivery process variations existed between agencies in respect of how the steps within each sub-process were managed. The organisational factors, structures and strategies, accounted for some of these variations in the processes. In addition, respondents identified organisational policies, working principles and the learning experiences as accounting for some of the variation. It was observed that whereas some agencies attempted to change those organisational factors that they perceived as disabling to the process of service delivery, others were unable to change owing to resource constraints. 3. The intervening effect of the external environment on process was also examined. Whereas all the agencies were faced by a similar external environment, their responses to the environment were varied, consequently varying the process of service delivery. External stakeholders were categorised as having a significant influence on the process, as their expectations formed the criteria against which the performance of aid agencies was judged. Within the stakeholders, however, there were the more powerful donors and governments and the less powerful development clients and partners. The challenge for the aid agencies was therefore to not only respond to stakeholder expectations in ways that promoted an effective service delivery process, but also balance between the stakeholder expectations, to ensure agencies’ credibility was not undermined. Responding to the changes in the macro environment was considered especially difficult, as the task of examining and interpreting trends was complex, and appropriate responses hard to determine. 4. From the evidence gathered, it is clear that organisational factors within aid agencies and contextual factors influence the process of service delivery. Thus, for aid agencies and others involved in development assistance, evaluating project work by focusing on the outputs and outcomes of specific projects and on the capabilities of development clients and partner agencies in developing countries begs half the issue. The context for success or failure is much broader. A wholistic critical examination of organisational factors within aid agencies and the contexts within which agencies operate ought to be included in any assessment of development outcomes. Such an assessment will enable practitioners to account for mismatches between intentions and outcomes of development initiatives in a comprehensive way. Any assessment short of these factors will always be inadequate. The significance of such an extensive critical evaluation of the outcomes of the work of aid agencies, would be the development of an elaborate guide to good development management practices that aid agencies can use to improve on their performance.