Accountability and Solidarity- what does it take?
Who are we accountable to? US agencies would say our taxpayers, international charities would say their donors, but what would ordinary folks like you and me say? Our consciences?
My dear friend Peter Kimeu of Machakos, Kenya is a mzee, Swahili for wise man. He has worked for them in Kenya and around Africa; we met at CRS (successfully) saving 'safety net' programming from being closed out by USAID 20 years ago. He is touring the US this month on behalf of Catholic Relief Services, talking to the charity's supporters about solidarity. Charity Navigator ranks the organization highly, using $0.94 cents of every dollar for their international programs in health, agriculture, economic development, social justice and so on. Peter talks to those in his audience, genuinely calling them 'brother' and 'sister' and calling on them to see their brethren in Kenya and the world as brothers and sisters. Do we feel the same? Do our systems support such thinking and acting? Are we accountable in our choices to our brethren globally?
It got me thinking how we determine what we're accountable for and how we know our funds are well spent. Charity Navigator does respected rankings of international charities. They define accountability as "Accountability is an obligation or willingness by a charity to explain its actions to its stakeholders. For now, Charity Navigator is specifically evaluating the fiduciary actions of charities." Currently the stakeholders are only those who financially invest in the charity. This excludes the stakeholders in the countries in which development happens. But there is excellent news coming.
Charity Navigator has plans to start looking at impact In Results Reporting, "we are specifically focusing on the way charities come to know, use and share their results with stakeholders including donors… We believe effective charities manage their performance and thereby know and act on their results. These high performing organizations use early results as milestones to important longer-term results." This will include "This element assesses whether and how well a charity collects and publishes feedback from it primary constituents."
This will include:
* Does the charity publish feedback data from its primary constituents?
* Does this data indicate if it is representative of all primary constituents?
* Is this data presented in a way that shows changes over time going back at least one year?
* Does this data include questions that speak to the organization’s effectiveness?
* Does the organization report back to its primary constituents what it heard from them?
This is enormously exciting news, and the only measure to add is long-term, post-project sustainability. These measures together will help us see which charities "provide the most meaningful change in communities and people’s lives" during and after the project. It will help us see which ones are learning from their programming with communities leading the way, teaching us what works best for them and what they want more or less of. This will shape future sectoral program investments as well as investor decisions. Kudos to Charity Navigator! They are helping all of us move in a direction of trulyinformed decision-making toward greater global solidarity.