By: Rebecca Furth, Senior Technical Advisor, Initiatives Inc.
Initiatives Inc. provides organizational development assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We initiated this work in 2011 under the USAID-funded TB TO 2015 project, led by PATH. The follow-on project, Challenge TB, launched in DRC in 2014 under the leadership of The International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union). The Union asked Initiatives to continue its support to two NGOs and expand support to two additional organizations. All four organizations are involved in community-based TB control activities. Returning to work with the organizations after an 18 month hiatus provided Initiatives an opportunity to learn what developments “stuck,” whether organizations were able to advance further without assistance, and what challenges still needed to be addressed. Initiatives conducted organizational capacity assessments with three of the four organizations in May 2015. We learned a lot in this process, but here we present just a few key takeaways from our organizational development work in DRC.
1. Organizations with strong leadership sustain good management practices. In 2013, the two organizations we worked with had similar scores on their final OCAs, but the picture was quite different in 2015. One organization sustained its performance and even improved a bit; the other saw its performance decline. Both organizations experienced a significant decrease in funding at the end of the TB TO 2015 project, so what made the difference? Leadership. The organization with strong and consistent leadership was able to sustain its performance, despite funding challenges.
2. The development community giveth and taketh away. There is a large and well-justified push among the international development community to expand funding to local organizations, but the approach may set local NGOs up for failure. One organization saw a rapid influx of millions of dollars between 2006 and 2009. Today, its budget is less than $100,000. The organization didn’t do anything wrong, but donor priorities shifted faster than it could adjust. Over the next year, we will work with this organization to develop a new strategic plan that will hopefully help it better navigate the ebbs and flows of donor funding and prepare to mobilize resources from more diverse sources in an effort to nurture sustainability.
3. Participatory approaches to organizational development build demand. One of the more remarkable aspects of our work in DRC with the Challenge TB project is that the organizations requested Initiatives’ services. Having worked through our participatory approach under TB TO 2015, they knew how far they had come, but also what more they wanted to achieve and they wanted more support to help them obtain their goals. The participatory approach we use did what it was supposed to: empowered our partners to take charge of their development.