In a landmark new international survey, organizations across the global south who partner with humanitarian agency Church World Service have given CWS a reality-based, ground-level view of how they experience the agency’s performance.
The findings rated the humanitarian agency highly in some areas and, in others, offered what CWS Deputy Director and Head of Programs Maurice A. Bloem sees as “a learning opportunity and guideposts for improvements.
“Our partners rated us well in such areas as our flexibility and responsiveness and our helping them reach shared program goals. “But some of the feedback definitely identifies areas we need to work on,” says Bloem.
The unique 2010 Partner Surveys by the Keystone Accountability organization were designed to help CWS and other participating international nongovernmental organizations take a hard look at what they do and set benchmarks to improve their performance, based on feedback from their local partners. The benchmarks also reflect how CWS compares to other agencies who participated in the survey.
The survey, conducted on behalf of 25 participating INGOs, gathered dynamic data and perspectives from some 1,067 of those agencies’ local partners and have been published in one comprehensive report, followed by specific findings and reports for CWS and the other participating INGOs.
Church World Service strives to adhere to quality, accountability and transparency standards established internationally by the Sphere project and the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership. But, says Bloem, “We know providing true quality and effective assistance in this work requires constant improvements, change, and raising the bar. And who better to assess the quality of the work we do than those very partners we support in countries and who then do a great deal of the direct, hands-on assistance to families and communities.”
CWS says the performance feedback from its partners – on issues ranging from leadership in sectors like clean water and sanitation, to financial support and including the partners in planning program strategies — delivers a vital mirror and map towards the agency’s increased effectiveness, accountability and transparency, and in turn to the empowerment of its partners and, ultimately, to the people they both serve.
“The Keystone findings show us that our partners view us as experienced in understanding their working environments, cultural contexts and their own strategies, and they say they would maintain a partnership with us even if funding wasn’t part of the relationship,” Bloem said.
“But at the same time, they tell us they want us to provide more and better of what we NGOs like to call capacity-building support. Capacity building is the kind of assistance that helps people and organizations develop enduring strength and resilience.
“The survey also found that our partners want to be treated as full and true partners, not like subcontractors.”
Call for partnership with parity
The call for partnership with parity was also a major finding in Keystone’s complete international Partner Survey for all 25 participating INGOs. As Keystone’s summary comment noted, community-based partner organizations tell the aid agencies, “They want help to become independent and influential organizations in their own right.”
Reflective of the challenges that community-based partner organizations face in the global south and how important the NGO relationship is, one partner comment in the CWS survey report said the agency’s “moral, spiritual and institutional support was vital to overcome a difficult period at our organization. We are now much advanced due to this support.”
The agency is now rolling out the survey’s findings to its regional offices worldwide, along with plans for deeper exploration of the findings by staff and their respective local partners, as a first step in generating organizational improvements.
CWS is making the complete Keystone Performance Surveys Church World Service Partner Feedback Report available publicly, posted on its website, along with a summary of the report and a series of audio podcast interviews that are also being provided to CWS Regional Offices.
“From families in Cambodia who now have clean water thanks to a CWS biosand filter, to our donors in the U.S., it’s vital for everyone engaged with us to see what we’re doing, how we’re doing and how we may be adjusting our course or our methods, with a constant eye to the goal: ending poverty and hunger,” said Bloem.