Welcome to the Charitable Measurement Initiative!

The Charitable Measurement Initiative is a collaboration of people and organizations that are deeply committed to the belief that social change organizations can mobilize significant new and better investment if they are able to implement a measurement reporting framework that credibly communicates their real impact to donors. The Initiative is directed by GiveIndia and calls on the resources of pilot program partners Keystone Accountability, Global Giving, and New Philanthropy Capital, as well as many other organizations committed to social welfare.

The process began when we decided to combine our previous experiences in humanitarian and charitable work with our current work as corporate lawyers. We sought to find a group in India that was looking to incorporate capital markets/securities concepts in reporting and analysis to create more valuable and transparent information.

Thankfully, we were put in touch with GiveIndia. Give discussed the idea of running a pilot program implementing the Keystone framework developed by Keystone Accountability to see if we could help organizations more clearly articulate the outcomes they wanted and better communicate their actual results to donors. This was exactly what we were hoping to do and gladly agreed to donate a year of time to making this work.

While we were in London, Give put us in touch with Keystone Accountability and New Philanthropy Capital. After many meetings throughout the spring and summer, we arrived at our joint creation – the Charitable Measurement Initiative – and a plan as to how we would seek to help NGOs in India become more transparent, responsive, and efficient, as well as help donors become more engaged and involved.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

NGOs Viewed As Government Extensions

NGOs in India often seem to sprout up to plug holes in government services. This is in part because of the large need and also in part because of the fact that there really isn’t an extensive social welfare network – especially in rural areas.

One of the things we’ve noticed with certain areas in which the government is not doing anything is that they tend to let the NGO be a social laboratory. For example, Samveda, a group in Davnagere, Karnataka, is the only organization in India that is systematically working to help those children with learning disabilities. (It also has expanded to cover a gap in assistance with for those with other disabilities). The government has no formal or informal program to assist these children, nor are the schools in India equipped or trained to identify or support those with learning disabilities. Unlike the West, there really is a complete lack of understanding about this topic, and as a result many highly intelligent students are mislabeled as troublemakers or unmotivated students. For almost 10 years, Samveda had little assistance from the government. Samveda had to set up a school for these children, had to seek and fund research into these areas, and even went around schools to help them build their and their teachers capacities to address learning disabilities. Essentially, they had to take up he government’s role. Samveda’s efforts, along with its advocacy, has finally gotten the government to notice and put some minimal effort toward this issue. But what is clear is that the government is happy to allow Samveda to continue its work with the expectation that it will slowly incorporate Samveda’s findings and work when slowly over time – though when and exactly how are left ambiguous.

A second thing we have noticed with government with respect to its attitude towards NGOs is that they see the NGO as their support staff. This is especially true in rural areas. One great example seems to be lake de-silting efforts. Lakes and water sources need to be de-silted after the monsoon, but this requires the government having the resources to go to villages and do so. Because they cannot, they often ask NGOs to do so. Although the NGOs they ask are usually recommended by someone or known by someone to be a well-run organization, the government doesn’t seem to discriminate by what work the NGO does. So, let’s say a group runs a series of schools or helps them organize women’s community groups…they still would be asked if they would like to de-silt a lake. Some NGOs say no, while others will just hire some people to do it and take the money or will find a way to justify the work within the scope of their efforts. It tends to be a decent measure of how much focus an NGO has, but given funding problems in rural areas it has hard to fault the groups that do take on these projects.