Posted on January 6, 2004
Nonprofit Accountability Movement Seeks Distant Consensus
PND - Nonprofit Accountability Movement Seeks Consensus
Academics and other professionals studying accountability are questioning whether new accountability measures implemented at nongovernmental organizations are providing meaningful oversight or wasting time and resources, the New York Times reports.
Before the rise of the accountability movement, most oversight of NGOs focused on preventing fraud rather than ensuring positive results. As the sector has grown in size and importance, however, bringing with it demands for greater accountability, a consensus has failed to emerge on how to hold NGOs accountable for their results. In a forthcoming essay, Ford Foundation program officer Lisa Jordan discusses systems developed by NGOs to measure their performance and notes that many were created to answer donors' questions. "In some circumstances they can be quite helpful," Jordan writes, "but in other circumstances they are inadequate, they do not address the needs of the NGOs, they are divorced from missions, they do not address moral obligations."
According to Charles F. Sabel, professor of law and social science at Columbia Law School, the two methods of accountability most used by NGOs board oversight and reporting of services or activities are ineffective. Sabel proposes that organizations use "learning by monitoring" as an interim form of accountability. "Even though people can't specify what's effective and what's not, and they can't make an effective model for the right solution, they can improve enough to make it better the next round," he adds. "And that is a kind of accountability."