So I broke one of my golden rules recently. Well, rules are meant to be broken sometimes. I was asked to work on an evaluation that was not an evaluation, a research study that was not a research study. The client had a unique relationship with one of its main funders that had enabled the NGO to redesign its organisational structure and how it delivered its services. This was a core funding arrangement in which both the NGO and the donor considered each other to be equal partners. They had taken two years to find the right evaluation team to do this piece of work and were clear that although this was partly about evaluating how the partnership had worked, the donor and the NGO also wanted to document evidence around how core funding (also called strategic funding) works.
This was an opportunity to develop a new way of measuring and evaluating core funding. Well I say “new”, I’m not sure that what we ended up with was totally new. But it was a different approach that has delivered some interesting results. Along the way, I decided not to use the OECD DAC criteria that I have used for the past few years as a standard feature of my evaluation designs. I don’t think the evaluation suffered from this and the evidence that we collected could easily have supported an analysis using the OECD DAC criteria. But in this case, the NGO, its donor, the approach that they have both used and the results that they have generated have been so very different from anything else I’ve seen in the past five years that it was clear that trying to shoe-horn my standard approach into this process was just not going to work.
Also, sometimes it is just nice to try something new.
So the process that we came up with has some different (for me anyway) processes that have thrown light on a complex, innovative and interesting example of how NGOs can use strategic funding to make a significant difference. While “Relevance, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Results and Sustainability” continue to be important (and I am sure I’ll use them again), I now have a few more processes and methodologies to use that will help my clients to better understand their impact.
Hopefully in the not too distant future I will be able to share the methods that I have used, but right now we’re still finishing off the final report, and then I’ve got to write up a paper on the processes. So watch this space….
Have you found it useful to break the rules sometimes? Have you discovered results that you probably wouldn’t have done otherwise?