The Clash of the Counter-bureaucracy and Development

“In this essay, Andrew Natsios describes what he sees as the most disruptive obstacles to development work in agencies such as USAID: layers and layers of bureaucracy. He gives a first-hand account of how this “counter-bureaucracy” disfigures USAID’s development practice and even compromises U.S. national security objectives. Most of all, he argues, the counter-bureaucracy’s emphasis on easy measurement is at odds with the fact that transformational programs are often the least measurable and involve elements of risk and uncertainty.

To overcome counter-bureaucracy barriers, Natsios suggests implementing a new measurement system, reducing the layers of oversight and regulation, and aligning programmatic goals with organizational incentives. Unless policymakers address the issue, he says, U.S. aid programs will be unable to implement serious development programs while complying with the demands of Washington.”

Revised 07-13-2010


The Big Push Back (and push forward)

“On the 22nd September, Rosalind Eyben organised a meeting of some seventy development practitioners and researchers worried about the current trend for funding organisations to support only those programmes designed to deliver easily measurable results, although these may not support transformative processes of positive and sustainable changes in people’s lives.

Following on from a major conference in May in the Netherlands about evaluative practices in relation to social transformation (, the meeting took
the first steps in strategizing collectively in support of these practices”  Attached is Rosalind’s brief report of the meeting.

PS: 11 October 2010. See the latest posting by Ros Eyben on this topic here, on the Hauser Centre blog

INTRAC workshop: Accountability without Impact?

Date: Date: 23 November 2010
Venue: Venue: St Anne’s College, Oxford, UK

There are many debates about the ‘So what?’ question, in terms of concerns about the actual impact of international cooperation. What is the development sector actually achieving in terms of improving the lives of the poor? Have we focused on proving accountability without truly pursuing ways to assess impact? What can we do about this?

This workshop will draw on practitioner experiences to assess the state of the current debate, asking where we are now; explore forward-thinking case studies; and facilitate productive discussion and debate about where we want to be, and how to move towards that. The workshop will be attended by senior INGO managers and policy makers, from Europe.

For further information click here . Contact:

Launch of online database of research accountability tools

Announcement: 7 September: launch of online database of research accountability tools

The One World Trust, with support from the IDRC, has created an interactive, online database of tools to help organisations conducting policy relevant research become more accountable.

Processes of innovation and research are fundamental to improvements in quality of life and to creating a better society. But to realise these benefits, the quality of research alone is not enough. Organisations engaged in policy-relevant research and innovation must continually take into account and balance the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders: from the intended research users, to their clients and donors, to the research community and the research participants.  Responsiveness to all of these is crucial if they are to be legitimate and effective. In this, accountable processes are as important as high quality research products.

The Trust has built the online accountability database to support researchers, campaigners and research managers to think through the way they use evidence to influence policy in an accountable way. The database takes into account that research organisations are increasingly diverse – they are no longer just  universities, but private companies, public institutes and non-profit think-tanks. No single framework can encompass this diversity.

Instead, the database provides an inventory of over two hundred tools, standards and processes within a broad, overarching accountability framework. With a dynamic interface and several search functions, it allows users to identify aspects of accountability that interests them, and provides ideas to improve their accountability in this context. Each tool is supported by sources and further reading.

We also encourage engagement with and discussion on the database content, through allowing users to comment on individual tools, or to submit their own tools, processes and standards for inclusion.

The database is an output of a three-year project, titled “Accountability Principles for Research Organisations.” Working with partners across the globe, the project has generated an accountability framework which is sufficiently flexible to apply to many contexts and different organisations.

The database will be available online from the 7 September.

For more information about the project please feel free to contact us at For the database, please visit

Listen First: a pilot system for managing downward accountability in NGOs

Alex Jacobs and Robyn Wilford. Development in Practice, Volume 20, Number 7, September 2010 Available as pdf

“Abstract: This article reports on a research project intended to develop systematic ways of managing downward accountability in an international NGO. Innovative tools were developed and trialled in six countries. The tools comprised a framework, de?ning downward accountability in practical terms, and three management processes. They were successfully used to
(a) encourage staff to improve downward accountability in ways relevant to their context;
(b) hear bene?ciaries’ assessments of the level of accountability achieved and the value of the NGO’s work; and (c) generate quanti?ed performance summaries for managers. Taken together, they form a coherent draft management system. Areas for further research are identied.”

There’s more related material  at,

The Limits of Nonprofit Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance

Alnoor Ebrahim, V. Kasturi Rangan, Social Enterprise Initiative, Harvard Business School (2010) Working Paper 10-099 Available as pdf


“Leaders of organizations in the social sector are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impacts on pressing societal problems such as global poverty. We review the debates around performance and impact, drawing on three literatures: strategic philanthropy, nonprofit management, and international development. We then develop a contingency framework for measuring results, suggesting that some organizations should measure long-term impacts, while others should focus on shorter-term outputs and outcomes. In closing, we discuss the implications of our analysis for future research on performance management.”

Addressing accountability in NGO advocacy: Practice, principles and prospects of self-regulation

Michael Hammer, Charlotte Rooney, and Shana Warren
ISSN 2043-7943 Briefing paper number 125, March 2010. One World Trust.

“Global and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are the most distinct organisational form of civil society, and as such have become increasingly involved and influential in forming public opinion and policy through targeted and professional campaigning and policy advocacy. Yet their growing power has also raised questions about the basis on which they engage in these activities, including their accountability and legitimacy in view of frequent explicit or implicit claims these organisations make to social representation, the quality of their research work, and the public benefit they provide.

Based on a world-wide survey of civil society self-regulatory initiatives undertaken by the One World Trust this paper examines how NGOs have begun to address the accountability challenges they face in particular when engaging in advocacy and explains some of the strengths and weaknesses of existing self-regulation for NGOs engaged in advocacy.

Research presented in the paper suggests that both normative and instrumental reasons account for the adoption of accountability principles by advocacy organisations through self-regulation, and that lessons learnt from the One World Trust’s parallel work on accountability principles for policy oriented research organisations can be usefully applied also to strengthen accountability of advocacy NGOs.

The briefing identifies for each major dimension of accountability a set of initial good practice principles for advocacy organisations, including on:
• transparency of the evidence basis used in advocacy, of funding and funders for specific campaigns and activities, and around forward looking information such as strategy, and the processes used to determine advocacy priorities;
• opportunities for participation of beneficiaries and other key stakeholders of the organisation in the development of advocacy objectives and their review; and
• the development of criteria for evaluating the impact of advocacy with beneficiaries and other stakeholders, and the establishment of feedback and complaints handling mechanisms to address individual experiences and problematic impacts.

The paper concludes with the identification of remaining challenges for research and self-regulation practice to strengthen accountability in advocacy by NGOs: how to deal with inherent tensions between objectivity and messaging in purpose driven advocacy; how to protect independence, freedoms and role of NGOs in the public policy process, and how to strengthen the connection between ethical practice in fundraising and selfregulation of policy advocacy work”

Publications on accountability of technological innovation

New publications by the One World Trust:

  • An Accountability Framework for Technological Innovation“, ILAC Initiative (Institutional Learning and Change) Brief In this Brief, we offer recommendations to help an organization conducting technological research and design (R&D) to become more accountable. We provide recommendations based on four principles developed by the One World Trust which capture the dimensions of accountability. (The ILAC Initiative aims to increase the contribution of the CGIAR to poverty alleviation by improving planning, monitoring and evaluation of collaborative agricultural research for development. It’s great that they have been able to publish this Brief applying the APRO framework to agricultural science.)
  • Accountability of innovation: A literature review, framework and guidelines to strengthen accountability of organisations engaged in technological innovation“: This paper synthesises some of the most important lessons learned arising from the evolving understanding of innovation, and provides a framework of accountability for organisations engaged in technological R&D. The guidelines focus on supporting organisations to become more effective, while simultaneously ensuring that they adhere to ethical standards in their innovation.

Invitation to submit research accountability tools and systems for online database

Dear colleagues

I’m writing to ask you to submit any tools you know of, or have developed, which you think could help build the accountability of research organisations. These will be entered into a publicly available online database.   The One World Trust has been working with our partners to formulate an accountability framework for organisations conducting research (whether civil society, universities, private or public sector). The database will make available tools which will help research managers reflect on and improve the accountability of the programs they manage .   Specifically, we are looking for descriptions and accounts of innovative tools and processes which fall within the following broad areas:

  • Tools suitable for the monitoring and evaluation of research and advocacy;
  • Tools for participatory planning of research;
  • Tools to assist organisational learning and change;
  • Good practices and policies of transparency in research;
  • Good practices for working accountably in partnerships and networks;
  • Community engagement strategies with research participants;
  • Tools to ensure you ‘close the loop’ and manage feedback from your research participants;
  • Examples of where organisations conducting research have integrated external stakeholders into governance structures; and
  • Ethics standards for participatory and applied research.

Ideally, the description would take the form of a document or case study.   For those interested in submitting a tool, please get in contact with the One World Trust team at For more information on the project, please visit our website. All relevant tools will be included in the database, which we propose to put online and publicly available by August 2010. If we think the tool is not relevant, we do promise to get back to you and explain why!   Thanks very much for your time,   Brendan.

Brendan Whitty
Principal Researcher
One World Trust
3 Whitehall Court, London, SW1A 2EL, UK
> Now Available!  The APRO toolkit provides guidelines outlining accountability principles for research organisations.
Tel +44 (0)20 7766 3463
Charity No. 210180

Accountability Toolkits for CSO Umbrella Groups in India, Belize, Uganda and the Pacific Region

(from the One World Trust ‘s “Accountability in Action” newsletter, January 2010)

“Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have seen a significant change in their role and influence in society and politics. They are now major providers of essential services, influential advocates for marginalised groups and knowledgeable advisors on public policy. As such, they have become important players in national and international governance. However, with this newfound influence has come greater scrutiny of CSO activities. Worldwide, CSOs are facing growing pressure from governments, donors and the public to be more open about their funding sources, to provide evidence of their impact and to clearly demonstrate which groups they represent and how. Within the context of the changing political environment for CSOs, the One World Trust worked in partnership with the Commonwealth Foundation and local partners on a project across three Commonwealth countries, Belize, India and Uganda, and one region, the Pacific islands, to stimulate discussion among CSOs on what it means to be accountable. The four toolkits on accountability for CSOs in Belize, India, Pacific region and Uganda can be downloaded here.”