IS YOUR NGO LEGITIMATE, TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE?

You are the director of a civil society organization (SCO). We know that each country has different features of bureaucracy for civil society organizations. If you are in Africa, as NGO/SCO directors you are also trying to cope with the specific challenges facing African countries.

On the other hand, there are some requirements that are valid all over the world. So, what are these requirements? The answer is; Legitimacy, Transparency, Accountably (LTA). In challenging NGO world, ıf you are planning to be long life, impactful and strong organization you need capacity building, therefore you need the steps of LTA.

It is a fact that when you fulfill these three requirements you leave many difficulties behind. I would like to share with you some quotations from a guide written by civicus.org.

Firstly, two important points to keep in mind when reading and using these guidelines:

1. Not all LTA goals and tools suit every civil society organization (CSO), they are dependent on your organization, your organizational mission, goals, and actions.

2. You should not undertake LTA actions because of external pressure only; first and foremost you do it for yourself, for the right reasons.

LTA it is particularly important for CSOs for four main reasons:

1. This is a way to do your work better, to analyze your organization and the actual impact of your work, to receive feedback, to learn, develop and avoid mistakes;

2. CSOs themselves challenge others on LTA;

3. CSOs need to ensure their accountability to various and sometimes rivaling stakeholders;

4. CSOs mobilize people and develop their resources in the name of social values, needs, and goals.

Therefore we need to be super-LTA and work with ourselves to achieve the highest possible levels of honesty, openness, and morale. We need to set our own values because if we don’t, they will surely be imposed on us. Having high principles of LTA is our main capital.

Most stakeholders want transparency and accountability from the CSO they are dealing with. They feel that because they support the CSO either financially or its principles, they are entitled to know how the CSO is doing, how it is funded, how it is using those funds, how it is governed and managed, etc.

Transparency:

Transparent procedures include open meetings, financial disclosure statements, clear board elections and governance procedures, information on political positions, budgetary review, audits, etc.

Tip But do not overdo it and be careful of the extent of transparency: transparency might not be automatically good. Indeed, more transparency may mean less secrecy but it also means less privacy — and some things might better remain private, such as the medical histories of staff members, etc.

Accountably:

For a CSO/NGO to be accountable, it needs to be transparent about what it is doing, what it is planning to do, and how it is performing in relation to the goals it has set itself. This information should be made available to all stakeholders, such as donors and communities.

Accountability also involves engaging individuals and groups in the activities and decisions that affect them. This is relevant for both internal stakeholders, such as staff, and for external stakeholders, such as the communities that a CSO works with.

Legitimacy

Four key kinds of legitimacy:

Legal legitimacy (CSO is compliant with legal and regulatory requirements);

Pragmatic legitimacy (the value the CSOs provide to various stakeholders);

Normative legitimacy (how people think the world ought to work, “the way things should be — i.e. CSO’s goals and actions are grounded in widely-held social values, norms, and standards);

Cognitive legitimacy (how people understand the world works, accepted as “the way things are” — i.e. CSO’s activities and goals are widely seen as appropriate, proper, and “making sense” to the larger society)

Start with small steps, recognizing there are barriers but that they are not insurmountable, introducing one change that is something you can and are able to do and maintain. For example, send a monthly summary of what your CSO is planning to do and achieve this month. Next time, add what was done and achieved and what is planned for next month. See how it goes and then introduce a new method. You do not need to try and jump the world record for the first time; in most cases, it is too complicated, expensive, time-consuming, and worst of all, often unachievable. Once you have had a few success stories and you are convinced that it was not so hard, the commitment is much easier to come and stay. It’s about taking the principles of accountability, looking at existing good practices, and seeing how they apply to your own organization and demonstrating how you are meeting them.

Although the report was prepared years ago, it is still a guide for NGOs who want to improve their capacity.

You can access the full report page from here;

Arife Kabil Mede; Turkish ex-pat in Africa. Sociologist, journalist. Interviews with NGO leaders in Africa. Updates, researches, projects.