In 2009, one of my first evaluation jobs at GlobalGiving was to figure out what was going on with a partner organization based in Kisumu, Kenya that we’d been getting local complaints about. You can read the story on the GG blog and download the case study here.
I wanted to give an update on the story.
This case study followed one Kenyan organization that struggled to provide promised services to the athletes’ satisfaction. I didn’t know at the time that a bumper sticker would start a chain reaction that would get people in the community involved with giving the organization greater direction. This dialogue between the organization and the people it aimed to serve took many turns and ultimately caused the founder to leave the city and a new organization under the leadership of the youth athletes themselves to emerge.
At the time we didn’t know if this new organization, the Manyatta Youth Resource Center would ultimately succeed, or whether the old organization, Sacrena, would re-emerge as a stronger organization, more responsive to the community. You can’t predict when or how social change will take place. All you can do is keep listening, and passing messages back and forth (even anonymously if needed). That’s what we’re trying to do now on a global scale with the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project, which we started from the lessons of this case study: provide feedback loops between all people and every organization in every community so that we all hear each other.
One thing that we tried to make clear in the paper is that while we believed this is the right way to resolve conflicts and shed light on the community’s opinions about a questionable organization, it does not guarantee that the organization, the beneficiaries, or the project (youth sports in this case) survives. Two years later, the beneficiaries-turned-project-leaders are struggling to keep their spinoff organization alive, with no funding and lacking the capacity to win a permanent spot on globalgiving (but they recently got a little something from One World Futbol).
In spite of their lack of funding (it was clearly easier for the previous, corrupt NGO to raise money), I believe the people themselves are better for the struggle. The process gave a dozen young people the zeal to believe that they don’t need to depend on corrupt leaders* for anything, and will thus be better leaders of organizations in the future.
* (I assume the one leader from that corrupt organization will find this and complain to me for the umpteenth time about libel. Save your breath! We gave the community plenty of chances to speak for themselves, and couldn’t find any local faction that wanted us to work with your organization by the end of it, especially after an alternative “mentor” organization emerged so that you were deemed redundant and obstructionist.)
Speak of the mentor:
I just got a call today from Collins (of the AMANI NA UPENDO DEVELOPMENT group ) who will organize a storytelling feedback meeting in Kisumu for these guys and all the other NGOs we know of. Hopefully this meeting will again inspire them to work on getting some funding to keep alive in 2012.
So to recap:
- It is still a difficult process to scale a community dialogue about the questionable organization
- This feedback process only teaches people to believe in themselves and in democracy; it doesn’t guarantee programmatic continuity.