Civil Sector Capacity Building Initiative in Kazakhstan
The project sought to improve the quality of nongovernmental organizations’ (NGO) services and programmes by strengthening their capacity to effectively implement accountability standards. Its intended outcomes were: strengthened NGO capacity to implement accountability strategies and tools; strengthened capacity of donor community to foster participatory accountability within the NGO community; and increased public demand for greater NGO accountability to beneficiaries.
The project design, however, was not well grounded in the larger concept of accountability, or in how donors incorporate these principles into the efforts they fund. It also did not take into consideration feedback received from potential partners and beneficiaries during the design, and did not adequately consult with donors who were identified as a target group.
Lessons from Project
The lack of NGO continuity in the different activities limited the sustainability of the project’s outcomes. The increased knowledge gained by some in the preparation of annual reports is likely to be limited only to those individuals who produced them.
The project’s monitoring and evaluation plan was not fully implemented, and no aggregated data was kept that could have demonstrated the project’s reach to the different regions of Kazakhstan, types of NGOs or participants. No performance data or tracking of the use of project outputs was collected either. Baseline surveys established at the very start of the project should have been repeated at the end. Short pre- and post-knowledge, attitudes and practices tests could have been administered for trainings. Data should have been aggregated as part of regular project management, monitoring and reporting processes as well as disaggregated by different variables to understand project reach and performance.
Project inputs were consistent with the activities undertaken but not with the intended outcomes. The project should have placed more emphasis on the continuity of the programmatic elements of the project and a more process-oriented approach towards accountability. Accountability is not only about public reporting, but also about integrity standards, consultative structures and transparent processes.
The usefulness of the training for the accountability coaches – who were then intended to train NGOs in various regions of Kazakhstan – was mixed. Responses varied depending on the level of interest and knowledge of the participants. The training should have been more grounded in the wider development context so as to ensure that it built on existing efforts, demonstrated a good understanding of its intended beneficiaries and targeted NGOs that lack accountability.
Anecdotally, although the project did increase the visibility of the concept of NGO accountability through the workshops – which were publicized in the media – the concept of accountability was defined in such narrow terms that the results of the project were mainly found at a very low level specifically in the production of annual reports by each of the subgrantees.
There was limited interest by the targeted beneficiaries in participating in the project. The grantee therefore had to abandon some of its activities and adapt others. Only five of the NGOs from the initial training for Accountability Coaches continued to participate in the second training on monitoring and evaluation; a third training focused almost exclusively on how to produce better annual reports for the NGOs chosen as subgrantees. Only three out of 75 contacted donors responded to the online survey of donor practices.
The concept of accountability is important and needed in a context where many NGOs seek government funding to provide services. There is a need to ensure that NGOs in Kazakhstan are linked to their beneficiaries and for all NGOs to realize they need to be as accountable as they are asking their government to be. This would also include clarifying the NGOs’ vision and mission, developing their consultative structures and processes, and adopting integrity standards and regular public reporting processes.