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The consequences of pressures for enhanced performance: A study of project performance and organizational characteristics of humanitarian NGOs

Liesbet Heyse
Department of Sociology/ICS, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Liesbet Heyse
Department of Sociology/ICS, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Open Panel

Abstract

Humanitarian non governmental organizations (NGOs) are exposed to external pressures for accountability and performance measurement. It is assumed that such pressures will result in more attention to performance in humanitarian aid in general, and specific performance demands in particular, such as efficiency and effectiveness. Next, attention to these performance demands is argued to enhance overall project performance in humanitarian aid. In this paper, we study these assumptions in a case study of two humanitarian NGOs: one operational and specialized, the other generalist and working with local partners. The main research questions are: 1. To what extent do humanitarian NGOs pay attention in their projects to more traditional civil society performance indicators, such as appropriateness and coverage, when compared to those demands pressed for by their stakeholders? 2. To what extent does high performance on the more ‘hard’ criteria as formulated by their stakeholders go at the expense of the performance on the more traditional civil society performance indicators? 3. To what extent do organizational characteristics (i.e. mandate and project team characteristics) influence the degree to which attention is paid to particular performance demands and the perceived performance on these demands? These questions are explored by analyzing ten evaluation reports per organization by means of text analysis software Atlas ti. By coding the evaluators’ perceptions about comparable projects of these two organizations, we can investigate and compare the attention given to particular performance demands, the perceived performance of both organizations on these demands, and the organizational characteristics of the project teams.