Oxfam is part of an on-going worldwide effort of nearly 70 international NGOs to assess their performance according to the views of the local partners that these NGOs help to fund and with whom they work. The study is run by Keystone, an independent firm that helps social organizations to improve the way they work. In 2014, Oxfam invited 2,476 of its partners to take part in the survey. Nearly a third of them did, and we are hugely appreciative for their time and effort.
Oxfam has a long history of seeking feedback from its partners. Accountability to them is a key part of our strategic plan. Our Partnership Principles demonstrate that we believe our partners are a vital part of our work to end poverty and injustice. They are development actors in their own right and Oxfam wants to be a good partner to them itself.
The 2014 Oxfam Partners Feedback report, pulled together by Keystone, highlighted areas where Oxfam needs to be doing a lot better in meeting partners’ expectations. It also showed the areas where we are doing well. As Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said:
“The survey comes at a crucial time for Oxfam as we move toward greater harmonization across Oxfam affiliates and seek to strengthen our value as an influencing and knowledge-based network. The results give us a tremendous insight into what we need to do to improve, based on what our partners say they really need from us. We agree with Keystone when it says that feedback is only valuable when it leads to improvement. We are committed to heeding our partners’ voice.”
Oxfam needs to improve in these key areas:
- Supporting our partners better to help them raise funds from other sources;
- Developing joint strategies with them more often, and to promote their work publicly;
- Strengthening our support for women’s leadership development programs and putting more funding into gender equality projects.
Our partners’ feedback suggests that our ambition to act more often as a broker and to increase our impact through influencing at all levels is right. They would like to see us do more to support alliance-building, and more in the way of advocacy and campaigning with them. They would like Oxfam to help them get better at monitoring their work. Finally they challenged Oxfam to improve our direct accountability to local communities – something Oxfam is, in turn, seeking their help with.
The Oxfam Executive Board welcomed the survey and has taken immediate steps to improve on the areas where the survey indicates we are weaker, and to build upon our strengths. We are now taking the survey results – and our response to it – back to our partners for discussion and action. In addition to doing our own “temperature check” internal reassessment of some of our partnerships next year, Oxfam will engage with Keystone to invite partners to participate again in this independent survey in 2018, so that we can judge exactly how we’re progressing overall.