How can we measure development of individual civil society organisations?
Compared with national-level indices, for which only a few tools are in wide use, there is a proliferation of tools for measuring the organisational capacity of individual civil society organisations (USAID Center for Development Information and Evaluation 2000). One of the most widely used is the Participatory, Results-Oriented Self-Evaluation (PROSE) method, developed by the Education Development Center. PROSE is designed to measure and profile organisational capacities, and assess, over time, how strengthening activities affect organisational capacity. PROSE produces a capacity score, which indicates how an organisation perceives its strengths and weaknesses in each of a series of capacity areas, as well as a consensus score, which indicates the degree of consensus among the individual members of the assessment team. PROSE can be used to monitor change in capacity in one organisation over time. However, like many tools, PROSE is based on the perceptions of the staff of the organisation, not on externally verifiable indicators, and, as a result, there are limitations to using the tool for making comparisons among organisations.
Another tool is the Institutional Development Framework (IDF), developed by Management Systems International (Renzi 1996). The IDF was designed specifically to assist non-profit organisations to improve efficiency and become more effective. To this end, the tool measures capacity in five organisational capacity areas: (i) oversight/vision; (ii) management resources; (iii) human resources; (iv) financial resources; and (v) external resources. The tool was originally formulated for environmental NGOs, although it can be adapted for any organisation. Compared with other similar tools, the IDF is relatively good at tracking change within one organisation over time. However, it is not well suited for inter-organisational comparisons, because it allows for adjustments to fit the needs of each individual organisation.
A third tool is the NGO self-assessment tool developed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (Devine et al. 2001). This tool is designed to assist NGOs determine their current level of development based on eight core organisational areas, and, thereby, identify priority actions for strengthening their organisational capacity. However, the tool is also implicitly a monitoring tool, because it enables civil society organisations to measure their institutional development over time. The self-assessment tool was designed for use by TNC partner groups, which tend to be medium-sized, established NGOs, active in the field of environmental conservation and sustainable development. Nevertheless, with minor modifications, many of the indicators that form the tool can be applied to other civil society organisations.