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Wisam commented on Syria CSOs Coalition Builder and Incubator

///One expert shared: "I would love to learn what your top one or two goals are and how those relate back to the result you are measuring”///

I will copy this from our strategy document (which I will be happy to share):

“The Coalition aims to increase cooperation and collaboration between Syrian CSOs and to aggregate their voice and influence on the future of Syria.” And our programmes aim at: “ putting Shaml members in a stronger position to have greater impact and better ability to achieve democracy, human rights, gender and all-citizens equality in the future of Syria.”

These are the three objectives that summarise the totality of our work, and how we see ourselves realising our goals:
Objective 1: Shaml organizations become stronger institutions committed to their values
Objective 2. Outreach to Syrian CSOs and build the momentum and support for Shaml’s value-based approach
Objective 3: Aggregate the voice of Syrian CSOs to become key advocates on topics related to their core Values

Not all these objectives are addressed in the design we have put here. What we have proposed for IDEO is part of this vision. What we aim to achieve by building coalition and incubating community initiatives is to improve the position of Syrian NGOs and Syrian communities to have a better influence on a democratic future for their country. In addition, we aim for that to be complemented by advocacy and campaigning efforts, which will bridge the improved position of Syrian NGOs with the direct impact they would like to achieve.

Now, to address directly the question asked, measuring how these different components will serve directly our goals will be very complex. We have done some work on this in the past, and made a little bit of progress. The complete picture of how to measure this success is still not fully there.

Using typical approaches to measuring results of an organisation did not exactly work very well for us. We ended up coming up with arbitrary numbers to measure our success, but we were not very satisfied with them. For example, we thought that we can measure the growth of an organisation by a mix of using Organisational Capacity Assessment Tools, and we also expected that it should reflect in an increase in their annual budget (increase in their services and the number of people they serve). However, we were not successful in isolating the influence of the services that the Coalition offers, and the success that we can attribute to us, from other factors and influencers that contribute to the growth of any organisation.

Another difficulty we have faced is the difficulty in capturing the more important, and less tangible and more complicated to pin down aspects of our success. A crucial success we are achieving, for example, is in terms of building trust and confidence between the different organisations that are member in the coalition. While this relationship was limited to senior leadership level of these organisation, now it includes a wider spectrum of different levels of employees of these organisation that are now more in touch with the work of their colleagues in other organisations. This is a huge success for us, and is exactly what we want to achieve. Measuring it, however, is a different story.

We do not have a final answer for this. What we are doing now is to have continuous consultation with our members and their staff, to examine their views on the added value of the Coalition's work, and whether they think its work is contributing to the aims it is trying to achieve. Two weeks ago we have three long meeting in which we examined some of our underlying assumptions, and looked at the contribution of our different programmes and initiatives towards our goals. This approach is promising to outline the way forward in terms of measuring our success, and linking the different components of our work to our overall goals.


Wisam commented on Syria CSOs Coalition Builder and Incubator

///Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their real needs. How does this idea consider user needs?
• Yes! How will you bake user-feedback into your organization as you grow?///

One of the aspects that makes the Coalition’s work closely links to the actual needs of its member organisations is its governance structure. The coalition is governed by representatives from its different organisations. The General Assembly of the coalition, which includes a wider membership from all member organisations, decide how the strategy and the programmes of the Coalition look like. The Board of Directors of the Coalition have the oversight over the Executive Body, and ensures that it is meeting the needs of its member organisations, and bridging the gaps that they identified as priorities.

In a sense, we do not have the option of not taking the feedback of our users into account :) That said, however, a governance structure is not sufficient to ensure a constant revision and improvement of our work. At the moment we are doing this with the energy and enthusiasm of a new idea that we want to see happening and succeeding. What we need to move to is a place where this process is structured and efficient.

If I compare where we are standing at the moment, with where we were standing a year and a half ago, I can say I am proud of the extensive process of consultation and listening to the feedback of our member organisations. The next step would be to install this process as a main function in the Coalition.

One thing to point out here, is that we have been lucky in the past period to work with donors who understand and appreciated the context and work we are doing and what we are trying to achieve. This is a very fortunate privilege, and, unfortunately, not always available. In a context where many donors would like to see local NGOs implementing the donor’s own strategic goals, rather than the local NGOs addressing what they identified as priorities, local NGOs often find themselves “forced” to follow rigid logframes and indicators. This is not the space to say this, but thank you to our past donors :)


Wisam commented on Syria CSOs Coalition Builder and Incubator

//One expert shared: “What I like about this proposal is that is appears purely led by local organizations, which is terrific. I appreciate their honesty about their need to further refine their ideas and to strengthen to measure results. I think if they continue to refine and work on this it is incredibly promising!”//

Indeed, the development of this proposal is a result of our immediate experiences with the communities we work with on one hand, and the bigger international NGOs and donors on the other hand. It is a result of continuous and ongoing tweaking to find the best solutions for the challenges we face. We do recognize that established approaches and paradigms of work are a result of years of work, and are not that easy to replace or find an alternative to. For this it is important for us that what the coalition provides to its member organisations offers a true added value, and alternative solution to the gaps that are not addresses in the typical approach of INGOs work.

///One expert shared, “The most important element it seems to me is to narrow the focus of the initiative to a more specific type of community initiative so you can measure results to start. The collection of substantive areas represented by the coalition is very broad. While the areas are complementary (e.g. democracy, women's issues) it will be tough to compare results across very different projects. Do they want to narrow their focus to democracy projects? To peacebuilding projects? To service delivery projects? Or if you want to keep a more broad focus can you get really specific about the one or two ways you will support a few different broader areas of focus?”///

I completely agree with your comment. One of the challenges we are facing in making progress on that front is the broadness of our approach. This is a result of the fact that the coalition started with a diverse set of organisations that are working on a variety of fields. This diversity is an advantage that we plan to build on, but also a challenge when it comes to programming and narrowing down focus of our work. I think this is where we will be ultimately heading.

I can make an observation on where we are at the moment, and say that this where we are. The area that resonated most amongst our member organisations is “gender equality”. A Gender Working Group has been formed to mainstream this value in our work and practice. We have conducted recently a survey that examined the views of staff members of 6 organisations that are currently member in our coalition. We had a response of over 370 staff members, which is amazing. We are currently analyzing data of that survey, and this will help us determining where we stant in terms of gender equality, and what our priorities should be.

In this sense, it’s possible to say that Gender Equality has organically surfaced at the topic of priority for the organisations that are member in the Coalition. Probably a similar process will prioritize something else in another coalition.

The energy and focus of the Gender Working Group will soon result in more elaboration on the means and tools on how to measure our progress, as a group of organizations, on gender equality. We will be able to better able to flesh out this concept, and transform it into a set of agreed indicators and parameters that will help us measure the adherence and commitment of a certain organisation to gender equality. They will also help measure the progress of one of the organisations in regards to its work on that aspect.