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Ryan Coleman

By: Ryan Coleman on February 24th, 2014

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5 Steps to NGO Success: Part 5 - Review, Refine, and Repeat.

Workflow Automation | Project Monitoring

Rinse, and Repeat...

No, this isn't just me reciting from the back of a shampoo bottle (does anyone REALLY rinse and repeat?), but rather a reminder that the steps you take in your NGO mission must be revisited agaian and again...

We've covered several powerful steps towards making your NGO a success, from collaborating with the citizens and organizations related to your cause, to listening to those you are tryoing to help. Fundraising and its inter-related marketing initiative were covered, just as monitoring and evaluating your NGO's successes and failures. So what is left? Review, Refine, and Repeat.

< Part 1: Collaboration      < Part 2: Listen & Learn    Part 3: Money & Marketing 
Part 4: Monitoring and Evaluation >   Part 5: Review, Refine, and Repeat >

Data collection apps for NGOs

A: Review

In Gareth Evans' keynote speech at Oaktree Foundation 2012 National Conference, Queens College, Melbourne, 30 November 2012, he states that:

At the end of the day, assessments of (an NGO's) effectiveness have to be essentially qualitative, made by those not trying to count numbers but rather bringing experienced judgement to bear on whether, and to what extent, it has actually made a difference.

Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University since January 2010, and President Emeritus of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, points out that success of an NGO is an inexact science at best, but he does offer items you should review in evaluating your NGO.

1. Meeting a need. It is crucial for a start to be seen to be adding value: meeting a need that is not currently being met well, sufficiently or at all. If someone is already covering an issue well, what is the point? This is not to say you wouldn't do it better. But in covering your earlier goals of collaboration, and Listening and Learning, if a need is being met elsewhere, than you should perhaps look to a way to enhance your goals, and help others in a different geographic area or via a different system.

2. Clarity of mission.  The most successful NGOs tend to be those that find a very clear niche and stick to it. As Evans states it:

When Amnesty International broadened its focus from traditional political and civil rights to the whole range of economic, social and cultural rights, it for quite a long time seemed to lose its direction and impact."

3. Independence. Face it, your NGO is judged based upon its donors, and if someone doubts your organizations veracity and morality in your mission, it will only hurt the cause. If any donor contributes more that 20% to an independent organization, they should ensure that the vision and mission cannot be altered due to political or financial desires of a few.

4. Professionalism. Evans covers this best when he states:

The final criterion that has to be met by an NGO that wants to be taken seriously, at least by government policy makers, is absolute professionalism: if you want meet governments on their home ground, you have to provide product of a quality that the best of them are used to.

So where do you stand with this criteria-- finding your NGO lacking or succeeding is not the end, but merely the next step.

B: Refine

Refinement can apply to the people, the methods, and most lately, the technology your NGO utilizes (this is a big part of what we at iFormBulder do for NGOs). If your NGO is not suceeding in the items above, or the earlier steps mentioned, it is often a good idea to review as a team, and individually to review where things can improve. But fixing staffing or mission statements can be easy compared to when your NGO is doing things right-- because then you must push yourself to do better. We at iFormBuilder have covered our approach to improving upon a system or method, as covered in this blog by iFormBuilder's Ryan Coleman on the SAMR method. This is a system created to discuss the proper integration of technology within a system.

Briefly stated:

The S.A.M.R Model is a framework that defines the path of technology integration in the classroom. S.A.M.R stands for:


The process of simply substituting an old technology with a new technology with no real functional change. The classic example of handwriting an article on a piece of paper verses writing the article in a word processor like Word. 

plus Augmentation

The new tech acts as a direct tool for substitution with functional improvement. Writing an article in Word and adding pictures or graphs to the work or adding hyperlinks to different sections of the work. You are still replacing the paper but now you can do a lot more to the paper that adds value. 


The new tech allows for significant task redesign. Now your paper is turned into a blog post and contains web resources, videos are embedded and the entire experience has been enhanced.


The new tech allows for the creation of new task, previously inconceivable.  The article is published using a blog, collaboration with other authors are happening in realtime, immediate access to the global marketplace is achieved, comments from around the world are curated and the entire learning experience is transformed to mind blowing proportions.

This model doesn’t simply transform the learning experience because of the new technology. The way the new technology is used is where the transformation occurs.  There are plenty of teachers using iPads as glorified chalkboard slates. They mastered substitution but don’t advance up the value chain towards redefining how their classroom functions.

By expanding upon a given system, and making it do more, your NGO can grow in efficiency, value, and permanence.


C: Repeat

As the humorous character of Newman described his greuling mailman position on the classic American TV sitcom Seinfeld:

Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. There's never a letup, it's relentless. Every day it piles up more and more, and you gotta get it out, but the more you get out, the more keeps coming in! And then the bar code reader breaks! And then it's Publisher's Clearinghouse Day...! Arg!

It is exhausting, and all-important to constantly question, refine, reduce, grow, and change what and how you re doing things-- otherwise the same mistakes are made, and your organization loses out on helping the world. Those who have chosen to help others are some of the strongest, most professional, determined, and sometimes massochistic (but only in the best way) souls we have ever met. But that's what makes them-- makes you-- the perfect ones to help bring fresh water to deserts, education to children in remote regions, find shelter for the tsunami stricken, and all the other fine causes that you serve.

We at iFormBuilder have made it a goal to make the technology-connected parts of the NGO mission easier and more successful. From our formbuilding tools that allow real-time data collection in even the remotest areas, to our ThunderPlug mobile wi-fi hub, allowing safe and secure data storage in ultra-disconnected and powerless regions. We are proud to help speed up monitoring and evaluation, GPS location for recovery efforts and geneal data collection-- because we know this lets you focus on your mission--- and isn't that what this is all about?


Part 1: Collaboration      Part 2: Listen & Learn >    Part 3: Money & Marketing >     Part 4: Monitoring and Evaluation >    Part 5: Review, Refine, and Repeat >

About Ryan Coleman

Ryan Coleman is the VP of Sales at Zerion and works directly with enterprise deployments around the world. A former resident of San Diego, California, Ryan enjoys sunsets and photographing the coast. If you have any questions about improving your business processes, he would love to hear from you!

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