Measuring the Effectiveness of Partnerships in Humanitarian Aid

May 14, 2015 Alec Green

Collaboration between humanitarian aid organizations is an operational imperative in almost all relief situations.  Whether the collaboration is between two multinational aid organizations, an international NGO and a local relief group, or an NGO and government agency, partnerships have become a primary means of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian response.

Though much has been written about what humanitarian aid organizations can do to build successful partnerships, comparatively little has been written about how to determine if these partnerships are achieving each organization’s stated objectives. 

In our recent webinar, “Measuring Partnership Effectiveness,” Catherine Russ, a Global Learning Specialist and Accredited Partnership Broker, discussed why partnership measurement is so critical and how best to approach it from the perspective of an aid organization.  

Why Measure Partnerships?

NGOs often face limited resources and tight deadlines, so any activities not directly tied to the work at hand may get deprioritized. In the case of partnership assessments, the results can be well worth the resources expended. Here are some of the benefits of measuring organizational partnerships:

  • Determine if the partnership is the ideal way to accomplish your goals.
  • Assess active partnerships with the goal of making midstream adjustments.
  • Make your partnership more efficient and effective.
  • Make partners accountable for their actions and attitudes within the combined organization.
  • Discover benefits of the partnership that go beyond those expected.
  • Determine whether the partnership is still in line with your original goals.
  • Analyze the impact of the partnership on the community.

How to Measure Partnerships

Partnership experts have yet to devise comprehensive tools for measuring partnership effectiveness. The types of metrics that most organizations use often don’t tell the whole story.  Russ recommends keeping a few key factors in mind when conducting a partner performance assessment:

  • Separate the project from the partnership. It might seem natural to think that if the project is successful then the partnership is, as well. By only considering the work results, many organizations fail to consider the time, effort, and resources that went into the combined response.
  • Establish each organization’s definition of “success.” What do the different organizations want from the partnership? The partnership may have been formed with one primary objective, but the truth is that each organization comes to the table with their own expectations. Aside from the common goal, each organization may have goals that go beyond the project at hand and very different standards of success.  
  • Determine which measurement tools to use. Several tools exist that can be helpful in measuring partnership effectiveness, and each tool provides insight into different components of a project. The important thing here is to match up the components of success that are important to each partner with tools that actually measure those components. In the webinar, Catherine Russ highlights several measurement tools to consider.  
  • Choose between and internal and external assessment. Internal assessments are conducted by one’s own staff while external assessments are done by sources outside one’s own organization. Internal assessments are far easier to execute because the team conducting the assessment is already employed by the organization and knows the people and situations involved.  In addition, the people within the organization may know and trust an internal assessor and be more candid than they would to outsiders. On the other hand, an external assessment is impartial and easier to benchmark. As a result, some donors and funders require external assessments and generally place more confidence in the results.

It is no surprise that building effective partnerships amidst such challenging conditions is an ongoing challenge in the humanitarian aid sector.  As the sheer number and complexity of partnerships continue to grow, developing effective measurement mechanisms up front helps each organization work most efficiently, execute their shared mission, and achieve their individual goals.

We thank Catherine Russ for sharing her firsthand experience in this area with the community.  To learn more, watch the full webinar.


About the Author

As Chief Marketing Evangelist, Alec Green is responsible for developing the overall marketing plan and strategy for the Foundation, executing all outbound communications, increasing visibility of the Foundation’s programs, and building engagement with our partners and beneficiaries. Previously, Alec was Vice President of Marketing at The Search Agency, the largest independent online marketing agency in the U.S. He has also held marketing leadership roles at Zynx Health and Amgen Inc. and began his career as a seventh-grade mathematics teacher in the New York Unified School District. Alec holds an MBA in marketing from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a BA in psychology and sociology from Amherst College.


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