Friday, March 19, 2010

Accountability Me!

"Thus, a foundation assessing community readiness might also consider whether its own structure, leadership, staff roles, internal systems, and culture make it ready for the role it has envisioned for itself as a sponsor."

Prudence Brown, Marie Colombo, and Delia M. Hughes, "Foundation Readiness for Community Transformation: Learning in Real Time," Foundation Review,Winter 2009 Vol 1:1

This is true in relation to results-based accountability as well. Too often foundations or other investors hold grantees to agreed-upon targets but the grantees bear the full weight of accountability. When foundations understand themselves as investors in these targets, they own the results within their own governance accountability systems and are more cognizant of how they are fully implicated in whether results are achieved. Grantees may still not perform or environmental conditions may change, but foundations are unable to simply blame others for things going wrong. Their actions or non actions on behalf of these results are a key part of the story.

This new kind of self awareness and accountability are also needed in the realm of learning and mistakes. We tend to celebrate the language of "make new mistakes" without an equal appetite for surfacing these mistakes and being accountable for them--at least in the short run. This kind of accountability is admittedly difficult for all kinds of organizations -- but it is especially important for foundations who have a mission to improve knowledge and capacity.

The short message for foundations is that if you are going to require new behaviors grantees and other partners, then you should be a role model in demonstrating them.

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