Principle Consultant, DBishop Consulting
14 June 2012, 16:05
As my stats professor used to say, one can measure anything, as long as the definitions are agreed upon. The first question would be the definition of "impact". All interventions have impact - the question would be whether or not the impact is positive or negative.
The thread assumes definitions of "impact" and "credibility" and "reputation". One can assume the readers accept HAP and SPHERE, though Medair prefers ISO 9000 to measure the quality of its organization.
As for reputations, having spent 30 plus years in this field, that meaning varies widely. All agencies want to be seen as reliable with the funds placed at their disposal. However, how they approach their niche in the humanitarian sector also contributes to their reputation. Some agencies prefer the "cowboy" approach. They will go where others are afraid to go, speak up and criticize others for not meeting their standards and generally position themselves as the best of the best. Other agencies place themselves as ones who will be around for the duration and into development. Still others have a faith-based component that needs to be included when considering their reputation and credibility.
For example, I know of several major organizations that are faith-based who want the reputation of including faith-based results as a part of their impact. They promote this among their individual donors. However, their reputation with other faith-based organizations is weak in this area. Yes, they have positive impact in other areas. Therefore, under one set of criteria, they are not as credible and their reputation is mixed. Under another set of criteria, they are credible and enjoy a strong reputation.
This is why standards like SPHERE, HAP, ISO 9000 and others help stabilize discussions like this to a degree. However, as the Medair example points out, not everyone agrees on one standard.
Medair, I'm not disagreeing with your choice. You have valid reasons for your decision. It also helps illustrate why this discussion will not have a nice, neat answer. Agencies will find core elements upon which to agree and other elements upon which they disagree.
When I conduct an evaluation of an agency's efforts, my first question is to which standards do they subscribe? The second is how did they portray their programme approach and impact intent to their donors and beneficiaries? The answers to these two questions allow us to develop the quantitative and qualitative measures to determine internal policy quality, overall credibility and ascribe a positive or negative aspect to their reputation.
And, in answer to the original question, once you have the desired measurement definitions, you can objectively validate an agency's credibility and reputation.