Many NGOs set out to fight for equality, but what happens when those organisations don’t start on an equal footing themselves?
Paige Fletcher, a PhD student in the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University, has been researching ways to evaluate their effectiveness.
“I’ve always been a passionate feminist,” Paige Fletcher, a PhD student at Flinders University, tells us on a sunny afternoon after presenting her latest research at the College of Business, Government and Law’s HDR Spring Conference. “[and I have] a keen interest in politics and policy. I’ve been fascinated with what the best ways are to achieve feminist policy, and so for my Honours research, I examined the impact of three Australian feminist organisations on policy related to violence against women.”
It’s a complicated area to unpack – after all, some measures of effectiveness (like cultural change) may be almost unquantifiable – and NGOs often have different goals and methods of reporting on the success of their efforts. With her PhD research, Fletcher aimed to make sense of this in the context of eleven different feminist organisations – including Domestic Violence Victoria, Women’s Safety NSW, Embolden and Our Watch – looking at the relationships they have with governments, and how that impacts their advocacy.
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“I think, going into my PhD, I was anticipating that the insider-outsider framework wouldn’t impact effectiveness that greatly, as the strong collaboration between NGOs in the sector would essentially make the insider-outsider framework redundant,” she says. “Instead, what I’m finding is that the insider-outsider positionings and the relationship with government has a big impact on an organisation’s effectiveness. Additionally, the insider-outsider framework as it currently stands does not adequately describe these NGOs’ relationship with governments – it’s far more complex than simply being an insider or an outsider.”
Despite her findings largely unravelling further what is a nuanced, complex topic, Fletcher did develop her own criteria for measuring NGO effectiveness. While she points out that an overall picture of effectiveness may not ever be possible, especially when organisations vary as significantly as they do, she took into consideration how she could learn from the limited effectiveness of other, existing multi-dimensional approaches when developing her own.