NGOs in the Mist

A recent news item from Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund talks about the Tayna Gorilla Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Dian Fossey gorilla fund liked the idea of a new wildlife reserve and provided some support, but the small Atlanta-based nonprofit had limited funds. In 2003, recognizing a unique opportunity, CI became a partner with the group. Juan Carlos Bonilla, head of CI’s Central Africa program, negotiated $2.8 million in USAID funds and CI’s Global Conservation Fund added close to $1 million.

It could be an interesting place to visit, so I follow the link to the Tayna Gorilla Reserve. The website has obviously not been maintained, and the links are broken. Given that one additional paying visitor to the area would more than pay for the cost of fixing the website, it seems somewhat peculiar. I mean, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund had an ongoing project, they got an additional $3.8 million, and they can’t help maintain a website?

This brings me to a general observation about models such as the Global Conservation Fund’s. The GCF raises money and provides financial and technical expertise to smaller NGOs that don’t have the expertise needed, in this case the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which then works as an intermediary or contractor.

So far so good, but what are the incentives for the smaller NGO to report bad news to GCF? What incentives does the local population have to report bad news to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund? Things can become completely dysfunctional, and in this case there is at least a small indication that things are not working as they should. Is this symptomatic of larger problems with the project?

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2 thoughts on “NGOs in the Mist

  1. When responsibility for monitoring and evaluation lies soley with the funder, there is little incentive to report setbacks. Nor is there a mechanism for adaptive management. On the other hand, when there is shared responibility and participation at each stage in the project cycle – Identification of the Problem, Explaining the Difficulty, Testing Alternative Hypotheses, Designing and Implementing Solutions, and Monitoring and Evaluation at every step – there is both equity and accountability between partners. Very few projects, however, look like this.

  2. That’s right. I may be unduly alarmist in this case, but it is like seeing a small whiff of smoke excaping from your house when you come home. It is not much, but you ignore it at your peril.

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