|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|6. The governance and operation of NGOs|
The quality and extent of information made available by or about NGOs varies from country to country. Legal requirements (discussed in the following chapter) commonly mean that while NGOs must produce and make available certain information about their work, such requirements are frequently minimal. Indeed sometimes NGOs are only required by law to supply financial information to the relevant regulatory authorities. As the provision of information requires resources which many NGOs do not have, there is often a dearth of information about NGOs and their work. In turn this can lead to:
NGOs being accused of consciously being secretive about their work;
NGOs unconsciously not providing or recognising the value of publishing information about their work.
Neither is healthy and many NGOs are recognising this. But, as with other aspects of improving NGO operations this is an area where NGOs need the support and understanding of others: as noted, information requires resources. In turn this needs a recognition on the part of funders that information, like training, monitoring and evaluating, is a necessity and not a luxury.
Like other aspects of NGO improvement discussed here, additional resources expended will in the long run increase the cost-effectiveness of what is done. It is a mistake to see them as simply additional, unnecessary expenditure which brings no return. NGO Directories are a practical way of informing the public, NGOs, government ministries and agencies and funders about the work of NGOs. Depending on the size of the country, and the range and scope of NGOs, they can be produced on a country-wide or more local or sectoral basis. Solomon Islands has an excellent directory produced by a network NGO. It provides much more than names and addresses (as tends to be the rule). It sets out a summary of the objectives and work of each NGO and is updated from time to time.
Shortage of resources, as noted, is one reason why information about NGOs, whether individually or in directories, tends on the whole to be scarce. But another impediment is the lack of an agreed basis on which to present information, including that required for regulatory purposes. It is hoped that the definition and typologies contained in this report might form such a basis.