Strategic thinking by non-government organisations for sustainability : a review of the logical framework approach
Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.
The awareness of the environmental crisis and the impact of rising poverty globally has led to the search for sustainable solutions. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) describe the solution as a secure peaceful world, a healthier environment and a better quality of life for all. Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) are important development actors in realising this goal. They work within civil society and focus on the empowerment of the vulnerable and marginalised through the transfer of skills, resources and power. Their flexibility, commitment to social justice and strong relationships with the community allow NGOs to develop creative responses, developing new models for sustainable solutions. A weakness of NGOs is the inability to provide reliable evidence of the effect, or impact, of programmes and their contribution towards a better society. Further the reliance on donor funding can change the focus of accountability from the beneficiaries to donors and stakeholders. The study is based in the given reality that NGOs are required to adopt a more strategic outcomes orientated approach to programme and project planning to be able to measure the impact of services to improve the effectiveness of services and prove their added value to society. This is most often done through the Logical Framework Approach (LFA) as a planning model, as many governments, multilateral aid agencies and donors use this model to develop policies and determine funding priorities. This study therefore gives an overview of the literature regarding the principles, benefits and challenges of the LFA from various sources. These are considered within the diverse and complex development context and how the complexity affects the use of this tool in planning, monitoring and evaluation. The LFA is based on the Management by Objectives model. The LFA provides a relatively objective, systematic and thoughtful guide to project planning which enables organisations to measure their progress in realising goals. The visually accessible log frame explains how the use of resources will contribute towards reaching the goal. It enables the organisation to present their projects to a wider audience increasing its accountability to donors, stakeholders and beneficiaries. Yet, organisations are often very critical of the use of the Logical Framework Approach as it assumes that society is a stable environment where factors can be manipulated to bring about expected results. It ignores the dynamic, complex and frequently unpredictable nature of society and the non-linear path of social learning and empowerment. Further the model can be misused and exploited to enforce power relationships resulting in the development of inappropriate or irrelevant projects that do not meet the needs of the intended beneficiaries. The study concludes that, despite all the criticisms, the Logical Framework Approach can be a very useful tool and provides recommendations that will help find a balance between the structured planning process and the participative and creative social learning techniques. NGOs can be focussed and accountable and still remain more responsive to the needs of communities.