Original Research

Stretching between learning and accountability: Experiences of South African non-governmental organisations

Dzvinka Kachur, Sue Soal, Rubert Van Blerk
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 4, No 1 | a71 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v4i1.71 | © 2016 Dzvinka Kachur, Sue Soal, Rubert Van Blerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 April 2014 | Published: 10 June 2016

About the author(s)

Dzvinka Kachur, Community Development Resource Association, South Africa
Sue Soal, Community Development Resource Association, South Africa
Rubert Van Blerk, Community Development Resource Association, South Africa


This article contributes to knowledge around organisational learning in relation to Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) processes of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

While learning and accountability are two fundamental purposes of M&E, in practice NGOs often perceive donor accountability as the only function of their organisation’s M&E system. Learning through meaningful monitoring of actions is a necessary process to satisfy effective functioning of organisations working on social change.

The article is based on action research, which included qualitative methods such as case studies, focus group interview(s), semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with participating organisations from an 18-month Monitoring and Evaluation Capacity Development Programme of the Community Development Resource Association, which involved nine South African NGOs. Organisations benefited from the programme through peer learning, consulting and research linked to the programme.

The research revealed that NGOs have a perception of M&E as an accountability procedure that has been imposed on them by donor communities and are resistant to it as well as to rigid data collection.Organisations require specific capacities to realise their power and to be able to negotiate more developmental approaches to M&E within their organisations and with donors. The model is suggested that fosters learning in M&E systems and includes two interlinked processes: self-awareness (a sense of core organisational values and intuitive ability) and awareness about the outside world and the effects of organisations’ work.

The model for M&E systems can be explored further and help those organisations who are working towards better balance between learning and accountability.


Organisational learning; monitoring and evaluation; organisation capacity development


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