Earlier this week, The Global Journal – a Geneva-based magazine – published its inaugural annual ‘Top 100 Best NGOs’ list. The Wikimedia Foundation is ranked as the best NGO worldwide. Partners in Health, Oxfam, BRAC, International Rescue Committee, PATH, CARE International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Danish Refugee Council and Ushahidi make up the top ten.
The list was compiled based on a set of qualitative criteria, which included:
- Innovation, understood as creativity in programming
- Effectiveness, measured by NGOs’ delivery against objectives
- Impact, looking at the NGOs’ outcomes rather than outputs and whether activities are donor-driven or needs-based
- Efficiency and value for money, evaluating administrative overheads and coordination in order to avoid duplications
- Transparency and accountability, assessing organisations’ levels of reporting and participatory planning
- Sustainability, defined as enduring impact and relevance
- Strategic and financial management, meaning consistency of funding and sthe use of a self-evaluation process
- Peer review, measured by NGO and donor perception of sector leaders
Despite the use of these metrics the ranking does not appear to be based on empirical evidence; “there is no science in the measuring” when it comes to selecting the best 100 NGOs, The Global Journal admits in its methodological note. Furthermore, the spectrum of organisations included in the list is quite wide. For the purpose of its study, The Global Journal defines NGOs as “operational or advocacy focused non-profit organisations organised on a local, national or international level”. With such a broad definition – ranging from long-established organisations with clearly defined political or developmental agendas, to young information-sharing initiatives springing from universities and technological centres – it is no surprise that the reader is presented with a rather eclectic list of organisations.
Methodological issues aside, what is particularly appealing about The Global Journal’s Top 100 Best NGOs list, is the high presence of non-Western NGOs. Within the top 10 ranking, there are already two developing country-based organisations: Bangladeshi BRAC in fourth place and Kenya-born Ushahidi in tenth.
However, it is interesting to note that, from a geographical perspective, over half of the 100 best NGOs are based in only two countries: 37 come from the United States and 14 from the United Kingdom. Emerging countries, such as India and Brazil, contribute just over a tenth of the top non-profit organisations in the ranking while developing countries host 15 of the best NGOs.