By Susan Davis, Executive Director, Improve International
Have you ever given to an international charity? How did you make the choice? International humanitarian work can be an important tool for improving people’s lives in developing countries. While many of us see it as a moral obligation to help people in need, good intentions are not enough. We need to have evidence of what works – and what will continue to work – to improve this vital support.
For example, an estimated 30% to 50% of water systems built by humanitarian organizations in developing countries have broken. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to give to international causes; rather, it emphasizes the importance of your understanding as a donor how to find the best organizations and types of projects to support.
Improve International will help you “give smarter”. Improve International will evaluate humanitarian projects. Our ultimate goal is to improve the chances that humanitarian efforts will improve people’s lives over long periods of time.
Our first area of focus is drinking water and toilet projects. We will arrange for independent experts to evaluate the effectiveness of these projects. Whenever possible we will engage local experts to build local capacity for monitoring and evaluation.
We will collect and analyze the results of on-site evaluations to determine patterns of what works and what does not work. We will also collaborate with other organizations to promote learning and sharing across humanitarian organizations, donors, and the governments of the developing countries so that they can look for opportunities for innovation and make better decisions about how use their funds.
Who will benefit from these independent evaluations?
Beneficiaries – The people that donors and humanitarian organizations are trying to help will benefit the most by having better quality support.
Donors like you - People want to make good decisions about their philanthropy, but often don’t have enough information. Currently, most donors must rely only on success stories provided by the humanitarian organizations.
Humanitarian organizations – Rather than trying to point out mistakes, we aim to help humanitarian organizations not only demonstrate their success and impact but also to learn from what didn’t work so they can innovate and improve.
How is Improve International different? While rating agencies like Charity Navigator and Guidestar provide valuable information, they are based on data reported by the humanitarian organizations themselves. Improve International is different because we will look at the actual projects in the developing countries.