Manuals, Toolkits and Guidance

The Octagon: A tool for the assessment of strengths and weaknesses in NGOs

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SIDA, Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation

The main purpose of Sida’s support to Swedish NGOs is to promote the development of robust and democratic civil societies and to strengthen local partner organisations in developing countries. The method provides support for organisation and capacity development.

The Octagon is a tool for the assessment of strengths and weaknesses in NGOs and can be used by both the Swedish organisations and their partners in cooperation. The Octagon can function as an instrument to structure the dialogue with a partner organisation when the aim is to obtain an overall picture of the organisation and to get to know it well. It can also serve as an aid for the selection of partners; for grouping partner organisations in relation to their needs of internal organisation development; or for identifying the point in time when the Swedish organisation, as the financier, should phase out its support for organisation development.

The Octagon is based on the idea that it is possible to obtain a comprehensive picture of an organisation’s capacity and development profile by making systematic reviews and assessments of four basic aspects:

  • The organisation’s objectives and management/administrative structures, the so-called organisational base.
  • The organisation’s activities with or for selected target groups, i.e. output. (N.B. It is easy to confuse this with the effects of the organisation’s work, which cannot be assessed with the Octagon.)
  • The Organisation’s capacity to succeed in its work. This refers both to its professional skills and the funds at its disposal, as well as its administrative systems.
  • The organisation’s capacity to create and maintain relations with its target groups and other actors in civil society.

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