Impact assessment of the Swiss NGO Fund (2011-2015)

The objective of this Swiss NGO Fund (NGO Fund or Fund) impact assessment was to evaluate to what extent the activities of the projects that received NGO Fund support for implementation of public services business plans in 2011-2014 fared in meeting the objectives set forth in the applications and the Block Grant (BG) (the basis for implementation of the Fund), and to assess the performance and impact of the Fund and the sustainability of supported activities.

The assessment is based on the applications and reports for the 62 projects that received support in the NGO Fund’s open calls for proposals for large sub-projects in 2011-2014, the follow-up queries regarding 15 projects in the 2011-2012 calls for proposals, expert interviews (22 interviewees), two focus group discussions with fund implementers and experts and results of an online survey (respondents: 33 supported NPOs, 31 non-supported NPOs, and 35 public sector partners). To obtain knowledge regarding deeper connections and the nature of cooperative relationships, case analyses were also carried out, based on interviews with representatives of three organizations and their public sector partners as well as on a satisfaction survey conducted with service recipients.

An analysis of the NGOs that participated in the NGO Fund reveals that the support went to NGOs that are significantly more capable than the Estonian average (the comparison basis being the 2014 KUAK study; and the control group, associations that did not receive assistance), predominantly in Harju and Tartu counties. When the focus lies on development of high-quality and accessible service provided in cooperation with the public sector, the implementers must possess a certain capability and capacity already prior to cooperation. Indeed, as the assessment clearly shows, one of the reasons for development of service and success is preliminary work for developing quality services and co-production with the service target groups and partners. Moreover, the result also points out a need for considering more effective measures to expand the necessary knowledge and capability among a greater number of NGOs and greater share of the public sector, including in more peripheral and smaller areas in Estonia.

One of the objectives of implementation of the NGO Fund is to spread social innovation in Estonia: the supply of service had to lead to progress and improvements. A limited number of services stood out as truly innovative, but one-third of the support recipients started offering a service that was new for their own organization and over one-third of the support recipients were able, thanks to the support, to expand the spectrum, target groups and territories of operation of the services they provided. The service providers were also able to use the assistance to achieve a better rapport with target groups and the possibility of establishing more specific service needs and service solutions. The elements of social innovation in NGO Fund projects are thus quite noteworthy.

To sum up, the NGO Fund assessment shows that the implementation of the Fund and the project activities was relevant and conformed to the set objectives. As no thorough and all-encompassing performance and impact indicators were originally set for the NGO Fund, these indicators were developed with the experts in the course of this assessment (the setting of indicators is described in detail in chapter 3 and Table 6). Testing the accuracy of the indicators in the framework of this assessment, it turned out that, with certain minor limitations, they were measurable and informative, and thus suited for use in similar assessments in the future. Indicators that gauge solely economic and institutional capacity are not the most suitable for assessing the fund’s impacts on all organizations and thus such indicators must be refined further in subsequent similar assistance measures. In conclusion, the output indicators set and the performance and impact indicators supplemented in the Block Grant have duly been fulfilled in the framework of the experience of Swiss NGO Fund