Project Risk and Impact: A Case Study From International Development

In 2014 Open Road Alliance commissioned an independent researcher to conduct a case study of a large health-oriented international development non-profit organization (hereafter known as “NPO-Health”) to better understand the ways that risk affects social sector programs.

The researcher conducted eleven in-depth interviews with a range of programmatic staff working across multiple portfolios and geographies. Risks were discussed in the context of a project cycle leading from proposal to contract to execution to close out.

The survey results provide a basic taxonomy of types of risks along the project cycle, including staffing, partner communication, logistics, and currency risks. Any of these potential roadblocks can result in mid-implementation budget shortfalls, which cannot easily be addressed by the established funding and project cycles.

The results of this study begin to define a framework for identifying types of risks inherent in a project before unforeseen events occur. The research further suggests that by not bluntly discussing and planning for these risks, NPOs and funders unnecessarily diminish the positive social impact of their combined effort. through this research and survey, Open Road hopes to begin to present a framework for NPOs to define and quantify some of these common challenges so that they can inform their own planning processes and also inform how funders can better develop and structure the RFP process


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