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Community Contribution

Measuring Organizational Resilience: An Update to Pact’s Organizational Performance Index

Mar 10, 2023
Kaylynn Palaio

Strengthening the capacity of local partners to achieve their goals is at the heart of Pact’s approach to development. Using proven tools, we analyze organizations’ strengths and opportunities and provide capacity strengthening through training, mentorship and grants that enable them to craft strategies, plan for change and take effective action to meet their missions. Whether community groups, nonprofit organizations, networks or local government, Pact recognizes the strengths of our counterparts and the leading role they play in advancing the well-being of their communities. Local partners are context experts, leaders in their fields, and committed to achieving hard-sought gains for their countries. Stronger partners leverage these advantages and create changes that will last far longer than any time-bound program. This is central to ensuring that local communities are truly leading their own development.  

Globally, Pact works largely through local civil society organizations (CSOs), engaging them with the ultimate goal to support their sustainability. Often, sustainability is understood narrowly in terms of an organization’s financial viability and operational capacity. As my colleague Zach Center wrote, we need to move beyond a flat concept of civil society sustainability to one that incorporates notions of relevance and resilience.  

Beyond the conceptualization of organizational sustainability is the measurement of such a complex, multi-faceted concept. Tools exist that measure the environments that contribute to CSO sustainability at the global, regional and country levels (see USAID’s Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) and the West African Civil Society Institute’s (WACSI) Civil Society Sustainability Checklist (CSSC). However, there is no widely used tool to measure sustainability at the organizational level. In order to measure sustainability, Pact first sought to define the concept. A literature review and Pact’s decades of experience working with CSOs yielded a common understanding of sustainability at the organizational level: A sustainable organization remains financially viable, organizationally fit, externally connected and resilient to its external environment, all while meeting the needs of its stakeholders and fulfilling its mission. 

The definition includes the key building blocks of organizational sustainability, some of which Pact’s Organizational Performance Index (OPI) already measures, such as financial viability, organizational fitness, and external connections. However, the resilience component is missing, so Pact decided to expand the OPI to include a resilience domain. As a result, we believe the OPI is a more holistic measurement of organizational performance and a stronger predictor of organizational sustainability. Others have also considered the concept of resilience and its connection to sustainability, such as Duchek’s work on organizational resilience and Ungar’s work on systemic resilience

Through a series of pilots, iterations, and studies to ensure the tool remains a reliable and valid measurement, Pact launched an updated version of our industry-standard tool for measuring organizational performance. Beginning in 2020, Pact began to roll out the updated OPI across our offices and programs, and it is now our new standard. The resilience domain is summarized below, and details on the updated OPI tool are available on our website

Resilience is the ability of an organization to be agile, recognize and respond to challenges and changes within the external environment.  

  • Resilient organizations adapt to changes in the external environment while continuing to deliver quality programing.   

  • Resilient organizations alter the environment in which they operate by exerting influence through advocacy, lobbying, negotiation and research.  

We hope other global development practitioners will find Pact’s updated OPI useful. And we hope that together, hand in hand with strong, capable local partners, we will meet our missions of improving lives around the world.  

About the authors
Kaylynn Palaio

Kaylynn Palaio is a Capacity Development Manager on Pact's Capacity Development & Innovation team.