In Cambodia, Organizations Get Closer to Achieving their Missions

Borey Koy, executive director of MediaOne (Photo: MediaOne)

With robust training, a Cambodian NGO is transformed into a leader

Cambodia has struggled for political stability for 50 years, and in that context, the free flow of information and the ability to have your voice heard is critically important. Media for Education and Development in Action is a non-partisan, independent Cambodian organization that empowers communities by giving a voice to underrepresented people works to ensure that all Cambodians have equal access to information.

Cambodia continues to develop’the poverty rate is steadily declining’but the country still faces challenges and NGOs such as MEDIA One, as it is known, play a critical role in advancing Cambodia’s human, economic and overall development.

MEDIA One is exactly the kind of local organization that USAID seeks to partner with on development projects, and MEDIA One has been eager to design and lead activities that directly contribute to its own mission.

But first, the organization needed to develop a better understanding of good financial management and oversight to meet the agency’s regulations for managing and implementing programs.

‘As a small local NGO, there has traditionally been little opportunity for our staff receive training,’ said Michelle Williams, a program advisor at MEDIA One.

“We now feel better prepared to implement our exciting new program.”

MEDIA One connected with the Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations (CBCLO) Program, whose goal is to strengthen the skills of local organizations to preprare them to partner with USAID and to work more effectively in service of their missions.

Over the past two years, staff members at MEDIA One have attended 15 training sessions and received 22 additional hours of technical assistance from the program on a variety of topics.

‘The program provides assistance to our senior management team and helps us to improve our policies and regulations,’ said Executive Director Borey Koy.

With new skills and processes in place, MEDIA One operates more effectively and is better able to navigate the USAID’s challenging regulatory environment.

‘Our organization recently received its first direct funding from USAID,’ Williams said, ‘and we now feel better prepared to implement our exciting new program.’


CBCLO helps Cambodian nonprofit and non-governmental organizations strengthen their management capacity and understanding of USAID rules and regulations. Since the program began in 2014, it has provided assistance to several hundred NGOs in Cambodia.

This story is made possible with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of IESC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

RACHA Executive Director Chan Theary Talks Women’s Empowerment

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RACHA Executive Director Chan Theary Talks Women’s Empowerment

In Cambodia, IESC implements a program that is strengthening local NGOs. The CBCLO Program is led by a small team in Phnom Penh who are bolstered by expert consultants and volunteers who offer training on critical topics such as accounting and financial management, policy and planning, human resource management, and more.

Susan Gurley is an IESC volunteer expert with a wealth of expertise in non-profit management (She also happens to be IESC’s newest board member). Susan completed two volunteer assignments in Cambodia, providing training and mentorship to a large health NGO called the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, Susan had a few questions for Chan Theary, the executive director of RACHA.

Chan Theary receiving the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh’s “Woman of Courage” award on International Women’s Day in 2013.

As one of the few female executive directors of a Cambodian nonprofit organization, what are the three lessons you would like to share with the next generation of women non-profit leaders.

That is a really good question. Number one is, never forget that women can be empowered, if they are willing to step up and take the responsibility for that power. The second things is that women can do whatever a man can do. They can lead and inspire. And the third thing is, women are catalysts of change’they are creative and innovative and think clearly.

Did you have a mentor and what did that mentor teach you’

Yes, I have had many mentors. Every day I learn different things from all kinds of people. My family, my friends, my staff. My organization works at the grassroots level to educate and strengthen communities. In order to teach them, you have to learn from them.

Sometimes when you work hard to achieve something, you feel tired. Early in my career, I had people who told me nothing is impossible. One woman I met on my first job. I was a midwife, and so was she. ‘Be strong,’ she said. ‘Be determined.’ Another woman who mentored me, a doctor, taught me that you have to take calculated risks. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘A true leader is one who is humble enough to admit their mistakes.’

How do you suggest that women find mentors in the workplace’

First, I would suggest that women look for professional mentors both inside and outside their organization, and don’t forget about family and friends. But most importantly, to find a good mentor you have to know what it is you need and seek out people who have those skills.

How do you engage your staff to share their ideas and innovations’

My philosophy is that I should hear from them first. When they talk first, I empower them by listening and observing. They don’t feel pressured to agree with my idea, because they talk first.  It is also important to give motivational and constructive feedback. This requires confidence. You have to be strong in yourself to give this kind of feedback.

What professional risks have you taken’

For midwives, there are many risks in the decisions we make. Sometimes you fight with the family. If there was a complication, the family or husband might say, ‘Just delivery my wife, don’t seek emergency care.’ The thing is, the baby could die. Maybe they give bad advice. I might please the family, but the baby will die. How can you balance the situation’ Sometimes you get advice, but you don’t have to take it.

When I was young, my dad said, ‘I don’t want you to be midwife.’ Why’ Because being a midwife is risky. During those days, I was on-call at night. I might have to travel long distances in the night to deliver a baby, and it was not safe. But I knew I wanted to be a midwife, so I did it.

What is the typical profile of your beneficiaries’ Who are they’ What are the problems they are struggling with.

Our beneficiaries are poor women and their partners, newborns, children, and adolescents. The health system is not good, and they struggle with health concerns, especially emergency obstetrics and newborn care, and nutrition for children. Newborns die. Family planning is available in Cambodia, but the people need a lot of education. The messages are misunderstood. And male involvement in family planning is also very important.

How do you empower your female stakeholders in the villages to become more self-sufficient in their decision making’

We have a project to empower women at the grassroots level called Saving for Change. Women become members of a collective savings group. They pool the money together and decide on the interest rate, say 2 percent, and women can borrow from the group at that rate. At the end of the year, they share the interest earnings with the group.

Having their own money that they control empowers women. It also cultivates leadership skills. After this group, many women become village chief or council member. They also learn negotiating skills, which helps with many household decisions, including when to have children. Once women have these skills, they share and impart them to other women, especially young mothers.

This builds a kind of social coherence that is very important at the grassroots level.

Do you have any final words for International Women’s Day’

Empowering women at the grassroots level is very important. Early interventions, and interventions that involve partners and their children, will bring a bright future for families, communities, and the country.

This article was written as part of IESC’s International Women’s Day 2016 campaign. To view all posts related to this campaign, click here

Building Stronger Local Organizations in Cambodia

For Cambodians returning to their native country, starting over is an extraordinary challenge. Few of those returning have much, if any, knowledge of the local language and customs; even fewer have the necessary resources. The Returnee Integration Support Center, or RISC, was established in 2009 as a locally owned and led organization dedicated to helping returnees become independent, productive members of Cambodian society and ensuring their long-term integration into the community.

Villa Kim (left), co-director of RISC, received management training from the CBCLO Program. RISC has now established robust management policies and practices so that it can better serve Cambodia’s returnee population.

RISC is staffed by a small, dedicated team of four people. In 2014, RISC was identified to receive funding from the USAID mission in Cambodia; however, with no written policies, procedures, or electronic accounting system, RISC was ineligible for funding.

The organization began working with the Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations (CBCLO) Program to improve RISC’s financial, administrative, procurement, M&E, and organizational management systems.

Since then, RISC staff members have attended four trainings, including courses on USAID allowable and unallowable costs, QuickBooks for NGOs, concept note development, and M&E indicators. In addition, CBCLO staff provided nearly 80 hours of direct mentorship and support to RISC to develop finance and procurement policies. As a result of the training and support, RISC adopted QuickBooks accounting software to accurately track expenses.

The results were immediate and significant. RISC is now able to generate financial reports that allow them to better understand their financial needs and resources.

‘[Program implementer] IESC helped RISC develop items that RISC never had before: an internal policy, financial and procurement policies and guidance to create forms for financial use,’ said Villa Kim, RISC’s co-director.

As a result of this support, RISC is a stronger organization that can be sustained into the future. What is more, RISC can capitalize on these improvements to scale its activities for Cambodian returnees.

This story is made possible with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of IESC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Better Data, Bigger Impact

Cambodian organizations are unlocking the power of data through better data collection and analysis.
Program M&E Manager Leakhena Ith delivering an M&E training.

In the digital era, the old saying ‘knowledge is power’ might better be rendered as ‘information is power.’ But as local NGOs in Cambodia are learning, even that is only partly correct. Accurate information is a first step to driving change. Data collection and data analysis, through effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E), are vital management tools for assessing organizational effectiveness and improving decision-making. For Cambodian NGOs, greater effectiveness and better decision-making lead to smart development interventions that yield greater impact.

The USAID-funded Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations (CBCLO) Program is helping local organizations unlock the power of data through a series of M&E training courses designed to teach organizations how to set up M&E systems and utilize the information to improve their operations. The program has trained 54 local organizations on M&E topics to help them refine their data collection and analysis techniques.

Seang Set is responsible for the monthly collection and compilation of information from field staff at the Environmental Protection and Development Organization (EPDO). He observed that ‘most of the field staff do not know what is useful information and how to record information. They spend a lot of time writing narrative reports and I spend hours going through one report to find the needed data.’

“I am now able to quickly get the exact information that I need
. . .[allowing me] to work with the field staff on new strategies to improve implementing the activities.”

‘ Seang Set, Environmental Protection and Development Organization

Over the course of the training series, Set learned about general M&E principles, effective indicators, and how to generate an M&E plan. After the training, CBCLO provided direct assistance to Set’s organization to help them design an M&E data collection system that is tailored to their specific needs.

‘EPDO’s new reporting template is a good method of data collection. The field staff was trained on the new template and how to fill out the form. I can now spend less time on this task and am now able to quickly get the exact information I need,’ Set said. ‘It also allows me to work with the field staff on new strategies to improve implementing the activities.’

Empowered by improved M&E practices, EPDO now has better reports with more relevant data and information from the field. Set can now spend his time on data quality checks, increasing the accuracy and effectiveness of the process. And EPDO’and many other local organizations’can utilize better M&E processes to streamline and enhance their M&E activities and design creative solutions to meet Cambodia’s needs.

The five-year CBCLO Program (2014-2019) aims to strengthen the institutional capacity of local organizations in the areas of financial, administrative, procurement, M&E, and organizational management. The program’s ultimate objective is to improve the ability of local organizations to effectively implement USAID activities. Funded by USAID through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), the program is implemented by IESC with sub-partner Kanava International.