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Leadership and Governance

The leadership and governance capacity of NGOs and actors has improved to be more responsive to the needs and demands of their target groups.


The importance of leadership to an organisation’s success has been proven many times, in multiple cultures and contexts. It is very hard for any organisation to succeed and be sustainable without strong leadership, most especially in times of change and/or challenges such as Cambodian NGOs are now experiencing. In Cambodia and elsewhere many organisations have run into serious problems as a result of poor leadership. One of the most effective safeguards against poor leadership is good governance. The two issues are very closely linked and that is why we have decided to approach them as a combined strategic focus area.


The qualities of good leadership are very heavily influenced by local culture. For example, many leaders come into and stay in place based on their role in founding the organisation or seniority, rather than on the basis of merit and their ability to lead the organisation effectively. Because of the lack of capacity in their leadership many organisations remain stuck in outdated or inefficient ways of working that threaten their sustainability. While some leaders are not willing to change, others are if given appropriate tools to work with and support to implement them. Another important feature of leadership within an organisation is to develop future generations of leaders to enable them to step up when the time comes that they are needed. This is not something that many organisations pay attention to in a systematic way. A key link between leadership and organisation development is our learning that leadership is critical to whether or not an organisation is change ready. In our experience if leadership does not visibly embrace and support opportunities for change then no amount of good inputs will make any difference, the organisation will remain stuck with its existing gaps and weaknesses.


Governance is most frequently thought of in terms of having a governing board as the ultimate decision-making authority in the organisation. Innumerable studies and experiences of Cambodian NGOs have shown that the concept of a governing board remains poorly understood, which in turn results in widespread poor practice. However, good governance also depends on many other aspects of how an organisation functions. For VBNK, working as it does primarily with Cambodian NGOs, the four pillars of good governance in the Asian Development Bank model are highly relevant. Those pillars are: transparency; accountability; predictability; and, participation. Given that various initiatives to improve the functioning of NGOs boards has not resulted in significant change, VBNK understands the important of creating good governance from the inside out.


VBNK has in place from previous projects and initiatives many resources about leadership development and the promotion of good governance. In recent years these resources have not been utilised in any significant way. A key initiative in the period of this strategic plan will be to review and revise those resources to create packages that can be marketed as VBNK services.

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