Herbert Zimudzi, Jeevananda Sanjeevaiah, Samson B.M.Marume
Abstract: This Article gives a synoptic summary or helicopter view of a PhD research project undertaken in Zimbabwe, with technical support and guidance from Christ University (Bangalore, India), between October 2011 and October 2013. The Thesis research project titled The NGO Research Culture: Its dimensions, significance, influence, effects and implications on social development management efficacy in Zimbabwe fuses field-based research practice audit and appreciative inquiry approaches to explore the anatomy, architecture and typology of research across diverse NGO categories in the country. The exploratory study is located in the context of institutional development, organizational performance and environmental adaptation. The study investigated the research culture of Zimbabwean Non-Governmental Organizations (ZNGOs) after realizing that most social development sector actors in the country are generally under-performing, uncompetitive and non-strategic. Motivated by a desire to contribute to on-going policy and practice debates on how to improve and enhance NGO sector performance, intervention targeting, quality service delivery and strategic market positioning in contemporary Zimbabwe, the study focused on several themes around the research-performance nexus in social development management. The study configured, developed and suggested a research-centered NGO management model (code named MIPEM) that support micro ( sector) and macro (national) level efforts aimed at transforming ZNGOs into more dynamic, robust, versatile, creative, innovative, adaptive, responsive and evidence-based social development players. MIPEM is acronym for Management Intelligence and Performance Enhancement Model and its anchoring pillars are integrating, embedding, mainstreaming and overarching research as a planning and management tool. To determine the NGO research culture, the study considered multi-dimensional aspects of NGO research culture including research values, beliefs, traditions, norms, ideals, knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and practices. The focus and scope of the field empirical survey was ascertaining how research is organized, applied, utilized, assimilated, grounded and promoted in 150 NGOs sampled from an estimated 2 500 NGOs working in various social development areas in Zimbabwe including social service provision, human and community development, citizen empowerment, civic education, socio-economic justice, research and advocacy. An eclectic methodological design was adopted for an exhaustive inquiry where units of analysis were self-reporting questionnaire, interview and focus group discussion responses by NGO senior managers, field staff, service consumers (beneficiaries) and other stakeholders. Study primary informants were NGO senior managers with the rest of sample elements as secondary data sources validating their responses. Other data collection methods used to cross-check NGO management responses included field observations, desk studies, content analysis and expert opinions. The exploratory study notes numerous research benefits to organization development, observes that research has an upgrading and quality improvement effect on NGO management, argues that research outcomes include transforming the architecture of decision support systems and management information systems in NGOs into and concluded that Zimbabwean NGOs have a weak research culture. The research-performance nexus in the NGO sector was confirmed by empirical evidence and supported by corroborative evidence. The linkages between NGO research culture and effective social development management are highlighted. The study recommend that Zimbabwean NGOs mainstream, embed and overarch research as an integral corporate planning tool and it further suggests adoption of a research-centered management intelligence and performance enhancement model that it code-named MIPEM.
Keywords: NGO research culture, research architecture, research-performance nexus and development management efficacy