PATH ranked world’s 6th best NGO; Gates Fdn doesn’t make top 100

All those magazine rankings out there — of the best hospitals, best doctors or best sushi bars — are popular but often highly suspect if not downright absurd due to organizations manipulating the evaluation process, weird and arbitrary criteria or just plain old sloppiness.

That said, Wikimedia Foundation has been ranked number one by Global Journal’s listing of the top 100 NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

Global Journal is a Geneva-based magazine aimed at becoming the insider’s guide to what it describes as the “global issues” scene. It also says at its (pricey) subscription site online that it is devoted to promoting “global governance.” Not sure that’s likely to sell too well in the U.S.

I do appreciate the Wikimedia Foundation, and its primary product Wikipedia. But is the online encyclopedia really more influential as a global issues player or doing more to make the world the better place than, say, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or World Vision?

Neither of these two local mega-NGOs made the Journal’s list. I asked Global Journal to explain this, but haven’t heard back yet. Still, a few other Seattle-based or Northwest organizations did make the grade.

PATH was ranked by Global Journal as the 6th best NGO in the world — preceded by Partners in Health, Oxfam, BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) and the International Rescue Committee. Other local organizations on the best 100 NGOs list included Mercy Corps and Landesa.

Maybe the Gates Foundation didn’t make the cut because it’s as big as many governments and so doesn’t qualify. What the hell is an NGO anyway? The folks at Global Journal, to their credit, acknowledged having trouble with the categorical term NGO. Here’s what they decided an NGO was:

We defined NGOs as operational or advocacy focused non-profit organizations organized on a local, national or international level.

No, you’re right. That doesn’t really help much.

Anyway, congrats to local winners PATH, Mercy Corps and Landesa. Regrets to the Gates Foundation and World Vision. Maybe you’ll make the list next year.

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Second Update from Global Journal’s Kalagas:

We’ve added a brief note on methodology to The Global Journal website: http://theglobaljournal.net/top100NGOs/
Further to this, the use of the metrics themselves was not quantitative, in the sense of assigning numeric values across each criteria and then computing these according to a predetermined formula.  In part, this was because The Global Journal is a media organisation, rather than an academic journal or development consultancy.  In terms of where we sourced the information, it was mostly a process of reviewing organisation websites, annual reports and external evaluations (where available), as well as speaking to experienced practitioners and donors to gauge peer perceptions.  Once information was collected, the ranking of NGOs was a collective editorial process that resulted in much internal debate.  At this stage, we have no plans to publish these internal assessments (though have engaged directly with NGOs that have contacted us about missing out).

FIRST UPDATE: A response from Global Journal’s Alexis Kalagas:

Hi Tom

Thanks for your email – we really value the feedback.
I see that you’ve already posted on your website before I had the opportunity to respond.
In answer to your query though, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was not included on the list for the same reason we left off the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, etc – in line with the definition of an NGO we settled on (an operational or advocacy focused non-profit organisation), we judged that while extremely influential as a catalytic donor, the Gates Foundation is ultimately focused on grant-making, rather than running its own programs.  It therefore fell outside the bounds of our project.  I should note, however, that the Gates Foundation is an important contributor to a number of the NGOs that actually made the list.
World Vision is a different case.  It was on our short list, but did not ultimately make the Top 100 for a number of reasons – including feedback we received from quite a number of practitioners in the field.  As you no doubt observed, size was not an influential factor in whether NGOs were included or not.  A brief note on our methodology will be posted on The Global Journal website later today, and I hope this adds some clarity.
Best
Alexis
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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.