Cambodia: USAID Program Uses KANAVA Rapid Assessment to Empower NGOs

By Carol J. Yee, COO

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With more than 50 years of experience in 130 countries, the International Executive Service Corps (IESC) knows how to work with the private sector to spur economic development. In the world’s least developed areas, though, local economies often depend on small community-based organizations to offer vital services that can mean the difference between subsistence and modest growth.

Supporting them was Raty Ouk’s goal when she took the helm of the USAID Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations (CBCLO) program. The activity, funded by USAID through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance and implemented by IESC and KANAVA, needed to find practical ways to strengthen dozens of local organizations, helping them develop better systems and the policies and procedures to guide them.

“We were learning by doing,” says Ouk, whose program was the first to pilot KANAVA’s Impact Strengthening Development (ISD) tool, a systematic approach to assessing organizations’ management capacity and designing targeted interventions to help them improve everything from their accounting systems to their human resources policies.

Ouk recalls that ISD offered her team an organized way to rapidly assess organizations’ performance in eight core areas, an approach she says was “designed to help the organization and the assessor understand each other and any risk areas.”

“Our team has found that ISD is easy to use and time-saving,” says Ouk. Thanks to the tool, CBCLO understood “clearly how the CBCLO team could help the assessed organization and its staff.”

Maximizing Resources

Carol Yee, KANAVA’s Chief Operating Officer, oversaw the ISD rollout in Cambodia. She explains that one of the benefits of the tool is that it can be adapted to serve donor programs that are short on either time or resources -- or both. One of the tangible outcomes of KANAVA’s ISD training, for example, is that it prepares organizations for the USAID Non-US Pre-Award Survey (NUPAS), a key pre-requisite for receiving funding from the U.S. agency.

...having a strong operational platform is critical for any organization and any sector.

Yee recounts that, while CBCLO began the pilot using the full ISD assessment tool, the program “asked us to develop a rapid assessment to provide them with a way to gain some understanding of the targeted organizations -- without requiring the resource commitment of the organization to complete the full assessment.”

As a result, CBCLO has managed to conduct 36 ISD assessments -- 35 of them using the more streamlined rapid methodology. Yee adds that the organizations assessed represented a broad spectrum of sectors, from agriculture to human rights, further proof that “having a strong operational platform is critical for any organization and any sector.”

Ouk agrees. She notes that her team has included CBCLO’s success with ISD in its reporting to USAID. And since her program was the first to implement ISD, her feedback on the tool, including that it could be further simplified to appeal to nonnative English speakers and organizations with as few as two staff, has helped KANAVA improve the offering, now extending it to three continents.


In September, KANAVA and its ISD tool were chosen as one of the 21 Leaders of Key USAID Partners at the Global Innovation Week, sponsored by the USAID Global Development Lab. Chief Executive Officer Susan Puska was on hand to pledge the women-owned firm’s commitment to further extend ISD’s reach in the year ahead, a goal that we at KANAVA are committed to fulfilling on behalf of our partners worldwide.

Thank you, Raty Ouk and the team at CBCLO for partnering with us to pilot ISD!

Learn more about KANAVA, our partners, and how they have used our ISD tool at

Carol Yee