Alnoor Ebrahim

Associate Professor of Business Administration

Unit: General Management

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Alnoor Ebrahim is an Associate Professor in the General Management Unit, and in the Social Enterprise Initiative, at the Harvard Business School. His research and teaching focus on the challenges of performance management, accountability, and governance facing social sector organizations. He is also affiliated with the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University.

Professor Ebrahim is author of the award-winning book, NGOs and Organizational Change: Discourse, Reporting, and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 2003 and 2005), and is co-editor, with Edward Weisband, of Global Accountabilities: Participation, Pluralism, and Public Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2007), which compares accountability dilemmas in nonprofits, business, and government. He has been the recipient of awards for best article in the journals Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

He teaches the MBA required course, "FIELD 3" and an elective course "Managing Social Enterprise." He has previously taught  "Leadership and Organizational Behavior" (LEAD), and "Leading and Governing High-Performing Nonprofit Organizations." In the HBS executive education portfolio, Professor Ebrahim servers as faculty chair of "Governing for Nonprofit Excellence" and co-chair of  "Performance Measurement of Effective Management of Nonprofit Organizations" while also teaching in "Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management."

Through his research and case writing, Ebrahim examines the challenges of performance measurement and accountability facing social sector organizations, impact investors, and their boards. He is currently involved in research with a range of social sector organizations, from new socioeconomic hybrids to well-established global NGOs and foundations. His professional work has included commissioned reports on civil society relations with the World Bank, on NGO accountability at the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as projects with a number of nongovernmental organizations over the past two decades, such as CIVICUS: The World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi, and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in western India.

Prior to joining the faculty of the Harvard Business School, Alnoor Ebrahim was the Wyss Visiting Scholar at HBS, and a Visiting Associate Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also taught at Virginia Tech for several years, where he was a founding codirector of the Institute for Governance and Accountabilities. He holds a BSc degree from MIT (1991) in civil and environmental engineering, and a PhD from Stanford University (1999), where he studied environmental planning and management.

Featured Work

Publications

Books

  1. Global Accountabilities: Participation, Pluralism, and Public Ethics

    This edited volume contributes analytical depth to the diverse debates on accountability in modern organizations. It explores the nature, forms and impacts of accountability efforts in civil society organizations, public and inter-governmental agencies, and private corporations. Contributors draw from a range of disciplines, including political science, public administration, civil society studies, anthropology, organizational sociology, business, and social and critical theory. In so doing, they demonstrate the inadequacy of modern rationalist prescriptions for establishing accountability standards and for monitoring them. The authors show how accountability frameworks attached to principal-agent logics and applied universally across cultures typically fail to achieve their objectives. Accountability is a socially constructed means of control used by the weak as well as the powerful. The chapters in this volume provide evidence of its highly contested and power-laden nature. By relying on a diverse range of empirical experience and case studies -- from the local to the global, and from wealthy industrialized countries of the ""North"" to poorer nations of the ""South""-- this book underscores the importance of grounding accountability procedures and standards in the divergent cultural, social, and political settings in which they operate. It offers a critique of universalizing and technocratic notions of accountability, thus providing a ""second-generation"" perspective on accountability that is interpretive and culturally embedded.

    Keywords: Ethics; Globalized Firms and Management; Corporate Accountability; Business and Government Relations;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and Edward Weisband. Global Accountabilities: Participation, Pluralism, and Public Ethics. U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007. View Details
  2. NGOs and Organizational Change: Discourse, Reporting and Learning

    Keywords: Non-Governmental Organizations; Change; Reports; Learning;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. NGOs and Organizational Change: Discourse, Reporting and Learning. U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003. (Winner of Outstanding Book in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research presented by Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. paperback ed. 2005.) View Details

Journal Articles

  1. What Impact? A Framework for Measuring the Scale & Scope of Social Performance

    Organizations with social missions, such as nonprofits and social enterprises, are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impacts on pressing societal problems such as global poverty. This article draws on several cases to build a performance assessment framework premised on an organization's operational mission, scale, and scope. Not all organizations should measure their long-term impact, defined as lasting changes in the lives of people and their societies. Rather, some organizations would be better off measuring shorter-term outputs or individual outcomes. Funders such as foundations and impact investors are better positioned to measure systemic impacts.

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Performance Evaluation;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "What Impact? A Framework for Measuring the Scale & Scope of Social Performance." California Management Review 56, no. 3 (Spring 2014): 118–141. View Details
  2. Enacting Our Field

    This keynote address, delivered to the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council at its 25-year "benchmark" conference, examines the pedagogical challenges facing the field of nonprofit management in American higher education. It interrogates four binary distinctions commonly used in scholarship and teaching about the social sector, but which now show signs of eroding: for-profit versus nonprofit, funder versus grantee, local versus global, and secular versus faith-based. Each distinction is examined with the aim of answering two questions: What are the implications for new theorizing about this field? What are the implications for teaching and action? In closing, the essay explores innovations in structuring social sector management programs in order to educate cross-sector leaders capable of addressing critical societal problems.

    Keywords: Conferences; Higher Education; Teaching; Social Issues; Innovation and Invention; Programs; Management; Nonprofit Organizations;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Enacting Our Field." Keynote Address. Nonprofit Management & Leadership 23, no. 1 (Fall 2012): 13–28. (Keynote Address to the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council, 25 Year Benchmark Conference.) View Details
  3. Putting the Brakes on Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance

    Keywords: Framework; Performance; Measurement and Metrics;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, A., and V. K. Rangan. "Putting the Brakes on Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance." Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings (August 2010). (Included in the 2010 Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management, and also runner-up for the 2010 Carlo Masini Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management.) View Details
  4. Strategies and Tactics in NGO-Government Relations: Insights from Slum Housing in Mumbai

    Relationships between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies have been variously described in the nonprofit literature as cooperative, complementary, adversarial, confrontational, or even co-optive. But how do NGO-government relationships emerge in practice, and is it possible for NGOs to manage multiple strategies of interaction at once? This article examines the experience of three leading NGOs in Mumbai, India involved in slum and squatter housing. We investigate how they began relating with government agencies during their formative years and the factors that shaped their interactions. We find that NGOs with similar goals end up using very different strategies and tactics to advance their housing agendas. More significantly, we observe that NGOs are likely to employ multiple strategies and tactics in their interactions with government. Finally, we find that an analysis of strategies and tactics can be a helpful vehicle for clarifying an organization's theory of change.

    Keywords: Cooperative Ownership; Housing; Corporate Strategy; Business and Government Relations; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Nonprofit Organizations; Change Management; Business Strategy; Growth and Development; Non-Governmental Organizations; Accommodations Industry; Mumbai;

    Citation:

    Ramanath, Ramya, and Alnoor Ebrahim. "Strategies and Tactics in NGO-Government Relations: Insights from Slum Housing in Mumbai." Nonprofit Management & Leadership 21, no. 1 (2010): 21–42. View Details
  5. Placing the Normative Logics of Accountability in 'Thick' Perspective

    This article provides a critical reflection on the heavily normative nature of current accountability debates. In particular, it explores three streams of normative discourse on nonprofit accountability: improving board governance, improving performance-based reporting, and demonstrating progress toward mission. The article describes how these logics are associated with three basic accountability regimes: coercive, technocratic, and adaptive. It then discusses how a focus on these normative logics and regimes, although important, can mask the realities of social structure and the relations of power that underlie them. The article proposes a more empirical approach to framing accountability—"thick description"—that might enable scholars to better understand how social regimes of accountability actually operate in different contexts and in which the instruments of accountability are at least as likely to reproduce relationships of inequality as they are to overturn them.

    Keywords: Fair Value Accounting; Accounting; Governance; Performance Evaluation; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Goals and Objectives; Management Practices and Processes; Power and Influence; Social and Collaborative Networks; Organizational Structure; Relationships; Accounting Industry;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Placing the Normative Logics of Accountability in 'Thick' Perspective." American Behavioral Scientist 52, no. 6 (2009): 885–904. View Details
  6. Testimony on 'The World Bank's Disclosure Policy Review, and the Role of Democratic Participatory Processes in Achieving Successful Development Outcomes'

    Keywords: Banks and Banking; Policy; Success; Growth and Development; Outcome or Result;

  7. How Does Accountability Affect Mission? The Case of a Nonprofit Serving Immigrants and Refugees

    Keywords: Mission and Purpose; Nonprofit Organizations; Refugees; Demography;

    Citation:

    Christensen, Rachel, and Alnoor Ebrahim. "How Does Accountability Affect Mission? The Case of a Nonprofit Serving Immigrants and Refugees." Nonprofit Management & Leadership 17, no. 2 (winter 2006). View Details
  8. Making Sense of Accountability: Conceptual Perspectives for Northern and Southern Nonprofits

    Keywords: Perspective; Nonprofit Organizations; Corporate Accountability;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Making Sense of Accountability: Conceptual Perspectives for Northern and Southern Nonprofits." Nonprofit Management & Leadership 14, no. 2 (winter 2003): 191–212. (Winner of Editors' Prize for Best Scholarly Paper in Nonprofit Management and Leadership presented by Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations.) View Details
  9. Information Struggles: The Role of Information in the Reproduction of NGO-Funder Relationships

    Keywords: Information; Non-Governmental Organizations; Relationships;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Information Struggles: The Role of Information in the Reproduction of NGO-Funder Relationships." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 31, no. 1 (March 2002): 85–113. (Winner of Outstanding Article in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly presented by Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.) View Details
  10. Learning Processes in Development Planning: A Theoretical Overview and Case Study

    Keywords: Learning; Growth and Development; Planning; Theory; Information;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and L. Ortolano. "Learning Processes in Development Planning: A Theoretical Overview and Case Study." Journal of Planning Education and Research 20, no. 4 (June 2001): 448–463. View Details

Book Chapters

  1. The World Bank and Democratic Accountability: The Role of Civil Society

    Keywords: International Finance; Banks and Banking; Civil Society or Community; Governance Compliance; Banking Industry;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and Steve Herz. "The World Bank and Democratic Accountability: The Role of Civil Society." Chap. 3 in Building Global Democracy? Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance, edited by Jan Aart Scholte, 58–77. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. View Details
  2. The Many Faces of Nonprofit Accountability

    Calls for greater accountability are not new. Leaders of organizations, be they nonprofit, business, or government, face a constant stream of demands from various constituents demanding accountable behavior. But what does it mean to be accountable? By and large, nonprofit leaders tend to pay attention to accountability once a problem of trust arises-a scandal in the sector or in their own organization, questions from citizens or donors who want to know if their money is being well spent, or pressure from regulators to demonstrate that they are serving a public purpose and thus merit tax-exempt status. Amid this clamor for accountability, it is tempting to accept the popular normative view that more accountability is better. But is it feasible, or even desirable, for nonprofit organizations to be accountable to everyone for everything? The challenge for leadership and management is to prioritize among competing accountability demands. This involves deciding both to whom and for what they owe accountability. This chapter provides an overview of common dilemmas of nonprofit accountability, lays out tradeoffs inherent in a range of accountability mechanisms, and closes with insights for practice.

    Keywords: Crime and Corruption; Corporate Accountability; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Taxation; Leadership; Management; Nonprofit Organizations; Behavior; Trust;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "The Many Faces of Nonprofit Accountability." Chap. 4 in The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management. 3rd ed. Edited by David O. Renz, 110–121. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. View Details
  3. Civil Society - Business Relations

    Keywords: Civil Society or Community; Business and Community Relations; Business Ventures; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact;

    Citation:

    Austin, James E., and Alnoor Ebrahim. "Civil Society - Business Relations." In International Encyclopedia of Civil Society, edited by Helmut K. Anheier and Stefan Toepler. New York: Springer, 2010. View Details
  4. Learning in Environmental Policymaking and Implementation

    This paper explores how "learning" occurs in the context of environmental policy formulation and implementation. Rather than viewing policy learning as a rational and technocratic process, the emphasis here is on the political and institutional contexts within which opportunities for policy learning emerge. In particular, opportunities for policy learning are examined with respect to: a) agenda or priority-setting on environmental issues; b) stakeholder access and representation in policy formulation; and c) accountability in implementation. Examples are drawn from the experiences of South Africa and Brazil. Several preliminary factors are identified that may enhance policy learning, while acknowledging the constraints of bounded rationality and relationships of power.

    Keywords: Learning; Corporate Accountability; Policy; Government and Politics; Business and Stakeholder Relations; Natural Environment; Power and Influence; South Africa; Brazil;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Learning in Environmental Policymaking and Implementation." In Strategic Environmental Assessment for Policies: An Instrument for Good Governance, edited by Kulsum Ahmed and Ernesto Sanchez-Triana. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2008. (Was HBS Working Paper 08-071.) View Details
  5. Beyond Dependence: Conceptualizing Information and Accountability in NGO-Funder Relations

    This paper explores the linkages between information systems and accountability in nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations (NGOs). The information systems in four NGOs are introduced: two Indian NGOs engaged in natural resource management and rural development, an education-focused nonprofit in urban Washington, D.C., and a rights-based transnational organization operating in over thirty countries. Despite the differences among these NGOs, they all face closely related challenges in developing information and accountability systems. The cases suggest that, for information systems to be useful for purposes of long-term social change, NGOs require indicators that are manageable in number and meaningful in content, information systems and technologies that are reflective of mission and values, and regular opportunities for innovation. Sometimes, such systems are simple and flexible, rather than rigorous or sophisticated. The second part of the paper challenges conventional characterizations of NGOs as being dependent on donors for money. It argues that there is an “interdependence” in which funders rely on NGOs for information that builds their reputations. This interdependence provides an opening for NGOs to challenge the nature of reporting and accountability to their donors. Finally, the third part of the paper explores how this interdependence affects the accountability priorities of NGOs and, in so doing, offers conceptual links between information and accountability.

    Keywords: Giving and Philanthropy; Corporate Accountability; Information Management; Business and Stakeholder Relations; Non-Governmental Organizations; Information Technology; India; District of Columbia;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Beyond Dependence: Conceptualizing Information and Accountability in NGO-Funder Relations." In Reconceptualising NGOs and Their Roles in Development: NGOs, Civil Society and the International Aid System, edited by Paul Opoku-Mensah, David Lewis, and Terje Tvedt, pp. 119–159. Aalborg, Denmark: Aalborg University Press, 2007. View Details
  6. Accountability Myopia: Losing Sight of Organizational Learning

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Corporate Accountability; Governance Compliance;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Accountability Myopia: Losing Sight of Organizational Learning." In Proceedings of the Sixty-Third Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Best Papers, edited by D. H. Nagao. Seattle, WA: Academy of Management, 2003. View Details

Working Papers

  1. The Limits of Nonprofit Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance

    Leaders of organizations in the social sector are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impacts on pressing societal problems such as global poverty. We review the debates around performance and impact, drawing on three literatures: strategic philanthropy, nonprofit management, and international development. We then develop a contingency framework for measuring results, suggesting that some organizations should measure long-term impacts, while others should focus on shorter-term outputs and outcomes. In closing, we discuss the implications of our analysis for future research on performance management.

    Keywords: Development Economics; Giving and Philanthropy; Leadership; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Performance Expectations; Nonprofit Organizations; Social Issues;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "The Limits of Nonprofit Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-099, May 2010. (Recipient of 2010 Academy of Management, Public and Nonprofit Division, Carlo Masini Award for Innovative Scholarship runner-up prize; and, selection for the Best Papers proceedings.) View Details
  2. The Many Faces of Nonprofit Accountability

    What does it mean for a nonprofit organization to be accountable? Nonprofit leaders tend to pay attention to accountability once a problem of trust arises—a scandal in the sector or in their own organization, questions from citizens or donors who want to know if their money is being well spent, or pressure from regulators to demonstrate that they are serving a public purpose and thus merit tax-exempt status. Amid this clamor for accountability, it is tempting to accept the popular view that more accountability is better. But is it feasible, or even desirable, for nonprofit organizations to be accountable to everyone for everything? The challenge for leadership and management is to prioritize among competing accountability demands. This involves deciding both to whom and for what they owe accountability. This paper provides an overview of the accountability pressures facing nonprofit leaders, and examines several mechanisms available to them: disclosures, performance evaluations, self-regulation, participation, and adaptive learning. Nonprofit leaders must adapt any such mechanisms to suit their organization - be it a membership-based organization, a service-delivery nonprofit, or an advocacy network. More crucially, they need to pay greater attention to strategy-driven forms of accountability that can help them to achieve their missions.

    Keywords: Corporate Accountability; Corporate Disclosure; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Leadership; Mission and Purpose; Performance Evaluation; Nonprofit Organizations; Business Strategy;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "The Many Faces of Nonprofit Accountability." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-069, February 2010. View Details
  3. Accountability in Complex Organizations: World Bank Responses to Civil Society

    Civil society actors have been pushing for greater accountability of the World Bank for at least three decades. This paper outlines the range of accountability mechanisms currently in place at the World Bank along four basic levels: (1) staff, (2) project, (3) policy, and (4) board governance. We argue that civil society organizations have been influential in pushing for greater accountability at the project and policy levels, particularly through the establishment and enforcement of social and environmental safeguards and complaint and response mechanisms. But they have been much less successful in changing staff incentives for accountability to affected communities, or in improving board accountability through greater transparency in decision making, more representative vote allocation, or better parliamentary scrutiny. In other words, although civil society efforts have led to some gains in accountability with respect to Bank policies and projects, the deeper structural features of the institution—the incentives staff face and how the institution is governed—remain largely unchanged.

    Keywords: Corporate Accountability; Corporate Governance; Governing and Advisory Boards; Compensation and Benefits; Business and Community Relations; Social Enterprise; Motivation and Incentives;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and Steve Herz. "Accountability in Complex Organizations: World Bank Responses to Civil Society." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-027, October 2007. View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. ActionAid International: Globalizing Governance, Localizing Accountability

    As a global NGO working in 45 countries, ActionAid International aims to eradicate poverty by addressing its underlying causes such as injustice and inequality. This case follows a series of radical transformations implemented by the organization's CEO, Ramesh Singh—a power shift from its headquarters in London to an international secretariat in Johannesburg; a new federated governance structure that increases the influence of units in Africa and Asia; and, innovations in accountability and transparency to the poor communities with which it works. But as Singh gets ready to step down after seven years, he is confronted with challenges from newly empowered country units that he feels risk taking the organization in the wrong direction. How will the divisions between the Northern and Southern units play out? Will they tear the organization apart, just when it is becoming a global player?

    Keywords: Local Range; Globalized Firms and Management; Corporate Accountability; Corporate Governance; Leading Change; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Organizational Structure; Nonprofit Organizations; Power and Influence; Johannesburg; London;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and Rachel Gordon. "ActionAid International: Globalizing Governance, Localizing Accountability." Harvard Business School Case 311-004, October 2010. (Revised July 2013.) View Details
  2. The Robin Hood Foundation

    Created by hedge fund and financial managers, the Robin Hood Foundation fights poverty through grants to nonprofit organizations. As the global financial crisis continues to impact the poor disproportionately, the Foundation needs to ensure that its funds are being spent on the most effective poverty-fighting programs. The organization's senior vice president, Michael Weinstein, has developed a benefit-cost (BC) approach to analyze the performance of program grants. How effective is the method? Is funding programs with the highest BC ratios a good way to fight poverty? In three or five years' time, how will Robin Hood know if it is succeeding?

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Giving and Philanthropy; Poverty; Organizational Design; Performance Effectiveness; Financial Crisis; Programs; Measurement and Metrics;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and Cathy Ross. "The Robin Hood Foundation." Harvard Business School Case 310-031, May 2010. (Revised January 2012.) View Details
  3. Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (A)

    Acumen Fund is a global venture capital firm with a dual purpose: it looks for a return on its investments, and it also seeks entrepreneurial solutions to global poverty. This case examines Acumen's new projects in Kenya. The organization's investment committee and its chief investment officer, Brian Trelstad, must decide whether or not to fund two for-profit ventures. The first provides clean and accessible shower and toilet facilities in urban areas, serving a critical need for low-income populations—its financial sustainability, however, is less clear. The second investment is a network of successful private health clinics that primarily serve middle-income populations but which have the potential to reach low-income markets. On what basis should Acumen decide whether or not to invest? What performance metrics should it use? As the investment committee nears a decision, political and social unrest breaks out in Kenya following a highly contested presidential election. Acumen Fund must now also consider the political risks of investing.

    Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Venture Capital; Investment Return; Giving and Philanthropy; Risk Management; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Business and Government Relations; Social Enterprise; Financial Services Industry; Kenya;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (A)." Harvard Business School Case 310-011, September 2009. (Revised May 2011.) View Details
  4. Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (B)

    As Acumen Fund, a global venture philanthropy firm, moves forward with an investment portfolio exceeding $22 million, it runs into two critical measurement problems. First, how should it track the performance of each investment when its interest is not just the bottom line, but also social impact? What should its performance tracking system look like to enable ease of comparison and to identify problems before they become too significant to fix? The second challenge involves attracting investors. Acumen wants to build the field of "social investing" by creating a new asset class for investors who care about social impact. Doing so will require working with competitors in the field in order to establish benchmarks and standards of measurement. How can Acumen build industry-wide benchmarks when peer organizations are concerned about confidentiality of data? Without such comparisons, how will Acumen attract investors to the field?

    Keywords: Venture Capital; Investment Portfolio; Giving and Philanthropy; Standards; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Performance Evaluation; Social Enterprise; Competition; Financial Services Industry; Kenya;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 310-017, September 2009. (Revised May 2011.) View Details
  5. Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (TN) (A) and (B)

    Teaching Note for 310011 and 310017.

    Keywords: Projects; For-Profit Firms; Networks; Health Care and Treatment; Performance Evaluation; Investment Portfolio; Asset Pricing; Competition; Multinational Firms and Management; Venture Capital; Investment Return; Poverty; Financial Services Industry; Kenya;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (TN) (A) and (B)." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 311-056, September 2010. View Details
  6. The Millennium Challenge Corporation and Ghana

    A U.S. government agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), provides aid to developing countries, focusing on poverty reduction through economic growth. It measures results through an economic rate of return based on increases in farmer incomes anticipated over twenty years. As MCC and Ghana finalize a $547 million grant for agriculture and transportation infrastructure, they come up against an accountability and measurement problem: how to address an urgent request from Ghana to fund community services—such as schools and drinking water—for which the results will be more difficult to measure.

    Keywords: Developing Countries and Economies; Economic Growth; Investment Return; Measurement and Metrics; Welfare or Wellbeing; Ghana; United States;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "The Millennium Challenge Corporation and Ghana." Harvard Business School Case 310-025, July 2009. (Revised May 2010.) View Details
  7. Brummer and the bracNet Investment

    bracNet, a for-profit/nonprofit partnership, aims to establish Internet connectivity throughout Bangladesh. Venture capitalist Patrik Brummer invested in a first round of funding to connect major cities. Should he invest again, this time in a rural roll-out, which may have lower financial returns but greater social returns?

    Keywords: For-Profit Firms; Venture Capital; Investment; Investment Return; Rural Scope; Partners and Partnerships; Nonprofit Organizations; Internet; Telecommunications Industry; Bangladesh;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor, Michael Pirson, and Patricia Mangas. "Brummer and the bracNet Investment." Harvard Business School Case 309-065, April 2009. View Details

Other Publications and Materials

  1. Building and Governing a Democratic Federation: The ActionAid International Story

    This report examines the governance model and reform process of an international nongovernmental organization (INGO), ActionAid International (AAI). It describes the evolution of AAI's governance model and draws key lessons for peer INGOs. The paper is based on a governance model review commissioned by AAI and conducted by the authors under the auspices of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. This review draws from 60 interviews, group discussions, 80 survey responses, desk review of key internal documents and a review of lessons learned from four peer INGOs. While the report of AAI's governance model review (an internal document) articulated specific findings and recommendations aimed at strengthening AAI's governance, this paper seeks to tell the story of AAI's internationalization journey with a view to providing useful insights to individuals and organizations external to ActionAid.

    Keywords: governance; NGO; accountability; Corporate Accountability; Corporate Governance; Non-Governmental Organizations;

    Citation:

    Jayawickrama, Sherine, and Alnoor Ebrahim. "Building and Governing a Democratic Federation: The ActionAid International Story." White Paper Series, 2013. View Details
  2. Let's Be Realistic About Measuring Impact

    "Measure impact" has become a mantra for creating social change. Claims about making a difference are no longer sufficient; evidence of how much difference you're making is now required. We should applaud this trend, because results are sometimes ambiguous and claims often go unsubstantiated. But does it really make sense for all mission-driven organizations to measure their long-term impact on society?

    Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Social Entrepreneurship; Performance Evaluation;

  3. Effectiveness of Stakeholder Participation Processes: Yacyretá Hydroelectric Project, Paraguay and Argentina (LAC Region)

    Keywords: Business and Stakeholder Relations; Corporate Governance; Performance Effectiveness; Energy Industry; Paraguay; Argentina;

    Citation:

    Ebrahim, Alnoor. "Effectiveness of Stakeholder Participation Processes: Yacyretá Hydroelectric Project, Paraguay and Argentina (LAC Region)." Report, World Bank, Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office, January 2003. View Details

    Research Summary

  1. Performance Measurement and Accountability in the Social Sector

    Professor Ebrahim's research examines the pressures for accountability facing social sector organizations, and their implications for organizational performance. How can nonprofits and social enterprises measure performance in order to achieve better results? This work focuses on three dilemmas confronting social sector leaders: a) how to prioritize among the competing, and sometimes incommensurable, demands for accountability from different principals and stakeholders; b) how to measure social performance; and, c) how to design governance structures and systems to align accountability aims throughout the organization. While these dilemmas in social sector organizations  are not unlike those facing businesses, they are complicated by the fact that social, rather than financial performance is the bottom line in this work.
  2. Governance and Accountability in Social Sector Organizations

    This research examines governance in two types of organizations: international NGOs and socioeconomic hybrids.

    First, over the past decade, many of the world's most prominent international nongovernmental organizations and networks (INGOs)  have developed new structures for operating more effectively in global environments. How have governance arrangements evolved in INGOs as they have internationalized? What kinds of organizational structures and accountability mechanisms are best suited to different global environments? This work makes use of ten case studies to shed light on the process of internationalization and its implications for governance and accountability. This work is being carried out jointly with colleagues at Harvard University's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations.

    The second project examines hybrid organizations. As corporations face increasing pressure to address societal problems, and as nonprofit charities turn to market-based revenue models, we are witnessing the emergence of new hybrid organizations that seek to balance market and social welfare logics. Governing boards play a crucial role in enabling hybrids to balance their dual, and sometimes conflicting, objectives. In this conceptual work, carried out jointly with Professors Julie Battilana and Johanna Mair, we examine how hybrids' accountability differs from those of corporate and nonprofit models, and we explore mechanisms of accountability that hybrids adopt in order to maintain their hybridity.

  3. Accountability in the World Bank

    This research, now complete, examines the roles of civil society actors in advocating for greater accountability at the World Bank at three levels of decision-making: (1) the project level, (2) the policy level, and (3) the board governance level. The research finds that civil society organizations have been fairly successful in expanding accountability at the project and policy levels, particularly through the establishment and enforcement of social and environmental safeguards, improved transparency and consultation requirements, and the creation of complaint and response mechanisms. However, these successes have been limited because accountability to affected peoples has not been well integrated into the performance incentive structure for Bank staff. Moreover, civil society has not been successful in improving board-level accountability which requires greater transparency in decision-making, more representative vote allocation, and better parliamentary scrutiny. This research provided the basis for a testimony that Professor Ebrahim delivered to the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services.

    Teaching

  1. Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD)

    This first-year MBA course focuses on how managers become effective leaders by addressing the human side of enterprise.  The first modules examine teams, individuals, and networks; the intermediate modules look at successful leaders "in action"; and the final module introduces a model for strategic career management.
     
  2. Governing for Nonprofit Excellence (GNE)

    This Executive Education course, an HBS Social Enterprise Initiative program, is designed to maximize the contributions of individual nonprofit board members. Participants are challenged to examine their role and the role of their boards in improving organizational effectiveness.  Professor Ebrahim is the faculty chair.
  1. Carlo Masini Award: "Putting the Brakes on Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance" (with V. Kasturi Rangan) was runner-up for the 2010 Carlo Masini Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management.

  2. Carolyn Dexter Award: Nominated for the 2010 Carolyn Dexter Award from the Academy of Management with V. Kasturi Rangan for “Putting the Brakes on Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance” (Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, August 2010).

  3. Editors' Prize for Best Scholarly Paper in Nonprofit Management and Leadership: Winner of the 2005 Editors' Prize for Best Scholarly Paper in Nonprofit Management and Leadership for "Making Sense of Accountability: Conceptual Perspectives for Northern and Southern Nonprofits" (winter 2003).

  4. Outstanding Article in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly: Winner of the 2003 Outstanding Article in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly Award for "Information Struggles: The Role of Information in the Reproduction of NGO-Funder Relationships" (March 2002).

  5. Outstanding Book in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research: Winner of the Outstanding Book Award in 2004 from the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action for NGOs and Organizational Change: Discourse, Reporting and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 2003).