A framework for the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies in the science sector
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Research funding agencies are quasi-public organisations mandated by specific legislative acts or laws. Although they are independent entities, they are still dependent on government for financial resources. Through the resources they manage, funding agencies are able to facilitate and drive research and development. Although funding agencies exist in the midst of a system compounded by numerous external players, their responsibility is to optimally utilise limited resources. These resources are invested, through the use of grant awarding processes, to encourage research productivity from those scientists who are recipients of grants. However, funding agencies, like all other public organisations, face challenges such as the: poor allocation and utilisation of resources; weak management practices; weak research-performing institutions; unpredictable political, economic and ethical environments; and poor morale and motivation among public employees. Given this context, it is difficult yet critical to establish a useful, reliable and valid set of effective indicators for evaluating the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies. This study therefore endeavoured to address this very issue by firstly providing insights into the factors and sub-factors associated with the balanced scorecard, with the aim of explaining, from a theoretical perspective, how each of these factors influence the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies. Secondly, this research sheds light on some of the key elements necessary for improving the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies in the science sector by presenting a conceptual framework that was based on the research findings from several countries internationally. The research questions that were addressed in this study, were as follows: 1) Do the factors and sub-factors cluster according to the balanced scorecard that was proposed in this study? 2) What are the main factors influencing/impacting the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies? 3) Can a conceptual framework for improving the effectiveness of funding agencies be developed? In addressing the research questions and objectives of this study, a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach was adopted. Initially, a theoretical model in the form of a five factor balanced scorecard was proposed, which was used to develop a survey, geared towards evaluating employee perceptions relating to the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies. From this phase of the study, a total of 188 responses were received, and these were subjected to descriptive statistics, t-tests, ANOVAs and factor analysis. The outcomes of the factor analysis revealed that four interrelated and interdependent factors, play a contributing role in influencing the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies. These factors include: environmental and stakeholder management; financial management; organisational business processes; and organisational learning and growth. It was further found that each of these factors play an equally important role in influencing the organisational effectiveness of funding agencies. The outcomes from the first phase of the study, were subsequently verified and validated in the secondary qualitative phase comprising eight semi-structured interviews with the top management of funding agencies and representatives from other organisations closely associated with funding agencies. The interview transcripts were subjected to thematic analysis. The outcomes from this phase of the study, confirmed the quantitative research outcomes, and helped the researcher to gain a better understanding of the research subject, which guided and refined the development of both the conceptual model and implementation roadmap that are presented in this study.