Learning from the Netherlands
By Hans Zomer
This week, I attended the AGM of Partos, Dóchas’ counterpart in the Netherlands. I had been invited to address the meeting, reflecting on the differences and similarities in the Development sectors in Ireland and the Netherlands.
It was heartening to see the extent to which Dutch NGOs are grappling with the same issues as the Dóchas members are. And it was nice to hear how the Dutch NGO sector, which is so much bigger than the Irish sector, were looking for inspiration from Dóchas. In particular, our Codes of Conduct and our work on corporate governance for NGOs were seen as positive contributions to the global CSO Effectiveness discussions. And our thematic briefing sheets were welcomed as powerful ways for the sector to communicate its shared values.
And inversely, we in Ireland have much to learn from our Dutch colleagues. Partos itself is better resourced and creatively looking for new ways to support the sector. And the Dutch are well ahead of others in terms of joint impact reporting and supporting innovative private initiatives. Its recent Open for Change initiative is a really exciting attempt to harness the potential of the web to bring about fundamental changes in the way Development NGOs are working.
(And the Dutch Government’s NGO funding mechanism deserves special mention, insisting as it does that a) NGOs define their organisational learning strategies, b) funding is for programmes, not for organisations, c) demands that applicant NGOs demonstrate in their context analysis how they apply the Paris principles of Complementarity and Harmonisation, and d) asks that NGOs use standardised reporting formats in order to allow comparability and linkages with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.)
Plenty of scope for continued cooperation between our networks, therefore. And that is exactly what we’re planning.