An Ode to Effective NGOs

25/05/2011 at 4:54 pm 2 comments

By Hans Zomer

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to address the AGM of one of our bigger member organisations. It was a great opportunity to get to know better one of our 46 members.

I reminded people that our members represent a great diversity of backgrounds, ways of working, specialisations and perspectives, and that such diversity is a sign of strength, not of duplication. Development NGOs represent ordinary citizens – people in Ireland that do not want to remain passive in the face of poverty, injustice. People who believe that working together works. People who share a belief that fighting poverty is about redressing imbalances; Imbalances in power, access, participation, fairness. A belief that poor people, and poor communities, deserve a voice.

I also spoke of the rapid, fundamental changes that our sector is experiencing, arising from such diverse factors as the MDGs, the “Aid Effectiveness” agenda, the changing concepts of the roles of the private sector/ the State / civil society, and the erosion of faith in institutions/authorities. Throw in economic crisis in the mix, and it means we are on the defensive, and that the “golden age” of NGOs may well be over.

Then I returned to my favourite theme that in Development, good intentions are not enough. Our work is impacting on other people’s lives, and we therefore have a moral imperative to do more than “our best”; NGOs must aspire to always adhere to the highest ethical standards, and ensure that they always act professionally. It is precisely because they are active in a “business of the heart”, that professionalism, accountability and responsibility are required. If aid is given badly, it can hurt the very people it is supposed to help. (See eg. the recent reports about clerical sex abuse in Africa)

And that is why the members of Dóchas have spent much time discussing what “smart aid” looks like. What works, and what doesn’t?

In recent decades, collectively, we have learned many lessons. But very often we have failed to apply those lessons, and we have failed to fully share those lessons with others.

Too often, people and organisations are re-inventing the wheel, or worse, denying that the equivalent of new wheels are needed. The NGO sector prides itself of its ability to innovate, but in reality, we have not demonstrated as much creativity, curiosity and innovation as we should have.

And we have let a situation arise where those that are the loudest and brashest are often seen by the general public to be the best at what they do.

When we all know that good development work is largely invisible. Good development is not about logos, brochures, sound bites – it is about making a real difference, a lasting difference. Not necessarily doing, but making space for others to act. Not simply addressing the symptoms, but the root causes of poverty and injustice.

Good aid is not about giving, but about encouraging. Aid is about empowering people, giving a voice to the voiceless. Allowing people to take control over their own lives. Harnessing the strength of people power.

And that is why I believe in the work of NGOs.

And it is also why NGOs can, and must, do better.

Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness, NGOs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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6,000 mosques in #Jordan will have rooftop #solar panels installed. "In an already fragile region, subject to the whims of the international oil market and regional unrest, Jordan relies on #fossilfuel imports to meet around 95 percent of its energy demand. Insert #renewables." This innovative new move to put solar panels on the rooftops of the country's mosques could make a huge difference to resources in the region. 
Find out more here: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/02/25/3626956/jordan-mosques-are-going-solar/ For many years Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda has been ravaged by flood waters from the River Manafwa.

To help protect people against the destruction of their homes and farmlands, the Government of #Uganda installed solar	powered Flood Early Warning Systems to warn residents of raising water levels.

Read more: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Pages/TouchingLives.aspx?itemID=2 At "The World's Best News", we are trying to change perceptions of developing countries.
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See http://www.dardistantimes.com/pakistan/News/2133637675/17-astonishing-places-you-wouldn-t-believe-are-pakistan

Photo1: View of the Neelam Valley, Kashmir. One of the better tourist ranges in Pakistan, this valley is a 200km long bow-shaped, deeply forested region. At "The World's Best News", we are trying to change perceptions of developing countries.
Well, here you go! 
See http://www.dardistantimes.com/pakistan/News/2133637675/17-astonishing-places-you-wouldn-t-believe-are-pakistan

Photo2: Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Balistan. It’s nearly Spring, so we felt like sharing a few photos of Zimbabwe in bloom.

Photos: #Jacaranda flowers in #Harare, capital of #Zimbabwe Meet the man who built an aeroplane in his back yard.

George Mel has dreamed of flying since he was a boy, but when his father died he had to give up his studies, and any chance of training to be a pilot. 
Instead he built a plane in his back yard - which so impressed his country's air force that it gave him a job. 
Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31097612 How well do you know today’s world?

Take Hans Rosling’s 4 question test!

http://bit.ly/HansRosling_quiz Years of struggle against a small but feared #parasite are finally starting to bear fruit. 
Worldwide, there are currently only registered 126 cases of the “#GuineaWorm” disease – a parasite that is transmitted to humans through contaminated drinking water - and in a few years, the nasty worm will finally have become history.

In 1986, the World Health Organisation unleashed a global strategy to help the approximately 3.5 million people infected by the worm, and The #CarterCenter - founded by former US President Jimmy Carter - led the fight against the parasite. 
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The disease is only endemic in four countries are today: South Sudan, Mali, Chad and Ethiopia. If the Guinea Worm is wiped out, it will be the first time that the world has managed to fully eradicate a human disease since the end of the smallpox disease, in 1980. While parts of North America are experiencing the worst measles outbreak in 15 years, a new report shows that Africa has increased immunisation rates significantly, making the continent a world leader in protecting children against the disease.

Read more at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/07/measles-vaccination-rates-africa-surpass-north-america

Photo: A child receives a vaccination in Tchadoua, south-west Niger. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images #Beer consumption is a very reliable thermometer for the growth of the middle class in a country.

The #Ethiopian economy grew by 10.5 percent between 2004 and 2013, making it the fastest growing economy on the continent, after #Angola. The beer
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This has prompted multinational companies to team up with NGOs to organise farmers and promote the growing of barley, for use in locally produced beers.

The aim is to make a profit while at the same time increasing farmers’ incomes and food security.

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