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: , , , , , , , , , .

17 May: International Comms Day – Gender, Mobile Phones and Development Design & Aid? Why we are supporting Dublin’s bid to become World Design Capital 2014.

2 Comments Add your own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 211 other followers

Archives

Dóchas on Twitter

The World's Best News - images

#AfricaDay is an opportunity to change the way many people in #Ireland think about Africa. 
Research commissioned by Dóchas has shown that our attitudes to the African continent have changed little since the 1980s.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/today-africa-day-time-update-our-views-continent-hans-zomer “Making corporal punishment history”

#Irish NGO Nurture Africa has teamed up with the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) in a project aimed at eradicating corporal punishment in schools in #Uganda.

Read more:http://www.nurtureafrica.ie/#!Working-together-to-eradicate-Corporal-Punishment-one-school-at-a-time/canh/553f7fc10cf23d01645aa90a

Photo: Umar Sekibala - Nurture Afrtica Child Protection Officer disseminating child rights and examples of alternative measures of dicipline (towards elimination of
corporal punishments) to Kyebando UMEA Primary School teachers and guardians How one community is working to overcome the challenges of climate change. "It's dry now, so we are working to be ready for when the rains come. Things have changed a lot in the past years, now that we have the gardens and dykes." http://www.trust.org/item/20150514040044-7uh4r/?source=fiOtherNews2

Photo: Women work on a vegetable garden built with U.N. funds in Djimebougou, Mali. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Chris Arsenault The changing face of #Lagos.

#Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, has had a makeover over the last decade, as this gallery from the BBC's Ayo Bello shows: 
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32556640 The changing face of #Lagos.

#Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, has had a makeover over the last decade, as this gallery from the BBC's Ayo Bello shows: 
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32556640 The most positive of all statistics:
The number of children dying before their fifth birthday has been reduced by half in twenty years. More #forests in the world’s most populous countries: Forest cover in #India and #China has increased by more than 572,000 km2 since 1990.

http://worldsbestnews.dk/news/more-forest-in-the-worlds-largest-nations/ Girl skaters in #Afghanistan: "Skateistan"! http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/aghani-girls-skateboard-instead-of-bike/

#skateboard “Ever since I was a child, when I saw a bird in the sky, I wanted to fly a plane. Many girls in #Afghanistan have dreams... but a number of problems, threats stand in the way.“ 23-year-old Niloofar Rahmani is the first female fixed-wing aviator in Afghanistan's history and the country's first woman #pilot since the ouster of the #Taliban regime.

Read more at http://www.dawn.com/news/1178900/female-afghan-top-gun-soars-above-gender-barrier The world is winning the fight against #malaria.

Millions of lives have been saved in the past 10 years; lives mostly of children under the age of five.

The World #Health Organization reports that deaths from malaria have been cut by 47 percent worldwide, and by even more - 54 percent - in sub-Saharan #Africa.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/world-malaria-day-2015/en/ Surfing beach vendors of Bangladesh.

A group of 10-12 year old beach vendors in #Bangladesh, most of whom have dropped out of school to help support their families, have taken up #surfing.

24 year old surfer, lifeguard and beach worker Rashed Alam has been teaching the girls at his school/surf club. Like the girls, Alam dropped out of #school and started working on the beach to help support his family at a young age. He started surfing when he was 16. He says that his way of giving back is by ensuring that girls get a good future through surfing.

Read more at http://blog.allisonjoyce.com/?p=486

Visitors Map

Map

Dóchas Photos

1506_77

1506_76

More Photos

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers

%d bloggers like this: