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.

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BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-32882520 "Normally, a city is for people not vehicles. We want to turn Kigali into a pedestrian-friendly city." #Rwanda is rolling out a new strategy to boost public transport and improve its cities. 
Read more at http://allafrica.com/stories/201508250223.html Faced with drought , Tanzanian farmers plant MORE trees to protect their food crops.

Read more: http://www.scidev.net/global/farming/multimedia/tanzanian-farmer-brings-forest-back-to-life.html?utm_content=buffer5af8c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer As part of a project called "The Tribal Voice", the Guarani and Yanomami peoples of South America have received waterproof phones and solar panels to give them more say in political and economic developments affecting their land. "We believe that the powerful videos we are seeing will galvanise more action by more people and create pressure governments will be unable to ignore.” Read more at: http://www.scidev.net/global/indigenous/news/tribal-groups-indigenous-people-survival-struggle.html#sthash.ZM4JnKKq.dpuf On September 17th hundreds of volunteers around the country will mobilise to spread the positive news of development!

They will be handing out "the World's Best News newspaper" and joining in other activities nationwide. 
We would love to have you on board! 
If you would like to be involved in the distribution/ activities on the day please register here: 
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/get-involved-with-the-worlds-best-news-2015-tickets-17920797588 Data published by the UN show that the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut from 1.9 billion to 836 million.

Read more: https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/07/how-much-global-poverty-fallen-past-25-years/ Unlike other slums in #Mexico, Las Palmitas district of Pachuca is a rainbow of colours. The area is not just prettier, but also a safer place to live.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/01/mexico-pachuca-mural-las-palmitas-public-art - Photo: Sofia Jaramillo/AP The world's fastest growing economies:

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http://worldsbestnews.tumblr.com/post/125151379280/the-13-fastest-growing-economies-in-the-world #positivenews The first #malaria vaccine has received the green light from European regulators, opening the door for vaccination campaigns for infants in #Africa.

Malaria is a disease of poverty. It affects poor people disproportionately, and it fuels poverty, as it slows economic growth and worsens other disease burdens, particular HIV and Aids.

But there is good news: The number of malaria deaths has almost halved since 2002, and now a new malaria vaccine has been approved, which should help protect very young #children against the disease.

Read this article: http://www.scidev.net/global/malaria/news/malaria-vaccine-green-light-mosquirix.html?utm_content=buffer1ea54&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Also read: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/malaria-treatment-vaccine-research-1428826-Apr2014/ On September 17th hundreds of volunteers around the country will mobilise to spread the positive news of development!

They will be handing out "the World's Best News newspaper" and joining in other activities nationwide. 
The EYD team and the Dóchas membership are working hard to produce this year's World's Best News newspaper which will be published in September. 
Details of the activities on September 17th will follow shortly. 
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If you would like to be involved in the distribution/ activities on the day please write to the EYD team at eyd@dochas.ie Good news: far fewer people are now hurt by land mines and old unexploded ammunition.

Thanks to an international ban on mines, and intensive mine clearing, it’s now possible for more people in previous conflict zones to stand on their own legs.

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