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The role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in world and country politics has always been vibrant and widespread and has grown in importance since the 1990’s. Many NGOs through the years have fought for transparent political processes and political accountability, and developing a democratic culture among citizens. It seems to have become even more important in the past few years.

We have a proven track record as nonprofits in addressing the fallout out of the stupid, senseless decisions, policies and actions of political entities – in Darfur, the present refugee crisis, the Balkans, Rwanda, Apartheid, etc. As individual nonprofits, we also have a proven track record of forming limited partnerships with other same-goal nonprofits in addressing the irresponsible decisions of our governments – Failure to provide antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to affected population, Viable Social Grant expansion, etc.

So we have proven ourselves effective in cleaning up the messes of our political leaders. Furthermore, we promote change and implement social action partnerships in areas which directly affects ourselves and like-minded organisations. But to what level are we playing a democratising role in our countries today.

Nonprofit organisations (NPOs) in many countries are facing more and more political scrutiny from country leaders and countries leading political parties. But this does not seem to be a two-way process. Quite rightly most NPOs have values and policies that excludes individuals and the organisations promoting or getting involved in party politics.

However, it seems that most of us have taken that to mean we have no role or responsibility in the broader day-to day decisions that affect the universal rights of our individual country’s citizenry. We either do not respond, respond after the fact or respond according to our individual party political affiliations.

Party politics and political affiliation, is not the business of the NPOs. The manner in which party politics and political decisions impact on our clients is our business. We also need to remember, that as much as we have vision and goals, our clients do not come in little boxes that nicely fit into whatever the NPOs’ main business is. Yes, they represent a specific group - children, women, disabled, refugees, transgender, unemployed etc. But they also come from communities, families, live in a country, they form part of a national, continental and global citizenry.

Who are we to decide where our client’s rights begin and end. The ill-advised decisions of our politicians have quite often have an impact on our NPO clients according to the specific ‘group’ we have ‘allocated’ them to. However, it always has wider community, social, economic, political, environmental etc. impact. In literature, the instances where NPOs should play a role in developing community cohesion and providing opportunities for civic participation is increasing. Some writers say that NPOs are identified as central to effective democracies - both in maintaining democracy and establishing democracies.

Social action in NPOs must not just focus on addressing the needs of special closed groups - either as individual organisations or same-goal partnerships. We must not just focus on addressing impact of political decisions after the fact. We must not just see our client as a person with a ‘special’ problem that we happen to address.

We see what is happening in the world - terrorism in cities, civil wars in countries, climate Change, armed conflict, unemployment due to unsound country economic policies, poverty and debt, hunger proliferation of nuclear weapons, population increase, infectious diseases, concentration of wealth among the top earning one percent in the world - and the list goes on. In this time when change is needed more than ever - is the nonprofit and non-governmental institutions addressing these aspects as a constituent body or unit - or are we contributing to it by being self-interested, goal-limited individual silo’s.

We have to move away from being nervous and timid in addressing political decisions and policies –and be clear we are addressing the impact of decisions (as opposed to supporting/attacking specific political parties). We need to be clear that politics in fact is a ‘dirty’ word - so much more the reason for us to get involved. We need to see our clients as a global citizen and at least have an opinion of all aspects that are or will be affecting the client (wider than the ‘problem’ group we have put him in).

We need to keep in mind of the many instances where the universal actions by the nonprofit and non-governmental field (as one constituent unit) have forcefully impacted on the gross contempt of client community’s rights - the fall of apartheid, Poland in the 1980’s, in civil rights movement in America and others.

- Pauline Roux is managing partner at the Organisational Puzzle.

Leadership is one of the most talked about, but least understood concepts in the Non-Profit field. There seems to be consensus that not all managers are leaders. There is however less consensus regarding the principle of whether managers are ‘made’ and leaders ‘born’. Both of these aspects are of importance in terms of leadership versus management in the Non-Profit sectors, and the debate is ongoing. Of even more importance is actively promoting and endorsing the debate on the need of leadership in the nonprofit sector.

As in most organisations, nonprofits needs both managers and leaders – most have managers, but many lack leaders. Many managers are extremely capable in performing individual management tasks of planning, controlling, organising and leading. But many management teams are ineffective because they are waiting for decisions that are not forthcoming. They are confused and frustrated by the organisations lack of priorities, poor communication, the fact that the organisations ideals do not match day-to-day reality, decision making processes that are not clear, internal controls and systems that do not produce, focus on technical issues as opposed to principles etcetera. The aspects that confuse and frustrate managers are easily addressed by leadership.

In the corporate world

  • No business would deliberately under-invest in the leadership team that is responsible for delivering the required and agreed results. However, in the nonprofit field many Non-Profits themselves, or the funders who fund them, are limiting the time and resource invested in leadership development or recruiting;
  • No business, looking to be around in the future, would underinvest in succession planning. However, we continuously fail to do leadership succession- planning in the nonprofit field;
  • No business would blindly keep supporting a leader that does not deliver: Headlines regularly inform us of the public downfall of leaders. The failure of these leaders can be linked to various reasons
    • Shift in leader’s focus (thinking becomes more contractive than expansive);
    • Risk aversion (driven by fear of failure rather than a desire to succeed)
    • Lack of Integrity (when achieving results become more important that the means of their achievement)
    • Relying of the title to lead – a good leader does not need a title to earn the respect of their team
    • Expecting results from what you know as opposed to what you do. A strong leader is knowledgeable, but wisdom comes with knowing their results is due to what they do.

In addition, there seems to be a fear in the Non-Profit field of creating more leaders, and not fully buying into the concept that great leaders create more leaders. Power struggles only occur if the top leadership is not stable and strong. Coupled with this is the challenge of delegating - many ‘leaders’ delegate tasks and responsibility - blame-shifting if something does not work out. An effective leader, creating more leaders, will always be comfortable taking responsibility for the outcomes of their subordinates.

The competition and survival struggle in the Non-Profit field is very demanding – also the operating conditions are not stable. The ‘marketplace’ of the nonprofit field has changed considerably and will continue to do so. The lack of nonprofit leaders means that organisations fail to take cognisance of these facts - this is, and has been, catastrophic for many nonprofits. The lack of leaders, or incompetent leaders in the implies that many organisations lack mental toughness - doing what comes naturally (as opposed to what is needed) and doing what is easy and popular (as opposed to what is difficult and unpopular)
The response of many nonprofits is to expose management members to ‘leadership’ programmes – however many ‘leadership’ programmes available to nonprofits are focussing on improvement of technical skills and system development. Ultimately, nonprofits end up with more skilled managers, but still no leader. Nonprofits often try to compensate for the lack of leadership by investing in bureaucracy - more managers, more controlling, more rules.

Nonprofits at present quite often have positions that can be described as ‘managerial leadership’ - requiring a spectacular number of skills from one person or position. This may be the reality - but it does not explain why the managerial leaders tend to focus on the managerial aspect as opposed to the leadership traits. A true leader in a managerial leadership situation, should be able to implement and develop actions to promote active leadership.

Nonprofits need to commit to drawing in appropriate leadership into their organisations. The reality is that the lack of resource (in particular financial) do limit the options of nonprofits in this regard. The organisation does however, have to enter into a debate of their priorities – if they are not going to invest financial resources in an effective leader, they cannot continue having circle discussions about why their organisation is continuously losing ground.

More important that drawing in leadership from outside – nonprofits need to develop processes and allocate resources for succession-planning and horizontal mobility within the organisation- by identifying and developing appropriate and suitable managers and staff who have leadership qualities.

“A strong nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organisation, upward into the board and outward in to the community. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to enable the organisation to follow their mission effectively.” (Light, P. 2002. Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Nonprofit Leadership).

  • Pauline Roux is the managing partner at The Organisational Puzzle.

By Mike Laws of InTarget

With recent news that the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (WASPA) has reduced the cost of becoming an Affiliate Member for registered nonprofit organisations by 90 percent, and the fact that we’re in the annual season of giving, it’s perhaps a pertinent time to take a look at mobile marketing for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities.

The days of dedicated individuals standing near shop doorways shaking tins full of copper coins might not be totally over, but they’re disappearing fast. As many a car guard is discovering to their annoyance, it’s becoming harder and harder for the average person to actually locate a coin in their wallets, pockets or handbags. With a combination of ubiquitous card machines to be found everywhere from your major retailer to the guy who cleans your pool, and mobile payments made via cellphone becoming so much easier, who needs - or wants - hard cash these days? I love m-commerce and cellphone banking because it’s so much easier to budget for things. Who can budget properly after withdrawing copious amounts of cash from the automated teller machine (ATM)? In my home, it just seems to disappear without a trace!
 
With all of this happening in the marketplace these days, it’s a wise charity that invests in a proper mobile marketing effort. Many mobile marketing firms will offer their services to registered nonprofits at a reduced rate, or even pro-bono, so InTarget’s advice to these worthy organisations is not to try and embark on a mobile marketing effort on the cheap. The result will be nasty. Don’t be afraid to approach a quality mobile marketing organisation that can serve as a trusted advisor to your charity. Advice is free and we’re willing to give it in our own quest to make a positive difference in this country we all want to succeed.

  • Michael Laws is the Group Chief Marketing Officer for InTarget Mobile Advertising Solutions (Previously Integrat), a leading mobile aggregation and solutions company. He has over 23 years' experience in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, has worked in multiple mobile network operators across Africa. These include Econet Wireless and Vodacom South Africa where he was instrumental in establishing the mobile advertising division. Michael was responsible for commercialising the successful Please Call Me service, as well as the tagged-on advertising messaging propositions.
Globally, the role of civil society has never been as important as it is today when the world seeks to implement the newly-agreed upon United Nations’ (UN) sustainable development goals (SDGs). Remarkably, all the parties to the UN, which includes most countries across the globe, including South Africa, agreed on these goals as binding and important in advancing the cause of humanity. However, they have been adopted against a backdrop of a changing global development and political architecture.

Politically, most governments are undergoing significant transition characterised by changes in political leadership at different levels of governance. Developmentally, governments are repositioning themselves to take advantage of global development investment opportunities whilst at the same time addressing local development challenges by revising national development plans. However, there have been pockets of resistance from civil society activists and organisations in a range of countries around the world. The main bone of contention is the shrinking space for engagement with government on issues of concern such as the gross atrocities perpetrated against women, girls and children. Injustices continue unabated in most developed and developing countries. The global justice system is also under severe strain in responding decisively to cases of injustice. Torture, rape, illegal detention, appalling prison conditions and deaths in custody are all too frequent.

Furthermore, the continued marginalisation of people living with disabilities, migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers and women remains an issue of deep concern. There seems to be a huge gap between political articulation of how such groups should be involved in democratic governance processes and the reality on the ground.

Given this situation, what challenges hinder effective realisation of human rights? I believe that weak institutions and poor governance are the key factors. This is particularly true for countries emerging from conflict situations and those in transition to democracy. In this context, civil society should play an active role in ensuring that citizens are adequately capacitated to engage with the state when it comes to human rights. At the domestic level, civil society primarily holds the state accountable by ensuring that it establishes legal frameworks that enforce justice for all whilst ensuring that the rule of law is maintained at all times. In politically charged environments, the work of civil society has become even more important. Human rights education continues to play a significant role in enhancing citizens’ understanding of their rights as well as equipping them with tools for responsible advocacy.

Internationally, civil society has a moral obligation to ensure that governments do not falter on their commitment to fundamental international human rights instruments, the majority of which influence domestic human rights legal frameworks. This is particularly important in countries where limits on freedom of speech and access to information, intolerance for dissent, overzealous police reaction to peaceful protests and arresting defenders of human rights persist. This struggle continues and it calls for a resilient civil society. According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an independent, non-partisan, international non-governmental organisation based in New Delhi, India, the promotion, protection and progressive realisation of human rights depends on the following factors:

  • Addressing economic inequality in society;
  • The vibrancy of civil society;
  • Increased citizen awareness of human rights and their attitudes towards human rights knowledge;
  • Good governance to maintain the rule of law;
  • Consistent commitment by the government to respect human rights by adhering to democratic governance.
The CHRI notes that, achieving such a society require significant political will on the part of the government, which is symbolised by, among other things, an accountable executive, functional legislature, autonomous judiciary, honest and transparent bureaucracy and a free media.

As the world celebrates International Human Rights Day on 10 December, the value of civil society in entrenching a culture of human rights is affirmed by the many stories of triumph that the sector has delivered through its resilience in protecting humanity from injustices. It is time for civil society to renew its efforts and commitment to work collaboratively to ensure that human right principles are fully implemented in effective and substantive ways. Civil society needs to resist the temptation to work in isolation. The sector is stronger together than apart, and through genuine partnerships, it remains an important pillar of any democracy. A strong, vibrant civil society is a must, not an option.


Paul Kariuki is the Programmes Manager for the Democracy Development Program (DDP), a national Non-Governmental Organisation based in Durban. He is also a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Civil Society Organisations Coalition (KZNCSOC) Executive Committee.  He writes in his personal capacity.

Monitoring and Evaluation within the social sector is not doing justice to the development that is required for marginalised groups. Each year between R7,6BN and R8,2BN is spent on a large range of CSI Programmes to offset the extensive range of injustices we face on a daily bases. Some may argue that if development was done correctly, we could end poverty, inequality and crimes against humanity. So where is the issue really?

We know that closing the loop on ‘impact’ reporting is a major problem. If you even dare to mention the word ‘impact’ in a room of (even just one) M&E enthusiast(s) there will be a shaking of heads. I fear that we value our desired indicators more than the lives of the individuals we are trying to impact. Programmes vary and to ensure transparency and effectiveness interventions have matrixes and need to be evaluated. However it is almost as if we have forgotten the very reason we have them: Why do we as South Africa invest R7.6Bn a year in CSI? Why do young people want to volunteer and employees spend weekends at their favourite local NGO? And why are those CSI managers constantly pushing for further ‘citizenship’ and volunteering integration at board meetings from their humble position in large enterprises.

In 2010 only 3,5% of NGOs filed their compliancy papers. Due to this in 2012 the Department of Social Development cut down the number of NGOs in South Africa from 85 000 to 35 000, further details here.

Where are they going wrong?

With very few innovations tackling this problem, assumptions are that the NGOs can't afford the investment in fixing some seemingly ‘obvious’ issues. We are caught up with the human issues we are faced with and spending on innovation is often frowned upon, as that extra 5%, which is industry standard for M&E, could go to helping x more marginalised individuals.

FirstRand recently hosted, with the support of CAF Southern Africa, its second “Beyond Painting Classrooms Conference” in September to discuss some of these issues. As innovators themselves FirstRand embarked on a digital solution offered in partnership with CAF Southern Africa. The Social Collective built an innovative social connections platform to monitor the conference workshops and plenary sessions and provided an ultra user friendly platform for conference participants to give feedback, manage sessions and build profiles around the outcomes of each of the sessions, just like any NGO should be monitoring its programmes.

The Social Collective offers a cloud based community engagement solution with built-in M&E capabilities, running platforms for clients like UCT. Through this partnership we are able to track and verify every hour that students volunteer to social causes on and off campus in various capacities. The platform allows NGOs to effectively monitor youth empowerment programmes by profiling individuals , tracking their skills development and asking for their feedback, providing immediate feedback for evaluations.

Desiree Storey, Manager of the FirstRand Volunteers Programme stated “Using the Social Collective engagement platform at our recent Beyond Painting Classrooms conference provided FirstRand and CAF Southern Africa with instant feedback on the quality of the facilitators, and speakers of our plenary and workshop sessions as they happened. We also received feedback on how each session fared in terms of content usefulness and enjoyment. Participants were more engaged and “in the moment”, which resulted in more open and transparent learning and sharing over the two days,”

“The potential to leverage this tool to manage, reflect on and demonstrate the value of volunteer engagement among civil society organisations is incredibly exciting,” said Karena Cronin, Business Development Manager at CAF Southern Africa.

Like an Uber ride or AirBnB visit, a simple star rating unlocks the power of the self-validated sharing economy. The Social Collective is bringing this innovation to the social sector and believes it is set to change the way we interact with NGOs, the way we look at development and how we profile and fast track excellence within the ‘3rd sector’.

The overall evaluation of the conference was immediate, with the organising team able to intercept issues and solve them in real time. The innovative matrix was presented to funding members within a week.

The Social Collective offers a cloud based Community Engagement and M&E Solution for Corporates who support NGOs, Non profits, and innovative companies with M&E specific platform requirements. They can be contacted on hello@thesocialcollective.co

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