2012 has been a tough year for civil society. Those funding cuts that we’d been warned of since the crash in 2008, were keenly felt. The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) wrapped up its second five year programme, the Europeans curtailed their investments, the United Kingdom Department of International Development (DIFID) restructured. The retraction in international funding was exacerbated by instability in local funding as the National Lottery in trying to get its house in order, struggled to deliver on its grant mandate. Government too continued to frustrate rather than support, being slow to pay and with large underspends on its welfare budgets. Business plodded along, on hold as it waited for the new BBBEE Draft Codes to be published.
The result is that the country may not be in recession, but it feels as if the non-profit sector is. The reality of this picture was brought to life by a recent survey by consultancy Greater Good, which interviewed over 600-plus organisations. Eighty percent of those surveyed have lost significant funding this past year, 20 percent have enough money to last another month, 17 percent have no operating cash at all. Published late last year, the report confirms my instincts - that the tough times are real, and life for civil society isn’t going to improve in the near future.
But I’ve had a forced rethink, after attending the ‘Looking Back, Looking Forward’ forum at GIBS, which hosted visionaries whose crystal balls are a whole lot more informed than mine, strategist, Clem Sunter, constitutional expert, Roelf Meyer, City Press editor, Ferial Haffajee, civil society’s Neville Gabrielle, economist, Adrian Saville and Rand Merchant Bank Chair, Sizwe Nxasana.
Hosted at the business school - the home of sharp suits, expensive cars and lengthy debates on profit and loss, the forum took an a-typical turn when the panel from their various areas of expertise agreed that the area of positive growth for 2013 wasn’t financial services, or mining, or media.
But civil society.
This is exciting, as it means that the work being done in social development is finally integrating into mainstream thinking. The commentary was fascinating: that civil society’s cross cultural mobilisation of citizenry is connecting people more than anything (think of anti-toll group, OUTA). That the nonprofit sector is where real change lies - for employment, skills development, entrepreneurship and of course, social development. That government and business have to engage if they want to move forward and civil society is the key to that action.
To hear development debates making their way onto business school panels marks a significant change in thinking. It is an opportunity we cannot miss.
Although I believe that 2013 will be tougher than 2012, I am heartened by the way the work of nonprofits and activists is being viewed. Jim Collins writes about the importance of gaining momentum to achieve change. I like to think that the years of consistent and persistent pushing are starting to gain traction. We don’t have momentum yet, but we’re starting to see the extra spin. And that’s heartening.
So rather than predictions for 2013, I have written instead a few survival tips to ensure that your organisation comes out fitter, stronger and more focused by 2014.
These six steps to surviving 2013 create a well-connected approach that will strengthen your relevance and contribution to social development, creating a solid foundation for the more stable years that sit tantalisingly close on the 2014 horizon.
1. Look beyond the of jobs jobs jobs mantra
Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. It was the mantra of 2012 which resulted in a flurry of activity because it came with access to sizeable sums of money, and is a neatly measurable indicator.
I hope that we have learnt from the HIV-years, when everyone ended up with an HIV project regardless of whether it was relevant to their work or not. And in chasing the easy funding, non-profits neglected the local options which is part of why we’re facing financial difficulties today.
My advice for 2013 is then let’s not focus on jobs, but rather on the more sustainable approach of building business. It’s the entrepreneurs who will create work for those in their communities. We have to move away from the thinking that institutions will create more work. They won’t – the financial pressure that we are already under means that many of us are cutting not creating employment. So it is common sense to think away from the traditional institutional framework. We need to broaden the base of people in employment. We need to focus on improving the systems they work in. And we need to make instill a strong sense of social focus in our entrepreneurship, so that they are a contact point of positive development.
For more on this, refer to www.ngopulse.org/article/milking-profits-tale-cows-kenya.
2. Accountability – getting our house in order
With 80 percent of nonprofits not submitting their annual financial statements and narrative reports to the Department of Social Development, we have no foundation for criticising the other sectors of democracy, business and government.
2013 must be a year where nonprofits commit to Codes of Good Practice and then follow them.
Only with an accountable, robust civil society can we attain the moral high ground and hold others to account.
Business and government are making concerted efforts to improve their accountability as evidenced in King III, and the work of the Public Protector, Auditor-General and legislative framework of the Public Finance Management Act.
We cannot afford to cruise along with a misplaced arrogance that because we do good, we are good.
If anyone is to survive 2013, accountability and transparency has to be central to their ethos.
For more on this, refer to www.ngopulse.org/article/herculean-task-good-governance.
3.Monitoring and Evaluation
If you don’t have monitoring and evaluation in place, 2013 is your year to get it going.
If you fail to get basic measurement in place, chances are your organisation will be obsolete by 2015.
Not only is measurement an important part of being more accountable, but it enables nonprofit leaders can challenge their assumptions of what works and what doesn’t.
I believe that as we all focus on monitoring and evaluation, partnerships will become easier to manage leading to a natural consolidation in the sector. When you realise your areas of expertise you begin to share knowledge and so begins a positive cycle that leads to improved more professional services.
For more on this, refer to www.ngopulse.org/article/completing-circle-some-thoughts-why-measurement....
4. From Programmes to Activism
There is a growing voice that is calling for a move away from programme funding to donor support of activism and rights-based movements. The argument is that civil society’s role is not to provide services that government should be delivering (e.g. like HIV care), but rather to hold government to account to provide these services.
It’s a good argument, and even better because it is rattling our rather traditional approach to development. I think that 2013 will see more money being available in building accountability and growing the rights-driven voice of civil society. The success of SECTION27, the Right2Know Campaign, even the Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) in Gauteng, adds credence to this movement. This is moving the flywheel significantly and I like it. Watch out for more activism in 2013 and even more for 2014.
5. Rise of the CBO
We can’t keep ignoring community-based organisations (CBO). Just because they don’t have the institutional structures that our funding models demand, doesn’t mean that they are irrelevant. We cannot continue channeling funding for communities via national organisations just because they comply structurally to the needs of the donor.
I would like to see a concerted effort by the larger nonprofits to bring in CBOs, and to help them build up their institutional structures, securing accreditation, developing financial statements and creating annual narratives.
I think that national organisations will find that the role they can play as mentor and guide is part of their survival strategy as it is through the CBOs that they will maintain their relevance.
6. Making Profits out of Nonprofits
A key survival strategy for 2013 is to grow the profit base of your nonprofit. Usually a sacrilegious word in social organisations it is important that we start to professionalise the work that we do by increasing the surplus of funding. And this doesn’t mean going out to raise more grant funding, but rather taking a longer term view on what type of funding you need to survive. Research by the Stanford Innovation Review shows that America’s top nonprofits have funding stability as their common denominator. This is difficult in South Africa where government and donor funding is erratic. But what must happen is a focus on building a surplus into the organisation, by doing what you do well. Whether that funding stream is grant, or entrepreneurial it must be a surplus and it must provide the type of funds that you need to grow.
- The Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA), one of KwaZulu-Natal’s oldest land rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs), will be taking time out to re-gear itself for a new focus in 2014 in order to meet the new challenges associated with land reform and a donor funding environment that has changed fundamentally since 1994. This will involve major restructuring over the remainder of the year. The restructuring includes the possibility of organisational downsizing in order that AFRA meets its legal financial obligations to staff, a decision that could involve retrenchments. It will be accompanied by a period of re-strategising to develop a new direction that is more appropriate to the challenges in the land sector and the funding environment.
This period of re-strategising coincides with changes in management within AFRA with the departure of AFRA’s director, Stephen Hulbert, who was at the helm of AFRA since 2010 and who has now taken early retirement. AFRA Board thanks him for steering AFRA over this period and wishes him well into the future. AFRAs deputy director, Musa Zakwe, will also be leaving AFRA in June 2013 to pursue new interests and the Board wishes him well in his endeavours. To ensure that the AFRA ship is steered towards this re-gearing exercise the Board has appointed Mike Cowling as interim manager of AFRA, effective from 1 May 2013. Mike has a long history of being associated with AFRA as a Board member and more recently of the Land Rights Legal Unit of AFRA which he has managed over the past three years.
Since 2009, AFRA has made a number of attempts to create a sustainable financial and organisational base from which to operate. These have included attempts to develop new donor relationships and to undertake work that donors have prioritised along with careful and rigorous financial monitoring and use of reserves. However, the slide into financial unsustainability has continued despite this effort by staff and Board, and it has now become apparent that AFRA can no longer continue to operate without major restructuring. Over its 34-year history AFRA has through prudent fundraising and financial management built up a reserve fund and this has enabled AFRA to continue functioning during this challenging environment. The Board has thus decided to take this decision now while it is still able to fulfil its legal obligations to staff, to complete all contracts with donors, to meet outstanding responsibilities to rural communities that it works with and to do this while it has some remaining reserves to fund a radical new approach to its work. The decision taken by AFRA’s Board this week has thus been informed by its fiduciary imperative to avoid ‘trading recklessly’.
In significant measure, these changes are forced by an increasingly constrained funding environment brought about by fundamental changes to the practices of donor funding to NGOs since 1994. Although there is now more donor funding coming into South Africa than ever before, this funding comes mainly in the form of bilateral support to government or is made available to international NGOs. Only five percent of all donor funding is available to locally-grown NGOs like AFRA as a result of shifts in donor priorities to other less developed countries. While the five nevertheless is an important source of funding, there is increasingly tough competition for it and NGOs are compelled to seek self-sustaining work.
The land reform sector has also changed significantly since AFRA was established in 1979 to assist black rural land owners and labour tenants in (then) Natal to resist forced removals under the apartheid government, and AFRA has responded adaptively to these new strategic challenges. After the first democratic elections, AFRA supported rural communities and the new Department of Land Affairs to formulate land reform policy to address the economic and land dispossessions of the past, and it has been a key participant in the development of much land reform legislation. However, land reform implementation quickly confronted numerous problems, leading to a period in AFRA of critical engagement with government. The problems have nevertheless persisted and the current Minister Gugile Nkwinti has now admitted that land reform has failed both in terms of it pace and quality.
While AFRA believes that land reform retains a political importance in addressing the hurts and injustices of apartheid, it is also important that land reform finds a coherent economic rationale on which to build a transformed rural society that will contribute to addressing poverty, unemployment and jobless growth. AFRA believes that its new strategic direction will have to confront this challenge in order for it to continue to have a useful role to play in the land sector. It looks forward to being able meet this challenge through the development of a new strategic direction in consultation with its community and donor partners and other stakeholders in the land sector in order to put itself on a firm strategic and financially sustainable trajectory.
For more information contact:
Association for Rural Advancement
Association for Rural Advancement
For more about the Association for Rural Advancement, refer to www.afra.co.za.
The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) says a big cut in the United States funding for South Africa's HIV-AIDS programmes could lead to an increase in infections at universities and colleges.
Briefing the parliamentary portfolio committee on HIV-AIDS, SANAC chief executive officer, Fareed Abdullah, said that funding from the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will be reduced from US$549 million (over R5 billion) in 2011 to US$270 million in 2017.
Abdullah says HIV-AIDS prevention and awareness programmes at colleges and universities will be among those hit by the funding cut.
To read the article titled, “Varsities danger zones as US cuts AIDS funds,” click here.Source:Times Live
- The term non-governmental organisation (NGO) has the connotation and literal meaning of a group of people performing social projects parallel to government services. One of the earliest mentions of the term was just after the formation of the United Nations, immediately after the World War II. It worked well in that context as most countries and communities were suffering during the aftermath of that war; there was little trust and resources for state services and outside funding agencies worked with civil society to implement social projects to restore the well-being of communities. In South Africa, the term became fashionable in the 1990s, during the dawn of democracy, as international donors lined-up to assist in restoring the injustices of the previous regime.
Is the term still relevant in the current set-up? As the donor funding model dries up, most NGOs are failing to adapt and to re-look at their role in advancing social service projects. Currently, most international funding is channelled through government; so why would government support NGOs which by connotation work parallel to government social programmes? By the way, is there a future in South Africa for such social services, with imminent donor funding challenges? Seeing that most companies prefer to align their social investment initiatives to government priorities, and the Department of Social Development prefers to support community-based organisations (CBOs), maybe now is the time for NGOs to shift toward becoming Social Enterprises (SEs). Governments and society in general probably acknowledge the limitations of the NGO concept, but in the absence of a viable alternative, accepted it as a ‘necessary evil’.
The transition from NGO to SEs is very challenging but rewarding in the long-term and could translate into sustaining social projects. Strategy and operation has to change, and a leadership mindset shift is critical in restructuring the organisation to become a social enterprise. That evokes the spirit of entrepreneurship, which requires innovation and determination in the leadership. The approach in strategy and operation is similar to running a normal business and the only difference is motivation, which in this case would be social value instead of economic value. General business principles are applied but goals should be mission driven and appeal to the goodwill of society.
Sustainability of social projects is critical, hence services have to be carefully looked at and delivered in a way that adds value to society while generating income for the organisation. Social entrepreneurs should adopt the basic rule that if the service or product is not sellable then it is probably not valuable. CBOs should not be confused with SEs, the former generally serve a specific geographical location and their services are an extension of government social services, such as feeding schemes. Meanwhile, SEs should be scalable at other locations and their interventions should be measurable in terms of impact in people’s lives.
Most successful SE’s interventions utilise a ‘problem-based approach’, where plans are put in place to address current challenges in order to project a better future. An example would be an organisation that provides career guidance with a special emphasis on mathematics, engineering and technology to rural learners, who would otherwise not have access to such critical information. That project could be easily scaled-up and measured to determine impact and the service is critical as middle class families could pay for such information. The only trick would be to determine how innovative the project is in order to generate income for its sustainability.
Innovation by its definition involves doing things differently. Continuing with the career guidance example, the organisation could utilise young professionals practising in those fields of study to ‘tell their stories’ to learners - that way learners are not only getting first-hand information but are also motivated by meeting ‘living role models’ who did their high schooling in the same or similar environments. Another practice associated with entrepreneurship is the ability to spot partnerships in order to complement an existing service, instead of being a ‘Jack of all trades’.
Successful innovators form strategic partnerships to maximise their offerings. In this case, the career guidance organisation can source video revision lessons and study guides in those critical subjects and offer them to ‘their’ schools and learners at a reasonable fee. They may also want to facilitate weekend classes, where learners register and access additional support offered by the young professionals in problematic subject topics. That way the organisation will create a market to deliver its career guidance service while generating an income.
The above description is a simplified process of one NGO adjusting towards a social enterprise; the actual shift requires time, will and determination from its leadership and all those who are involved. The implementation of social projects requires a clear understanding of the communities involved and buy in from multiple stakeholders. It is important for social projects to acknowledge that community members are capable of making their lives better, given the necessary support and tools. Project managers should spend some time in the communities to understand local issues, spot champions and provide support for communities to ‘own’ the projects.
- Goodman Chauke is a marketing manager of Mindset Network and a social entrepreneurship student at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (University of Pretoria).
Non-governmental organisations have warned that the United Kingdom’s decision to cut aid to South Africa by R250 million within two years could have a rippling effect.
The Aids Legal Network’s Dr Johanna Kehler, points out that people will no longer have access to antiretroviral drugs and they will be challenges around the prevention of mother to child transmission programmes, adding that all of these things have long term impact.
Kehler explains, “I think that there is a fair risk that this will happen because we see this kind of domino effect - if the one makes such a dramatic decision then others follow but also I think in this global climate where everybody says they don't have enough money and we need to cut here and there, there is a huge risk."
To read the article titled, “SA NGOs to suffer most from UK's funding withdrawal,” click here.Source:eNCA
The Angolan Minister of Health, José Van-Dunem, says that the US$1.8 million donation made to the country’s National Malaria Fighting Programme aims to increase the capacity of the NGOs to implement the programme so as to control malaria.
Van-Dunem says the success of this programme will impact on three key elements of the Millennium Development Goal in regard to health, reduction of endemic diseases, malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.
He explains that the policy of combating malaria and poverty is part of the fundamental strategy of his government and it serves as an evaluation, because the reduction of child mortality, malaria and maternal mortality is a priority.
To read the article titled, “Minister hails USD 1.8-million donation to Malaria Fighting Programme,” click here.Source:Angola Press
- In 2012, the DG Murray Trust commissioned an independent review of 7 of our 8 long-term bursary partners. The following summary, written by the independent reviewer, Andrew Hartnack, gives a glimpse into the key findings of that review and its implications for this sector.
For many years, the DG Murray Trust (DGMT) has supported programmes which provide financial and psychosocial support to young people with the aim of increasing their access to higher and further education, and lowering or preventing educational drop-out rates. In early 2012, DGMT commissioned an evaluative review of seven such bursary partners to find out what the dynamics and impacts of each of their support models have been; to document emerging lessons and inform the Trust’s future approach to investing in bursary programmes.
The review, which was conducted between March and July 2012, involved the following organisations:
- African Scholars’ Fund (ASF)
- Association for Educational Transformation (ASSET)
- The Access Trust
- Ubuntu Education Fund (Ubuntu)
- Umthombo Youth Development Foundation (UYDF)
- Sumbandila Scholarship Trust
Key findings and lessons emerging
Detailed case studies provided many lessons and valuable insights into each bursary partner organisation’s support model and approach. Case studies documented the history and rationale of each programme, described the model of support used, assessed its impact, and explored challenges, weaknesses and opportunities. This learning brief presents common or systemic lessons and themes emerging from the overall evaluation of these programmes.
The following themes emerged:
Support programmes are at different stages of development
Each of the reviewed organisations and their models of support are in different stages of development. Some are already comprehensive and well-structured (e.g. Ubuntu). Others are going through the growing pains of developing more structured and sustainable futures (e.g. Sumbandila), while a number are already making good progress on this journey (e.g. Studietrust; UYDF). DGMT has played a significant role in encouraging most of these organisations to go beyond simply providing financial support by developing effective mentoring support systems. It is also nudging many of them towards providing specific support in linking their beneficiaries to post-study opportunities (entrepreneurial and formal jobs). Most of the organisations are in the process of evolving away from a simply charitable approach towards a developmental approach through creating and implementing programmatic strategies and forming partnerships that have a wider impact than simply meeting the individual needs of their beneficiaries. An important lesson from the review is that each stage of development brings its own challenges. For example, becoming a large and well-structured organisation can have an adverse effect on the personal care and attention that each beneficiary experiences given that a less personal and more bureaucratic approach is often required.
Need to broaden the significant qualitative impact
DGMT has supported bursary programmes which have a national reach (REAP, Studietrust), those which work in one or two provinces (ASF, ASSET, The Access Trust, UYDF) and those with a more localised focus (Sumbandila, Ubuntu). Together, these programmes have had a significant reach, both spatially and in terms of their impact on young people in various levels of the education system, especially high school, university and Further Education and Training (FET). Through both their financial support and their mentoring, tutoring and psychosocial support models, all of these programmes have made a significant contribution to the lives of their beneficiaries, as confirmed by statistics on pass and graduation rates in most instances, as well as the testimonies and perspectives of the beneficiaries themselves. Tracking studies conducted by some organisations (e.g. REAP) also show a very positive long-term impact for direct beneficiaries, their families and, in some cases, wider communities.
However, it is clear that the scale of need in all of the contexts in which these organisations operate is so great that they alone cannot realistically be expected to bring about wide-scale change in the short-term. Most are assisting between 100 and 1000 beneficiaries in various ways, but there are still many more young people who cannot be catered for by these programmes. Even Ubuntu, which offers excellent and comprehensive support to 4000 residents of Zwide (Port Elizabeth), only assists a small fraction of the township’s inhabitants. There is thus a need to identify and support similar support programmes in each province to magnify the impact.
Facilitating access and supporting those most vulnerable
Despite the inherent degree to which potential and merit are necessary in bursary programmes, most of the organisations in the review facilitate access to bursary funding for those who would not normally find it easy to win a scholarship. The FET support organisations (ASF, The Access Trust), for example, are allowing non-academic students a chance to become qualified and, like ASSET and UYDF, they take those who simply gain entry to their tertiary institutions rather than top students. Other organisations, such as Studietrust, take a mixture of good performers and those who have shown potential but not yet produced results. Mentoring programmes are also tailored to the needs of students who do not have the intellectual, social or academic resources to excel in their studies without specialised support. Additionally, while it could be argued that such bursary programmes will always favour the lucky few who show potential, the review showed that beneficiaries often take skills and insights they learned on these programmes and impart them to fellow learners or younger siblings not benefiting directly. For example, learners on Sumbandila’s Outliers programme, who come from under-resourced schools in rural Limpopo, take their knowledge of science experiments conducted in a fully-equipped laboratory back to their schools where their fellow learners, who rely on textbook diagrams, benefit from their first-hand insights.
Addressing the ‘first gap’ seen as a primary role
Bridging the ‘first gap’, namely that of getting young people from school to university, and helping them succeed there, is a role that most of the organisations have seen as their primary one. It is clear that the facilitation of access to quality education and student support is a very profound way, in and of itself, of allowing young people better access to employment opportunities. Recent studies have found that tertiary study in particular not only significantly increases young peoples’ chances of securing a formal job or successful self-employment, but also increases their level of earnings. A tracking study of REAP’s first cohort of students found that by five or six years after graduation, 75 percent of them had managed to obtain full-time employment. This was without any specific REAP programme of linking these students to employment opportunities. Thus, with the exception of UYDF, whose model has employment built into it, there were no specific programmes to link graduates directly to working opportunities.
The ‘second gap’ is still not widely addressed
As stated above, support for those in the transition period between tertiary qualification and work is not yet prioritised by most of the organisations. The desire to provide such support is increasingly present but they suffer from capacity and resource constraints, even in their current focal areas. UYDF alone has developed a very strong approach towards getting its graduates back to rural hospitals and supporting them in various ways when they are there. However, some other organisations are beginning to think beyond their ‘first gap’ role towards a larger role in facilitating more direct access to employment. Studietrust has recognised in its strategic plan that helping its graduates through the ‘second gap’ is important but is currently only encouraging its students to perform holiday work as a way of increasing their employment chances. Sumbandila, meanwhile, has linked some young people to opportunities, but its proposed drop-in centre has not yet attracted funding.
Assistance through key transition periods is crucial
There is wide acceptance of the fact that financial, academic, psychosocial and other support mechanisms are especially important in key transition stages. Transition phases are not just the obvious ones such as between school and higher/further education and between educational and work stages, but smaller stages along the way which require support, such as in grade nine where effective subject choice guidance in required, the application stage, university orientation or employment preparation periods.
The following are some very important transition period support measures:
- Financial assistance: Even before bursaries become an important bridge, there may be other forms of financial support required for disadvantaged young people. The review highlighted that for many learners, the provision of financial assistance is crucial if they hope even to apply for further educational opportunities. Some of the students interviewed suggested that there are many in their communities who have potential but do not even have the resources to pay the R100 it requires to submit an application to a tertiary institution.
- Subject choice guidance: Another crucial intervention at high school level includes career and subject choice guidance for grade nines, as is done by ASSET, Sumbandila, UYDF, ASF and Ubuntu to varying degrees. Assistance in choosing the best institutions, programmes and subjects for higher/further education is also crucial for matric students.
- Application assistance: Some of the above organisations also help matric learners with the paperwork and documentation required for the application process, as well as advice on how to fill out and submit these correctly. This kind of support becomes even more important in an age when institutions are increasingly moving towards online submissions processes, which can exclude or intimidate those from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Induction and orientation: Many of the reviewed organisations have some form of induction process for their students, be it a beginning of the year workshop, introductions to mentors or handouts with key information. Taking learners on campus familiarity tours, as done by Ubuntu, is a support measure that is enjoyed by learners, but is not vital. Ubuntu’s approach to induction, where first years are accompanied, registered and settled in by senior students and staff, is also the most comprehensive approach.
- Life skills and career workshops: The work preparation efforts of most of the organisations centre on pre-graduation workshops where students are taught life skills and given tips for successful employment (e.g. CV development, interview deportment, work ethics and honesty). Some also take their students to career fairs and give them advice about what career paths to pursue.
- Internships, holiday work and volunteering: A number of the organisations have found that helping their beneficiaries to gain experience through volunteering, holiday work and internships is a very useful support strategy. REAP requires its students to volunteer, which the students themselves have identified as an important way of making connections and gaining experience that is useful later. UYDF has a compulsory holiday work programme for its medical students at rural hospitals which is a key success factor of its work. Students get hands-on experience, build relationships with local hospital staff (which is essential for their later work at these hospitals) and can apply the lessons they learn from the situations they face directly to their studies. Ubuntu and Studietrust both provide some internal internships as a way to build on the experience of their students. FET students, who have a practical workplace element built into their courses, require further support as many experience difficulties during this period since there are relatively few employers willing to take student interns. The Access Trust is thus putting in place stronger ways of getting students through the internship phase and on to permanent employment.
- Opportunity sharing via the Internet: Most of the organisations now share opportunities with their alumni on their Facebook pages and through other social media.
The review found that financial assistance for learners and students does not always have to take the form of full-cost bursaries, but that a combination of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) student loans and bursary support may make the difference for many students. There is also much to be said for a flexible approach to funding disadvantaged students which can look for ways to increase merit-based funding as students respond to mentoring, or allow an extra year of support to students, rather than cut them off because they have not completed in the expected time. Many beneficiaries felt that a partial NSFAS loan was not too heavy a burden for them to pay back and that it gave them an added sense of responsibility to know that they had to meet some of their study costs, or motivated them to do well in order to reduce the amount they owed (through converting it into a bursary).
There are a range of successful approaches to mentoring
A range of mentoring approaches are employed, most of which are very effective. As such, the review found that there is not necessarily one ‘best practice’ approach to mentoring, but that varying context-specific ways of providing a range of academic and psychosocial support measures are successful:
- REAP’s model revolves around a series (at least four per year) of life skills workshops that their students are expected to attend (covering things like time management, study skills and exam technique), a personal relationship with a mentor, with whom monthly meetings are held, and advice and referral to other assistance where the student needs this. REAP’s graduation rate has been over 65 percent, which is much higher than the national average.
- UYDF has developed a similar model of support, which also centres on its network of mentors who meet monthly with students and refer them to specialised help if they are struggling. They also get to learn first-hand from qualified medical practitioners during their compulsory holiday work and support each other during this time and at the yearly imbizo. UYDF’s 90 percent pass rate is testimony to the success of this mentoring strategy.
- Studietrust has adopted a different approach, using peer mentors and bi-annual campus visits as their main mentoring strategy. This may not be as supportive as monthly mentoring sessions, but it appears that senior student mentors are playing a good ongoing support role to their younger peers. In addition, Studietrust keeps in touch with its students through their SMS and Mxit counselling services. Their pass and graduation rates appear to be on par with REAP, which suggests this approach is also adequate.
- Ubuntu also has a different approach, providing fairly intense psychosocial support, mentoring, tutoring, referrals, holiday camps and ongoing medical services to its students. A Family Support Specialist (dedicated to scholarship students) visits each of the students at least once a semester and telephones them monthly to ensure that they have the support they need. Ubuntu is still struggling to achieve the tertiary-level results it hopes for but its After School Programme has had very positive results and is also holistic and comprehensive.
- The Access Trust has recently upgraded its support model to include a Student Support Officer who conducts personal visits once a semester, and holds workshops with all of its beneficiaries. As with most of the programmes, if specific academic support is needed, students are referred to campus tutoring or academic development staff.
- Sumbandila has a very good support programme for its scholarship and Outliers learners, providing personalised tutoring, psychosocial support and skills development.
- ASSET currently has the most ad hoc tertiary level mentoring support programme, with students only seeing staff once or twice a year if they are not performing well. By contrast, it has developed a fairly good high school support programme.
- ASF’s support model, which relies mostly on postal correspondence, is the least hands-on, although the organisation says that its approach does assist students to access and complete their schooling successfully.
Maintaining relationships after graduation is challenging but important
The bursary organisations have found it difficult to stay in close contact with their former students, especially due to their high mobility and frequent changing of telephone numbers. There is an increasing desire by most programmes, however, to maintain contact with graduates, create an identity that they will continue to feel proud of, use success stories to promote the organisation and even tap into their future earning power to fund the organisation. UYDF, with its strong link to the careers of its graduates at rural hospitals, and its continued support role, has the best contact with its alumni. Ubuntu also maintains contact with its students because their families continue to be on the programme while they live in Zwide. Studietrust has former students among its Trustees and like most of the other organisations is trying to build a strong alumni association. For most of these organisations, communications technologies like Facebook have opened up new possibilities for maintaining contact and fostering a continued sense of connection to the organisation and fellow graduates. This will be very useful for organisations when they need to conduct tracking studies or ask graduates to give back to them in monetary or other ways.
Potential to address systemic blockages in government services
Most programmes are still concentrating on assisting young people, but a few are also contributing towards addressing systemic problems in education, employment creation and health. There is great potential for most of the organisations to have similar kinds of positive impacts at a more systemic level:
- Health and employment creation: UYDF is having the most profound and widespread impact by taking rural learners and giving them access to guaranteed career options and also addressing the chronic skills shortages in rural hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal. In addition, new medical departments (e.g. therapy, psychology) have been built up where none existed before and hospital managers have internal support and pressure to request for posts, resources and other needs from the provincial Department of Health. The government is also now looking to run its own bursary scheme along the lines championed by UYDF. Ubuntu has also played a role in assisting local clinics with administration of antiretroviral therapy and also set up food gardens in schools and clinics. Its clinic provides a very important alternative healthcare service for its direct beneficiaries. This has the effect of taking the pressure off other local facilities since many of the community’s most medically needy people are being cared for by Ubuntu.
- Education: Some of Ubuntu’s educational endeavours (computer centres, school psychosocial support) have had a positive impact on the local high school system. Sumbandila has also built partnerships with rural schools in order to have an impact that goes beyond helping individuals. Apart from learners on the Outliers programme providing their peers (and even teachers) with knowledge they acquire on the programme, Sumbandila has also linked a local computer company to two of its rural schools. These schools had received a donation of computers, but they had never been set up or maintained and nobody knew how to run them. Sumbandila set up the computers properly and learners on the Outliers programme from the two schools are being trained to manage their schools’ laboratory and to teach other learners how to use the internet and other skills.
Each organisation uses different approaches to source funding for their bursaries, mentoring programmes and overhead costs. Ubuntu has by far the most well developed international funding strategy, including offices overseas, while none of the other organisations are in a position to emulate them and thus continue to rely mostly on private or corporate donations from local and overseas sources. Most partner organisations have managed to raise sufficient funds but have found their position insecure at times and difficult to manage, especially in the context of the global economic downturn. A couple of the organisations are thus turning towards the large amounts of money now available from government sources for bursaries. The aim is to secure bursary money from the government and ask private donors only to cover mentoring support. It is hoped that overhead costs can then be built into the costs of mentoring. The risk for these organisations is that government sources of funding, especially through NSFAS and the NSF, can also be insecure and prone to blockages and delays which make running a bursary support programme extremely difficult.
Lobbying together could unlock more support from government
The review highlighted that this group of similar programmes might find it strategically beneficial to operate as a block on certain issues of mutual interest rather than as competing individual organisations. An interest group may, for example, be able to lobby more successfully for financial and other support from government departments or bodies such as NSFAS and the NSF and such an approach might also enable them to address systemic problems in their sector more effectively. Regular networking in this group would also result in a more direct sharing of good practices and lessons.
We live in an age of great economic, political, societal and environmental uncertainty. It is against this backdrop that CIVICUS’ 2013 State of Civil Society report focuses on the forces that shape and influence the conditions for civil society. This is because without conditions that enable civil society, civil society will never be able to make our greatest possible contribution to helping to solve pressing and entrenched issues that affect people’s lives.
Our report casts the net wide and takes an expansive view of civil society, celebrating its diversity. We see civil society as complex, dynamic and fluid. Our contributors include trade unionists, environmentalists, lawyers, donors, researchers, academics, activists, politicians and journalists. Our full report contains almost 50 contributions from the CIVICUS alliance, which together offer over 350 pages of fresh insight. In the report, civil society actors from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific reflect upon the issues, trends and events of importance to them. They also offer examples of innovative tactics to improve the conditions for civil society in their regions and areas of work.
The majority of our contributors told us that they operate in less than ideal conditions. Some of our contributors report that they are experiencing hostile political forces, decreasing funding bases and regressive laws. This adds urgency to the need for civil society collectively to define, defend and strengthen our enabling environment. There are also opportunities to capitalise on the momentum gained from recent recognition of the importance of the enabling environment in international processes on development effectiveness, and by the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
While we need to build a multi-stakeholder consensus on the value of the enabling environment, we must not allow definitions of civil society or our enabling conditions to be set by government regulations and external agencies. Any such definition is unlikely to correspond with our own collective knowledge of the dynamic, changing shape of civil society, and is likely to limit us. Further, owning and offering our own definitions is vital to our autonomy, which must be reasserted as a central principle of civil society. Similarly, we need to reassert and live out the values of civil society as a distinct sphere. These values include honesty and self-criticism. Our autonomy also implies that we need to develop our research capacities and generate our own data and, where possible, to free ourselves from current funding models.
Our analysis tells us that there is a need to aim higher and seek more than a set of minimal standards that permit civil society to function. CIVICUS has long recognised that the political and legal space for civil society is a crucial influence on civil society’s ability to be effective. However, we also need to look at other influences, including those that are socio-economic and socio-cultural in nature, and to be more ambitious in seeking conditions that actively support civil society to make the most of our potential and achieve best impact.
To realise a more enabling environment for civil society, we suggest that action on the following influences should be prioritised:
- The legal and regulatory environment: the state’s laws, regulations and policies on civil society should make it easy for civil society groups to form, operate free from interference, express their views, communicate, convene, cooperate and seek resources. Laws should promote and protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association;
- The political and governmental environment: governments and politicians should recognise civil society as a legitimate social and political actor and provide systematic opportunities for state and civil society institutions to work together. The state should take active measures to ensure the protection of civil society people from attacks in the pursuit of their work from state and non-state sources;
- Public attitudes, trust, tolerance and participation: the public should support the notion that civil society is a legitimate social actor; there should be extensive trust in civil society bodies and other public agencies and offices; there should be tolerance of people and groups who have different viewpoints and identities; and it should be easy for people to participate in civil society;
- Corruption: there should be no tolerance of corruption among state officials, political actors, people in business and civil society personnel;
- Communications and technology: there should be reliable, cheap and widespread access to communications platforms and technologies, and civil society personnel should have numerous opportunities to put their views across; and
- Resources: civil society groups should be able to access resources from a range of sustainable sources, including domestically, and to define their own activities, rather than have these defined by funding opportunities.
- Legitimacy, transparency and accountability: civil society groups should make efforts to be transparent and accountable to their stakeholders, to derive their legitimacy from endorsement by their stakeholders, and to demonstrate their impact more; and
- Connections between society organisations (CSOs): there should be multiple connections and collaborations between different civil society groups and individuals, and collaborative platforms and coalitions at different levels, so that civil society groups can share intelligence, pool resources and maximise strengths and opportunities.
Levers for change and alliances exist at several levels, including at the regional and global levels. There is a corresponding need to make the environment for civil society more enabling at the multilateral level. At the moment it is not, and this means that civil society cannot co-own multilateral initiatives. Even though civil society has been given some space at the table in the process to set post-2015 development goals, access is insufficient, and will not necessarily translate into impact.
There are two key, civil society-led strategies we suggest to take the work forward. Coalitions that blend the strengths of different civil society forms at different levels and in different places have a particular role to play in making the environment for all of civil society more enabling. When human rights activists are being persecuted, we need service delivery CSOs to see common cause. When minority voices are being suppressed, national platforms need to speak. We know the value of international solidarity for civil society groups and activists working in difficult conditions because we hear this from our members, partners and supporters first-hand. We have to defend each other and collaborate to expand our space.
Alongside coalition building, we have to identify, document and share good practice, and use this learning to define, argue for and set new standards and norms. As progress is made, we need to keep raising standards higher.
The State of Civil Society report aims to contribute to this process.
For the synthesis report and the full report, refer to http://socs.civicus.org.
For more about CIVICUS: Alliance for Citizens Participation, refer to www.civicus.org.
Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, has advised donors to direct non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to exercise more transparency and accountability for funds received from them.
In discussions with the Netherlands Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, Kikwete called upon donor countries to set the criteria for support to such NGOs, including transparency and democracy as is the case with governments.
He said it will be better if donors can direct NGOs to provide or make public their financial statements, revealing source of income and expenditure, adding that, “There has been a lot of complaints from the targeted recipients that most such NGOs do not operate in accordance with their objectives."
To read the article titled, “Kikwete Urges NGOs' transparency on donor funds,” click here.Source:All Africa
- More and more we are starting to read in the news of nonprofit organisations going into liquidation and closing down. CMDS is often called on to assist organisations that are already in financial crisis for reasons such as:
- Inability to get a tax clearance certificate needed to secure funding;
- A dispute of one kind or another;
- Suspicion of fraud or theft;
- An unexpected but significant financial obligation to report or pay; and
- Threat of closure due to lack of funds.
So what are some of the first signs of financial trouble for an NPO?
You might think that cash flow difficulties, particularly an inability to pay costs such as salaries, rent, and other running costs, would the first sign of trouble. However, it is our experience that cash flow difficulties today are the result of trouble that started much earlier and should have been picked up and addressed.
Trouble may be brewing at your organisation that you may not be aware if:
- Financial recordkeeping is not up to date - it is not uncommon for us to find that either no transaction capturing is being done at all or that capturing is months behind. The records of your organisation should be captured into an accounting package (such as Pastel or Quickbooks) and reconciled to bank statements to the end of the previous month by the middle of the next month. You do not even need to wait for the auditors to finalise the previous year’s records and reports to start capturing and checking the next financial years’ records;
- Financial reports are not presented to, or not considered regularly by, the management (monthly) or the board (quarterly);
- Financial reports are inaccurate or incomplete or do not agree to the underlying accounting records. Often, such reports are presented on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with no reconciliation to actual balances in the bank accounts, in such cases, the information cannot be relied upon for good decision-making.
- The situation revealed by the financial reports is not fully understood or is simply ignored, appropriate questions are not asked and actions are not taken even when complete and accurate financial reports are presented and considered;
- Monthly cash flow forecasts are not prepared and scrutinised, starting with the balance in the bank today and realistically forecasting the expected cash inflows and outflows month by month showing the resulting closing balance of funds per month for the year ahead; and
- There is a lack of independent regular checking of the work of the finance person, who is often trusted to carry out all the necessary financial and legal obligations of the organisation unsupervised, including meeting the South African Revenue Services (SARS) requirements. This leaves the organisation vulnerable to the effects of normal human frailties, such as forgetfulness, omissions, errors or even fraud. Financial records and systems need to be regularly independently checked – not just by the auditor once a year so that the finance person can be held accountable.
- Ongoing deficits - expenditure is consistently higher than income (or put another way the regular income is not enough to pay for regular expenditure) in general or for particular projects;
- Liquidity problems – cash in the bank today is not enough to pay the outstanding debt already owed today – so putting off paying what is due today until some money comes into the bank.
- Delaying payment of salaries to staff or payments to SARS for employees tax and UIF.
- Letters of demand for payment from suppliers, contractors etc.;
- Using earmarked grants and donations when received into the bank account to immediately pay outstanding debts;
- Taking loans – either personally or from others;
- Depleting reserves or savings – needing to draw down on savings and to cash in or sell investments or other assets to meet ongoing expenditure commitments;
- Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul – using money received for one purpose to pay for expenditure for another purpose often with the intention to repay when ‘other money’ is received. However, the “other money” gets less and less and finally dries up completely leaving you unable to replace the borrowed money and unable to report honestly on the spending; and
- Falsifying reports to funders to cover up the mess and get funds released.
What to do? Make sure that the organisation’s financial systems are sufficient and are operating effectively and that you are constantly aware of your organisation’s actual and accurate financial situation – be wise and take action earlier rather than later.
- CMDS is available to assist, advise and support your organisation. For more about the CMDS, refer to www.cmds.org.za.