Yesterday I attended the Consultative Meeting with NGOs at the National Corporate Social Responsibility Foundation (NCSRF) in Port Louis.
I was quite taken aback when I saw how NGO representatives reacted in the meeting. To begin with, the majority did not even have the decency to follow the agenda set by the NCSRF. This undoubtedly gave the Moderator of the day a hard time. Should I then conclude that NGO representatives in Mauritius are not qualified enough to behave suitably in a consultation meeting?
Of all the items listed in the agenda of the meeting, the key concern for almost every attendee was the issue of funding. For almost two hours, the participants kept on yelling about the dilemmas being faced by their NGOs to acquire ample grants to sustain their organisations’ existence. Some even marked their sturdy presence by going to the extent of marketing their NGOs’ services on the mike, thus conquering all dialogues at the detriment of others, and then persuading others to support their wiles.
NGO representatives uncompromisingly complained of not receiving enough money from the NCSRF – also from the corporate sector – to deliver their services. Likewise, the issue of sustainability of funding was raised and the mainstream supported (by raising their hand…well, oddly!) the idea that the NCSRF should keep funding the eligible organisations for a minimum of three years compared to one year; as a participant justified, “In one year, an organisation can implement a project, but it somehow takes three years for the organisation to convert the project into a programme.”
But then, ever since the discussion about funding started, I sat back in the meeting room with two naïve questions in my mind. I should admit, I was a bit apprehensive to just throw those two questions to the audience. Nonetheless, when I came back to my office, I felt a sense of regret for not voicing out. My two simple questions were none other than:
Are the NCSRF and corporate sector at any point in time indebted to us (read ‘NGOs’)?
Is the essence of our existence so frail that devoid of funding from the NCSR and corporate sector, we will no longer survive?
At no point in time should we, NGOs, rely on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) only. What if this concept no longer exists in Mauritius in a few years? Does it mean that we will need to stop our services and close down our NGOs? There are many countries where organisations have started going beyond this concept of CSR and adopted the Personal Social Responsibility (PSR). We are working with the public, then why don’t we make members of the public shareholders in every activity (read ‘expenses’)? Why don’t we rely on people to have a personal responsibility to connect them to the causes we are fighting for?
From his acclaimed book entitled “Personal Social Responsibility,” author Arvind Devalia defines this concept in terms of the golden rule as well as “recognising how your behaviour affects others, and holding yourself accountable for your actions.” He goes on to say that the key question we must ask ourselves if we are going to have personal social responsibility is whether or not our actions will improve the lives of others.
A key element of personal social responsibility is endeavouring to have a positive impact on other people and the environment. When individuals strive to make positive contributions, they are acting in a personally responsible way to society. By recognising that our every action and utterance impacts those around us, we become more conscious of our words and actions and therefore are more likely to act in a socially responsible way.
Now, when it comes to the sustainability of the funding for NGOs, I believe that umbrella organisations like NCSRF and MACOSS should start encouraging NGOs to adopt social entrepreneurship within their organisations. Let’s launch social enterprises (based on business models) and generate profits. The profits will then be used by respective organisations to invest in their projects. We’ve adopted the concept of “teaching them to fish instead of giving them a fish” with our SRM beneficiaries, but more than them it’s WE who should walk the talk.
As a matter of fact, the NCSRF should include social entrepreneurship for NGOs as another priority on its list of preferred areas of operations. Besides creating jobs, the NGOs will become self-dependent. The best help from NCSRF would be to empower NGOs so much that they would never come back again to fight for funding with authorities.
At some point, we should stop feeding NGOs in Mauritius with money. We need to build the culture of self-dependency. Yesterday, when I listened to the NGO representatives in the consultative meeting, I could easily see how the craze for funding and enslavement has invaded most [social] minds.
I have therefore tabled an official letter to the NCSRF. Download here.