Monday, 6 April 2009

NGOs and Altruism

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"It takes a lot more to change societies than merely forming groups... If no ground work is done, then you are yet another follower of Times Of India - (Just talk and no work)"

Disclaimer: At the very out set of this entry, I would like to make it very clear that I do not intend to (tangentially even) imply any part of this material towards any existing or non existing organisation, person or group of people. People reading this entry should do so in a completely unbiased manner.

I noticed that there a lot of people with good hearts, who want to do something for the people who are not so fortunate as themselves. So, people who say "There is no good left in this kali yuga" have another thing coming. There are a lot of people who are interested in doing something good - They want to channelise their energy and efforts towards the upliftment of the society, in some way or the other.

So, they do things - some of them do it as individuals, and others do it in groups, or by joining or forming organisations of different types. People who do it as individuals are those who feel that they can be in full control of what they do - though what they are doing is in a very small scale, they do it to satisfy themselves, while at the same time, they are their own bosses - which means that they can flex rules and timing at any point... They are not answerable to anyone. Their level of committment is left to them.

While this may seem to be a nice idea, we should understand that anything done in a collaborative manner will yield better results because of effort getting divided, and funds getting multiplied by a number of people. So, there are people who form small groups, don't give themselves any names and do work - They do it for the joy, or with an objective... However, again, though it is better than the first type in a way, it has some limitations - funds being the main one. For a group which wants to have the advantages of the first type (flexibility and being self-boss) and the second type (collaboration), this does not pose a hinderance. It actually is very convenient.

But for those people who want to do something more.... well, "full time", they cannot have half hearted approaches. They have to do something with a zest and goal in mind. I want to eradicate literacy... Or something else. These are the people who join NGOs. NGOs get a lot of funds from various sources. Some NGOs actually do work, and as usual, there are some who apparently siphon off the money. Greenpeace is among the noted ones who actually do work - w.r.t. their campaign against Tatas to save the Olive Ridley turtles...

Now let's take the situation where youngsters - especially students, who have a lot of time to spare, and being young and fresh, have a lot of energy. You talk to them, and they always come out with a grandiose plan - I will definitely achieve blah blah OR become a politician and ensure that there is no corruption OR I will make sure that there is no illiteracy... something like this. Obviously, you, as an individual, on listening to these claims, say that these are too far fetched. They are young, inexperienced, and have a lot of energy. So, how do we channelise this?

To understand this, we should first understand the situation in a very clear and well defined manner. Assuming that there is a group of young students who get together to make a difference. They want to do SOMETHING. So, what should they be doing? They should first of all form an agenda. The objective of the group should be well defined. The easiest thing perhaps for students to be doing is (a) Spread literacy and (b) Donating blood. Of course, you don't have to be a student for the latter, but still, that is one of the best things you can be doing. If there is no proper objective, then there is no clarity of thought. You can't be running around doing everything, because you have to remember that you are not a large corporation, nor are you being backed by one. You don't have that kind of funds.

Another interesting thing that I noticed among students forming NGOs is the fact that they tend to copy larger NGOs by assigning posts - President, Director and so on. I believe that this kind of categorising people into departments at the very outset is merely an attempt to show structure. The major flaw in this system, is that everyone gets assigned to a position of one of the top posts like the ones that I have mentioned earlier, and then we run out of people and posts - which means that there are no volunteers or no people who are actually doing any ground work. This compounded with the fact that there is no proper agenda or objective severely weakens the group. And youngsters are people with high energy who gain and lose interest very rapidly, because most of the people won't have the will to sustain the enthusiasm that they had at the outset. Which means they lose interest soon, and they drop out, which makes it difficult to actually run the organisation when you need to.

The solution is to treat the group as a group, to have one person to lead or delegate, to ensure that there is one grand main objective, and a very large number of smaller short term goals that are easily realisable. This way, there is constant action, and that will slowly snowball towards the grand objective. Trying to mimic a full grown NGO at the outset is not the solution because there are several technical problems, that inexperienced people including the President cannot understand. Remember, clarity of thought is not important ONLY at the beginning, it is required throughout any project for that matter. Diversifying without losing sight of the "Grand Objective" is most essential.

1 comment:

Raveesh Mayya said...

Nik, It's really unfortunate that some of the soul-less bloodbanks are literally sucking donor's blood to make profit. Forget the certificate, the satisfaction we get also is fake man. Bcos our blood doesn't reach the needy without money.

Not targetting all bloodbanks here. What we do with noble thought is filling someones bank account.