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Fwd: [karmayog] 10 Principles for organisations in the social sector

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    From: karmayog - tanya Introduction Good Afternoon. I am very happy to be here today with all of you from the 3rd batch of the Development
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2013
      From: karmayog - tanya <info@...>


      Good Afternoon.

      I am very happy to be here today with all of you from the 3rd batch of the
      Development Management programme (PGCDM) of the SP Jain Institute. I see
      from the list of participants that a wide variety of organizations are
      represented here, from NGOs to CSR divisions of companies to even a
      helpline. I would like to share with you today some of the learnings that we
      have had at Karmayog, through almost 9 years of our work. These learnings
      have come about through discussions and meetings and interactions with
      people and organizations just like you'll.

      While it may be true that certain things cannot be taught, but only gained
      through experience and doing, I feel that if we, ourselves at Karmayog, had
      had these learnings at an earlier stage, it would have made our journey and
      work easier and smoother. Hence I am keen to share these with you.

      I also feel that it is a significant fact that you are all gathered here
      today at one of the campus' of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan or Bhavans, an
      institute that was founded in 1938 and that completes 75 years this year.
      India can become a great country when all of its institutions are nurtured
      and kept strong and vibrant like Bhavans is today, and there could be no
      better setting for each of you to learn how to strengthen your own
      organizations, than within the open and welcoming arms of Bhartiya Vidya

      I shall speak today about 10 principles for organizations working in the
      social sector. Wherever possible, I shall try and give an example to better
      understand the principle; examples connected to our own work at Karmayog,
      and examples of other organizations as well. [I may use the term NGO more
      often than others, but here I use the term in a generic sense to describe
      any organization working in the development space, whether a trust, or
      community based organisation, or a social business, or a company doing CSR
      or even a government agency]

      Principle 1: Understand the root cause, and not just the symptoms

      For any social issue that is taken up, the organization should be working at
      2 levels simultaneously:
      i) to tackle the symptoms / effects of that issue
      and ii) to identify and remove the root cause for that issue

      A medical example can illustrate this: To treat indigestion, one may
      temporarily take an antacid or any other medicine, but if the indigestion
      continues, then besides medicine, one will also need to change food and
      eating habits, work and sleep, and exercise schedules, so that the
      indigestion is permanently stopped.

      A lot of times, we don't easily understand the root cause for different
      issues, as these are deeply buried under attitudinal behavior, cultural
      practices and religious beliefs.

      Hence to tackle and eliminate the root cause of an issue will require long
      term work as the conditioned beliefs and behavior at least a generation of
      people needs to be changed. In the meantime, to stop the proliferation of
      that issue further, continuous work is needed on the symptoms / effects as

      Working on the symptoms / effects of issues also happens in 2 ways:
      i) providing immediate relief or a direct solution
      ii) working to improve laws and procedure connected with that issue

      Awareness needs to be created at both the symptom/effect level as well as
      the root cause level. Organisations should dwell on whether they can be more
      effective at raising awareness at the effect level (e.g. awareness about
      existing laws, lacunae in the law, what needs to be changed, how to ensure
      implementation, etc.) or at the root cause level. (e.g. bringing about
      attitudinal changes, changing behavior and customs of society, etc.)

      While working at the 'effect' level, many organizations may work
      individually and may be even competing for the same resources. But while
      working at the 'root cause' level, no single organization can tackle the
      root cause, and neither can organizations compete with each other at this
      level, as the root cause is usually very huge and complex. Eliminating the
      root cause of any issue requires the coming together and collaboration of
      all organizations and groups who are working on that issue; this alone will
      ensure success.

      e.g. while a CEO at a bank may be competing with all other banks at an
      individual bank level (for customers, accounts, deposits and loans), at a
      banking sector level, all banks will need to work together to tackle a
      common issue (e.g. rampant credit or debit card fraud).

      Hence NGOs organisationally need to adapt themselves to be working at these
      various levels simultaneously, in terms of their activities, the people they
      hire, the teams that they develop and the time spent on different


      In Karmayog, we are working to help bring about social change in our world.
      While NGOs may be the largest and most obvious group of organizations
      engaged in this type of work, we must still focus on the issues and examine
      how to tackle these. NGOs have stepped in because there is some gap or
      lacuna in how society is functioning. Ideally, once a solution has been
      reached for any issue, NGOs should no longer be needed. Reaching a permanent
      and sustainable solution for any issue is what we keep at the front of our

      There are several organizations working on the issue of Female Infanticide,
      Pre-Natal Sex Selection and discrimination against the Girl Child. Many of
      these organizations have made progress and achieved results, including the
      enacting of new policies and laws. But unless these organizations also
      tackle and take up the issue of dowry, I believe that a long-term solution
      will not be achieved soon.

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