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10 Principles for organisations in the social sector

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  • karmayog - tanya
    Introduction 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
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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      Introduction

      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
      Bhavan.

      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
      well.

      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
      activities.

      E.G.

      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
      mind.

      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.
    • karmayog - tanya
      Principle 2: The cause is bigger than us individually and our NGOs This essentially means that we must work in a spirit of true cooperation and collaboration.
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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        Principle 2: The cause is bigger than us individually and our NGOs

        This essentially means that we must work in a spirit of true cooperation and
        collaboration. Individual organizations do not have all the solutions and
        neither can organizations work continually against government. There are
        sincere and extremely intelligent people in government organizations who are
        as keen as all of us are to improve things. We must identify and support
        such persons and initiatives.

        If other stakeholders or participants in society take up issues and causes
        that so far have been largely the areas of work by NGOs, this is not a cause
        for alarm or for NGOs to feel threatened about their existence. Rather, it
        indicates that issues that NGOs were tackling until now and that were
        considered outside the mainstream are now becoming mainstream and important
        enough for more persons to do.

        If newspapers and other media agencies are starting to get keenly involved
        in monitoring and tracking civic issues and amenities, this is only
        beneficial for the citizens of that city. If commercial organizations are
        undertaking localised waste management and rain water harvesting services,
        this means that there are more people wanting such services. In such
        situations, NGOs must adapt to the environment by either also providing
        competitively priced services or must move on to new areas and issues of
        work, that may be related or unrelated.

        Reaching a sustainable solution for an issue is the objective of our work,
        and we should not be too concerned about who achieves this.

        E.G.

        Around 5 years back, when MCGM's website and online complaint management
        system were both at a rudimentary stage, Karmayog developed an online
        complaint form for civic issues in Mumbai. The form was called SATYA -
        Suggest Action to Transform Your Area. Over 1500 forms were filled. We
        circulated each form to the Karmayog group, displayed the form online, as
        well as printed each form and hand delivered the same to the BMC Complaints
        Cell. Many complaints were addressed, especially as physical paper has the
        power to move government to act. Today MCGM has an updated website as well
        as a new online complaint management system. So our role has diminished. But
        we had several excellent learnings from this experience that we were able to
        use in our own subsequent initiatives as well as share with government for
        their own future use.
      • karmayog - tanya
        Principle 3: Develop a Spiritual base Organisations must develop a spiritual base on which all work is built upon. Spiritual values are human values and are
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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          Principle 3: Develop a Spiritual base

          Organisations must develop a spiritual base on which all work is built upon.
          Spiritual values are human values and are hence the under-pinning factor,
          not only for NGOs, but for all organisations as well as individuals.

          e.g. for us at Karmayog, we base our work on the spiritual concept of
          'karmayog', which means 'selfless service' as per the Gita. We have thus
          learnt how to do things without having any desire for anything in return. In
          practice, for us, this means just doing the right thing.

          Similarly, perhaps, for organizations working on Animal Welfare, their
          belief is that all living beings are sacred and connected to one another,
          and therefore their work is dedicated to the welfare of these living
          creatures. Or for religious or faith-based organizations, the belief that
          their work or service is dedicated to God is the underlying belief for all
          that they do.

          Having a spiritual base and some underlying principles for your work helps
          to avoid burnout and frustration, and to get a daily sense of satisfaction
          from your work. The work and problems that social sector organizations deal
          with are often not easily solved. As more and more cases come to light,
          instead of feeling that we are making a difference, we start feeling
          helpless and defeated. Hence the importance of having a spiritual base for
          your work.
        • karmayog - tanya
          Principle 4: Have an over-arching or comprehensive message What is our big picture? Our vision of the world, not just a vision and mission for our
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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            Principle 4: Have an over-arching or comprehensive message

            What is our big picture? Our vision of the world, not just a vision and
            mission for our organization. I believe that it is extremely important to
            think about and articulate this.

            E.G.

            At Karmayog, we believe that "In a democracy like India's, sustainable
            solutions to society's problems can only be found though the collaboration
            and involvement of all stakeholders."

            This forms the basis of our work; this means that Karmayog is a platform for
            individuals, groups, NGOs, government, corporates, media, academic
            institutions - basically all who make up society. Hence at different points
            of time, Karmayog has worked to provide support to NGOs, to government
            organizations, to companies, etc. through various initiatives.

            The organization, CRY, when founded, stood for Child Relief and You. This
            was later changed to Child Rights and You, and they now say that "CRY
            believes that the rights approach is the only one that works. And because
            the alternatives (such as charity, etc.) are not just ineffective but
            illegal and unjust."
            [http://www.cry.org/whoweare/whoweare.html%5d This is their over-arching
            message.
          • karmayog - tanya
            Principle 5: Have a small message; a call to action You also need to have several small messages that you can continually give to people; these are more like a
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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              Principle 5: Have a small message; a call to action

              You also need to have several small messages that you can continually give
              to people; these are more like a 'Call to Action' type of message. These
              small messages can change depending on what project or campaign you are
              currently working on, or what the environment around you demands.

              A small message is something that you can tell someone when you meet them
              for the first time, just briefly for 5 minutes, and they are able to do
              something.

              e.g. One of Karmayog's small messages to people is to Donate books. This is
              for our on-going 2 year initiative called 'Donate Books, Receive Books',
              where we are asking people not to throw away any books that they may have,
              and instead donate these to NGOs who need them. Our office at Fort is a
              collection centre and we get donations every week.

              Another small message that we tell to people is to "Contribute at least
              Rs.100/- every month to an NGO". Many people want to donate but are
              uncertain of which NGO to donate to and whether their money will be used
              properly. We tell them to at least start by choosing any NGO and donating an
              amount of Rs. 100 to that NGO. This small step itself will start the process
              of the person getting more interested, reading about or visiting that NGO,
              doing his or her own due diligence, and maybe establishing a long term
              partnership with that NGO.

              Organisations working on environmental issue talk about "celebrating
              festivals in an eco-friendly way" around the time that the specific
              festivals come around annually; similarly, NGOs and groups working on
              democracy and governance issues have a message regarding voter registration
              and exercising your vote, whenever there are elections coming up.

              So, the small messages may sound small, but can have huge impact all around.
            • karmayog - tanya
              Principle 6: Work to change some government policy NGOs should take up some policy or procedure connected with their work and ask themselves, what is the
              Message 6 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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                Principle 6: Work to change some government policy

                NGOs should take up some policy or procedure connected with their work and
                ask themselves, what is the change or improvement that they seek in this
                policy.

                By choosing not to get involved with government as it is too messy or with
                policy-making as it is too long-drawn and unpredictable, we are actually
                hindering, rather than helping the causes that we are working on.

                One of the first steps to bringing about change that is long-term and that
                will last beyond you, me and our NGOs is the creation and implementation of
                a policy for the same.

                Mumbai has just implemented a School Bus Safety Policy, after recent
                incidents of abuse and accidents. Predictably, bus owners are seriously
                agitating against the policy, and parents too are opposing the policy
                because of the increase in costs that may be required, but if we are
                interested in a safer environment for school children, such a policy has to
                be in place first.

                E.G.

                Karmayog worked with the BMC's Disaster Management Cell for relief and
                rehabilitation efforts after the flood in Mumbai in 2005. Plastic waste was
                found to be one of the major reasons for clogged drains that added to the
                flooding. Over the next 6 months, karmayog worked with BMC to frame the
                Solid Waste Rules for Mumbai, that included for the first time, rules and
                fines for littering and spitting in public places. The same Rules also said
                that waste must be segregated at source into wet and dry, and further that
                wet waste must be composted at source as well.

                You need not always work on drafting new policies; there are several lacunae
                and faults in existing policies, and over time, policies need to be
                re-looked and revised for the needs of today's society.

                Just look at any existing policy or set of implementation procedures (rules)
                and ask yourself, what changes would you like in this and why? Put these
                suggestions down, share these through your blog or website, send letters to
                the concerned government departments, write to the media. All of us grumble
                and complain about how this is wrong and that is a problem. But once you
                look at the rules and suggest a change, you immediately realize what are the
                main reasons for that problem and what to focus on to bring about change.
              • karmayog - tanya
                Principle 7: Identify an equilibrium point Most NGOs start small and then after a while start expanding; they expand their areas of interest, scope of work,
                Message 7 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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                  Principle 7: Identify an equilibrium point

                  Most NGOs start small and then after a while start expanding; they expand
                  their areas of interest, scope of work, reach, number of employees, number
                  of beneficiaries, income and expenditure, etc. Many of you will also be
                  taught how to expand and scale up operations, while maintaining quality and
                  retaining your core values.

                  I believe that you cannot expand endlessly. And once you have expanded,
                  neither is it easy to scale back and do things at a smaller scale than that
                  you were before.

                  Hence it is important to identify an equilibrium point for your work. When
                  you reach this equilibrium point and work at this level for some period of
                  time, this will help you to take the work of your NGO to the next level,
                  which is not necessarily a scale up, but could also be a level at which
                  there is a deeper understanding and tackling of an issue.

                  E.G.

                  At Karmayog, for any initiative that we take up, we set a milestone for
                  ourselves, and once we achieve that milestone, we move on, irrespective of
                  the expectations that others may have for us. We have undertaken an annual
                  CSR study and rating of the 500 largest Indian companies since 2007, for 4
                  years, and had in each study included a set of recommendations, one of which
                  was that every company must do CSR and spend a minimum of 0.2% of income or
                  2% of profit on CSR. Today, with the government itself changing the rules
                  about how CSR is practiced in India, we no longer feel that we need to
                  continue the CSR study in that format anymore. Given our overall resources,
                  our equilibrium point re: CSR has been reached.

                  Expansion typically involves focusing on achieving breadth. Instead, I would
                  say that we should focus on depth, on developing expertise and skills, and
                  once this has been achieved, automatically breadth will follow.

                  Every organizations starts occupying a space in society, and I mean beyond
                  the physical. In the development sector, every organization must do justice
                  to the space that it occupies, with a sense of responsibility. If you lack
                  depth, your organization may end up doing more harm to the cause.
                • karmayog - tanya
                  Principle 8: Respond to the big shifts in government and private sector In the last few years there have been some big shifts in government and private sector.
                  Message 8 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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                    Principle 8: Respond to the big shifts in government and private sector

                    In the last few years there have been some big shifts in government and
                    private sector. Because both these sectors are extremely large, the impacts
                    of such changes are going to impact the work of NGOs, even if you currently
                    do not work directly with government or corporates.

                    One example is in service delivery; earlier, where NGOs provided services
                    that no one else offered and that not many people were willing to pay for,
                    either free or at discounted rates these same services are now being
                    provided by other organizations, both government and private, at competitive
                    market rates.

                    Segregation of waste is an example. Earlier, NGOs working with rag-pickers'
                    associations were providing this service to both residences, as well as to
                    some commercial organizations and even to government agencies, at nominal
                    costs. With segregation soon becoming mandatory, many organizations now
                    offer these services at varying rates; NGOs that were able to see this
                    change coming have themselves established companies that offer the service
                    at commercial rates.

                    NGOs that were working in leased classrooms of BMC Schools must realize that
                    government will not give space in schools to NGOs for eternity. NGOs who
                    sensed that this policy could change had already bought alternate space or
                    made alternate arrangements before the recent evictions that have occurred
                    in Mumbai.

                    Similarly the Right to Education Act has caused fundamental shifts for NGOs
                    working in the education space; it has both closed some avenues as well as
                    opened up many new areas of work

                    And the recent 2% CSR rule for corporates will impact the role that
                    corporates play in the social sector in India, as well as impact the work of
                    NGOs in various areas.
                  • karmayog - tanya
                    Principle 9: Work on 2 levels of ecosystems When working to improve eco-systems, most NGOs work on the internal eco-system that consists of the NGO, it s
                    Message 9 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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                      Principle 9: Work on 2 levels of ecosystems

                      When working to improve eco-systems, most NGOs work on the internal
                      eco-system that consists of the NGO, it's beneficiaries, it's donors, it's
                      volunteers, it's own staff and management. NGOs look at improving internal
                      governance, motivation for staff, efficient utilization of funds, feedback
                      to donors and other supporters and better communication to beneficiaries.

                      There is a second eco-system that is as important for NGOs and that NGOs
                      must work on improving; this is the external eco-system that NGOs are part
                      of. Other stakeholders in this eco-system are the government, the media,
                      corporates, educational institutes, individuals - basically the rest of the
                      world. NGOs must work on shaping and improving how the rest of the world
                      sees, understands, reacts to and engages with NGOs.

                      How can this be done? NGOs must expand their work and visibility beyond
                      those who already know and support them, by sharing details of their work
                      through various methods, by interacting with schools and colleges, by
                      partnering and collaborating with the other stakeholders in various ways.
                      Further, networking amongst NGOs themselves can lead to more impactful
                      results and greater reach for an issue. NGOs must engage with media to
                      change the common perception that if there is a problem, then only NGOs can
                      fix it, as government does not know how to, corporates are not interested
                      and the rest of the world is unaware.

                      Unless NGOs work on improving the second , outer eco-system and change how
                      the rest of the world sees and behaves with NGOs, they will continue to be
                      in a helpless and re-active position, mush the same as most beneficiaries
                      are to NGOs, rather than in a pro-active position where NGOs can lead the
                      dialogue and show the solutions to the rest.
                    • karmayog - tanya
                      Principle 10: Let go of everything This is a bit difficult to explain. As individuals as well as organizations, we should be willing and able to let go of
                      Message 10 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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                        Principle 10: Let go of everything

                        This is a bit difficult to explain.

                        As individuals as well as organizations, we should be willing and able to
                        let go of everything.

                        As NGOs we should be willing to let go the fact that our NGO was not
                        mentioned in the media, despite the fact that we did better work on that
                        issue; we should be able to let go awards and rewards for our work that we
                        may or may not get; we should be able to let go the fact that despite best
                        efforts, we were unable to do all that we wanted to do this year... and many
                        other such small and large things that seem to come in the way of our work.

                        Because when you do let go, suddenly the way ahead magically opens up before
                        you; the work is as tough and the end is as far, but you have suddenly
                        become more equipped to deal with all that, just by letting go.

                        Conclusion

                        While I believe that these 10 principles I have shared with you today could
                        be applicable to all of you, you all may evolve some more principles
                        depending on the work that your organization does, and it's size and spread.

                        Irrespective of where you are placed within your organization, whether
                        junior or senior, whether just joined or a founder, I would strongly urge
                        all of you to revert to these principles every 6 months, and think about how
                        you and your work are evolving.

                        I look forward to questions and comments from you.

                        Thank you.
                      • karmayog - tanya
                        10 Principles for organisations in the social sector 1. Understand the root cause, and not just the symptoms 2. The cause is bigger than ourselves 3. Develop a
                        Message 11 of 12 , Apr 28, 2013
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                          10 Principles for organisations in the social sector

                          1. Understand the root cause, and not just the symptoms

                          2. The cause is bigger than ourselves

                          3. Develop a spiritual base

                          4. Have an over-arching message

                          5. Have a small message; a call to action

                          6. Work to change government policy

                          7. Identify an equilibrium point

                          8. Respond to the big shifts in government and private sector

                          9. Work on 2 levels of ecosystems

                          10. Let go of everything
                        • karmayog.org
                          I am from an NGO working in Bangalore. Our organisation works with youth in government schools and colleges. For the projects that we implement for govt.
                          Message 12 of 12 , Apr 29, 2013
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                            I am from an NGO working in Bangalore.
                             
                            Our organisation works with youth in government schools and colleges.
                             
                            For the projects that we implement for govt. schools, we always have to pay a bribe to get our payments cleared.
                             
                            While I understand and appreciate the principles for NGOs that we are discussiong, and while our own organisation has also had discussions about not praying thebribe, we are unable to take any step.
                             
                            Not paying the bribe means that our payments will not be cleared and we cannot pay our staff.
                             
                            Complaining about the bribe-takers could mean that we risk losing out all future government projects, on which we are currently dependent for a large part of our revenue.
                             
                            Can anybody help us with what we can do?
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