Who are you working for?

August 31, 2012

I was once asked to undertake field visits for the assessment of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). This was needed in order to make decision for funding them. I visited a number of NGOs, tried to know about their work and interacted with their staff. I was shown a number of documents, progress reports and photographs of the work done by them. I wondered if it is was necessary to have so many photographs which captured mainly the ‘important people’ at the events organized by organizations. One NGO mentioned that they had installed water hand pumps in a number of villages with funding from the state government. They were a bit surprised when I requested them to take me to one of the hand pumps installed by them. Reluctantly, they took me to one. The pump was dry and did not give out water. Local people said it stopped working after a few weeks. As per the scheme the NGO was supposed to  set up a local committee to oversee the functioning of the pump and do the needful for its maintenance. The committee existed but only on paper.  The purpose of the scheme to engage a local NGO was thoroughly defeated.

I am a believer in the potential of NGOs. There are several of them engaged in significant developmental efforts but this incident was disappointing. If the NGO was really committed to solving the water problem in the area, it would use the opportunity of using the available funds for the installation of hand pump, work with the community to ensure that it remains functional and the community learns to take care of it. The job does not end with mere installation of the pump and submission of the report.

An organization is nothing but the vision and commitment of people who work for it. Therefore, if there is one lesson I like to share with social work professionals, I would say: Always remember ‘who’ you are working for. It should be the ‘people’ you are meant to serve. It can also be the ‘cause’ that you have associated yourselves with. If this is the case, you would work differently. You would be internally-driven. You would see your work beyond the ‘project’ for which your organization receives funding.

Make sure that the hand pump you installed gives out water much after the project period is over!