The issue of trust and consequently transparency and accountability has never been more urgent than it is today. In many ways, the current stalemate in the political arena is, at its core, a crisis of trust. Read more
Building Public Trust on NGOs
The issue of trust and consequently transparency and accountability has never been more urgent than it is today. In many ways, the current stalemate in the political arena is, at its core, a crisis of trust.
It is not hard to see why. Series of corruption scandal from CWG to 2G spectrum has resulted in a lack of public trust in government’s ability to provide general governance and tackle corruption in particular. This has been borne by Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer which shows that 74 per cent of Indians think corruption has increased in last three years and that only 25 per cent think that their government’s efforts to fight corruption have been effective. The unprecedented influence and success of Team Anna’s anti-corruption campaign may well have its roots in this general public skepticism.
Now, even as Team Anna’s power grows, they are falling under this same criticism- their processes are far from transparent and accountable as well. This criticism has increased in frequency and volume. Team Anna’s (for that matter any NGOs) authority flow from the public perception that they are legitimate voice of the voiceless and that their motives are good.
Transparency and accountability go to the core of legitimacy, not only do they shed light on funding patterns and power structures but also reveal bias and self-interest. Transparency in NGOs has hitherto been incentivized by funding opportunities or by regulatory coercions. In the Indian context, registered NGOs are required to furnish their annual activity and financial reports to the registration authorities and to the Ministry of Home Affairs in case of foreign funding. They are also required to submit their annual financial reports to the income tax authority for exemption of tax on the donation or grants they receive from different sources. Further, different funding agencies prescribe their own reporting requirements to the recipient NGOs
However, neither the statutory framework nor the funding agencies requirements has proved to be effective in making NGOs accountable to public or the beneficiaries to whom they deliver services. As the power, role and influence of NGOs augments the need for the sector to go beyond such induced measure to establish greater trust and confidence among diverse stakeholders gains greater relevance. The need of the hour is thus voluntary disclosure.
There have been some initiatives from within the sector to promote transparency and accountability.
Through annual report the NGOs are encourage to provide pertinent programmatic information on the initiatives, target groups, major achievements, difficulties and setbacks and future plans; organizational information such as its vision and mission, board members, governance process, et al; financial information including audited statement of accounts and an abridged version of financial details. Equal emphasis has been laid on making the report comprehensible and relevant to diverse stakeholders - including donors, potential donors, corporate stakeholders, supporters, government agencies, other like-minded organizations and beneficiaries of the programs implemented by the organization. Around 250 NGOs participated in this initiative last year.
This initiative truly promotes voluntary disclosure, empowering stakeholders to take cognizance of the information provided by NGOs on the annual report and hold them accountable for the same
Accreditation by Credibility Alliance:
Credibility Alliance (a consortium of voluntary organizations) was formed with an aim to create a mechanism for periodic evaluation of voluntary organizations in the country. This is an initiative that emerged from within the sector and these norms were set after an extensive consultative process over a period of two years involving thousands of voluntary organizations all over India. These norms were set to establish good governance, accountability and transparency within voluntary sector.
Through this system, NGOs are accredited based on two sets of norms: Minimum and Desirable norms. Accreditation is based on verification by accrediting agency which is certified for that purpose by Credibility Alliance. There are 2221 NGOs that have been accredited through Credibility Alliance in the last five years.
This initiative while providing scope for self-certification also provides for accreditation based on verification.
It is an online portal which enables individuals to make contributions to credible NGOs across the country. Credibility of NGOs is established based on their ability to meet the norms of transparency and accountability set by Give India. These norms are largely based on the Credibility Alliance norms.
On this platform NGOs that meet the criteria showcase their work and raise appeal for funds. NGOs that receive contributions are also mandated to provide feedback on how the money was utilized within 4-6 months. Organizations that fail to fulfill these criteria are taken off the site till they demonstrate compliance. Currently there are 2881 NGOs enlisted on Give India.
These initiatives to a large extent are focused more on upward accountability and not as much on the downward accountability to that of the primary stakeholders - their beneficiaries and communities they intend to directly serve. Social audit is one means by which this gap can be addressed.
Social Audit is people’s scrutiny of an agency’s mandate, plan, action and performance based on information disclosed by the particular NGO about its various projective initiatives. Over the last decade social audit has emerged as the most effective tool to empower stakeholders with transparent information and authority to scrutinize the duty bearers. While Indian NGOs have proactively advocated for social audit to ensure State accountability, not many of them have incorporated the same practice in their own domain to demonstrate their ethical standards.
Despite its potential to benefit the entire sector, the aforementioned initiatives have been undertaken only by hundreds of NGOs. Given that India is home to an estimated 3.3 million NGOs, these initiatives are not even a drop in the ocean.
This predicament of (a) encouraging NGOs to practice voluntary disclosure in order to increase transparency and accountability within its entire range of stakeholders and (b) authenticating and verifying the disclosure, needs to be addressed swiftly.
The Government of India is planning to bring NGOs under a regulatory mechanism to make them accountable. A task force, constituted by the planning commission has suggested the creation of a statutory body, the National Accreditation Council of India (NACI). CAPART (Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology) has worked out norms and modalities for accreditation of voluntary organizations having the credibility norms as the starting point. While the requirement per se is valid, it is important to understand who is going to control the accreditation. For evident reasons, it is not desirable for the government to control or regulate the social sector.
Given this context, there is an urgent requirement to evolve an accreditation mechanism from a neutral agency that will enable
Introspection and reflection within an NGO
Wider uptake among NGOs
Build confidence and trust of diverse stakeholders of an NGOs
The CSO Partners Outstanding Annual Report Awards 2011 ceremony took place in New Delhi on April 9th 2011. Shri Jagadananda, State Information Commissioner, Government of Odisha, expressed his solidarity towards the need for greater transparency & accountability ...Read more
The CSO Partners Outstanding Annual Report Awards 2011 ceremony took place in New Delhi on April 9th 2011. Shri Jagadananda, State Information Commissioner, Government of Odisha, expressed his solidarity towards the need for greater transparency & accountability in the NGO sector by gracing the event as the Chief Guest. After receiving a total of 245 nominations from NGOs all across the country, the winners announced at the awards function were:
Large Category Winner: Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement; Runners Up – The Akshaya Patra Foundation & The Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR)
Medium Category Winner: Dream a Dream; Runners Up: IBTADA & Akshara Foundation
CSO Partners took this initiative a step further in 2011. Score Cards were circulated to all short-listed organizations and a
Feedback Document was circulated to all NGOs who sent in their nominations. This was done with the objective of providing NGOs in India with specific inputs on how Annual Reports can be better utilized as tools to increase public disclosure, accountability and transparency in the NGO sector in India
In partnership with one of the Big Four Accountancy Firm, CSO Partners has initiated the process of drawing up a comprehensive NGO Accreditation System comprising quality management and assurance standards. This initiative was conceptualized based on the need to provide greater transparency & accountability which will help increase the legitimacy and credibility of NGOs in India. In order to develop a structured framework for the NGO Accreditation System, a strategy workshop was conducted with this firm, and stakeholder consultations are ongoing.
Corporate Advisory: CSR Strategy for CII Southern Region
CII Southern Region is working to develop its CSR Strategy for the next five years. In this context, it is collaborating with CSO Partners as the knowledge partner.
From the outset, the emphasis was on making the strategy development process participatory and consultative. It was felt that this would bring greater ownership of the strategy among different levels in CII.
As the first step, a consultative workshop was conducted in August 2011 with the objectives of locating CII performance and positioning it within a global and national perspective, and understanding perspectives of key stakeholders on CII role, processes, structures, systems and influences.
CSO Partners is in the process of formulating a strategy based on the output from the workshop and stakeholder consultations.
NGO Advisory Panel in Chennai
The NGO Advisory Panel initiative has been institutionalized with the
Centre for Business Ethics and Corporate Governance – Loyola Institute of Business Administration in Chennai. A total of 12 individuals possessing expertise in HR, Marketing, Finance, Communication & Branding, Strategy, IT, Organizational Development, Research Methodology, etc have been brought on board as Panel Members. 8 NGOs have been selected to engage with the panel. An Orientation Meeting was conducted for the panel members and NGOs with the objectives of setting expectations of all participants and preparing NGOs prior to the panel meetings.
Workshop Series on Direct Taxes Code & FCRA
A workshop series on ‘Direct Taxes Code & FCRA: Implications for CSOs’ was conducted in partnership with the Socio Research and Reform Foundation (SRRF) with the objectives of (a) creating awareness on the Direct Taxes Code & discussing the income tax implications and other legal issues pertaining to CSOs, (b) discussing the legal interpretation of various proposed and existing legal controversies of the FCRA, 2011 and issues pertaining to CSOs, and (c) generating public opinion on the matter and encouraging CSOs to assume an active role in influencing policy.
Workshops were conducted in 7 cities from the 5th of May to the 29th of July 2011: Delhi, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata. A total of 264 participants representing 181 organizations participated in this workshop series.
Workshop on Social Media
A workshop on ‘Social Media’ was conducted by NGO Marketplace in collaboration with SocialMe on 25th November 2011 in Chennai. The resource persons were Mr. Sorav Jain and his team. The workshop was designed to equip the participating NGOs with the knowledge and skills to make social media work for them. A total of 23 participants representing 20 NGOs participated in this workshop.
Participation at Events
Ms. Shanthi Krishnamurthi:
1. Participant at the Public Consultation on Next Generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (G4) on 21st November 2011 in Bangalore. GRI Focal Point India along with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH IICA-GIZ CSR Initiative, and DNV, India organized the event.
2. Speaker at ‘Multi Stakeholder Consultations on Draft National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines’ organized by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry on 4th May 2011 in Mumbai. Ms. Krishnamurthi provided participations with observations and inputs from NGOs’ perspective in relation to the topic.
3. Speaker at ‘ConnectIT Day’ a half day conference on ‘IT, Development and Not for Profit Organisations in Southern India’, organised and conducted by NASSCOM Foundation in partnership with Microsoft on 22nd June 2011 in Chennai. Ms. Krishnmaurthi spoke on ‘Challenges and opportunities of building effective practices through technology’
Ms. Deepa Sundara Rajan and Ms. Jenaan Lilani:
1. Facilitated a session on ‘Corporate-NGO Engagement’ and ‘CSO Partners & LIBA’s NGO Advisory Panel Initiative’ respectively at a two-day workshop for the NGO members of the Madurai Diocese on 22nd November 2011 in Chennai.
IN THE PIPELINE
Research Study on Employability
A research study ‘Mapping potential of Human Resources for employability and entrepreneurship’ in collaboration with the Livelihood School on Employability and Entrepreneurship Skills has been launched in one district each in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The study will assess the range of employability and entrepreneurship skills of youth in these districts and suggest strategies to improve the same. The study is scheduled to be completed over the next quarter.
NGO Advisory Panel
Panel meetings in the Chennai chapter are scheduled to begin in January 2012. Two NGOs will present their organization’s work & challenges to the panel members at each panel meeting. Meetings will take place once every 4 – 6 weeks. The selection of panel members and NGOs is still ongoing in Chennai. Dialogue has been initiated with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) to institutionalize the initiative in Bangalore. Efforts are also being made to institutionalize the initiative in Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar.
The NGO Marketplace is soon to reveal a range of new features! These new features are designed to make the experience provided to users more user-friendly, to provide better tools, and also to increase the ways in which users can interact with one another.
CSO Partners had undertaken an end of project review of UnLtd India to assess the progress against the business plan, review the existence of systems, and ascertain sustainability ...Read more
UnLtd India Review
CSO Partners had undertaken an end of project review of
UnLtd India to assess the progress against the business plan, review the existence of systems, and ascertain sustainability and scalability of the organisation. During the review, the programme as well as finance components were looked into. Additionally, the follow up of the previous audit was undertaken.
CORPORATE DISASTER RESOURCE NETWORK (CDRN)
National Symposium on Disaster Management Samanvay: Fostering Business-NGO Partnership for Disaster Management’ was organized under the auspices of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and in partnership with the Aidmatrix Foundation on 30th June 2011 in New Delhi.
Mr. M. Shashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman NDMA and Member of Legislative Assembly, Andhra Pradesh, presided over Samanvay as the Chief Guest of the symposium. The objectives of this national symposium were to encourage concerted efforts and enable stakeholders within business, the government and civil society to interact, dialogue and decide on concrete strategies and approaches towards managing disasters effectively. Over 100 eminent representatives from business, the government and civil society organizations participated in Samanvay.
PC Quest Best IT Implementation Award 2011 for Maximum Social Impact CDRN bagged the PC Quest Best IT Implementation Award 2011 for Maximum Social Impact. The awards were constituted in 2004 with the objective of setting up a platform for recognizing the gut-crunching efforts put up by the IT departments across Indian organizations.
The rapidly changing national and global environment has immense bearing on the functioning of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The 3.3 million CSOs spread across India play ...Read more
The rapidly changing national and global environment has immense bearing on the functioning of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The 3.3 million CSOs spread across India play a pivotal role in providing support to less-privileged communities in various areas like education, health, sanitation, women empowerment, poverty alleviation, etc. This vast body of CSOs however, faces a mélange of challenges in keeping pace with the changing national and global setting. In order to maintain their relevance towards their missions, it is imperative for CSOs to not only recognize the transformations that are taking place, but also to capitalize and leverage these changes. This requires an upgradation and strengthening of their capacities, in order to effectively move forward in the new operating environment.
CSO Partners’ Capacity Building Initiative is core to carrying out the organization’s mission, by identifying nationally relevant themes to strengthen CSOs. Initiated in 2009, the objectives of the Capacity Building Initiative are to (a) build skills of CSOs and Corporates, and (b) to generate knowledge, awareness and public opinion on themes that are pertinent to the social sector at a given time.
This initiative is carried out in three ways:
1.CSO Partners’ Annual Workshop Series: The Annual Workshop Series began in 2009 with the theme of “Opportunities in Challenging Times”. All workshop series are conducted in partnership with thematic experts who provide pointed inputs on the subject. Additionally, these workshops serve as a platform for CSOs to interact with one another, share knowledge and experiences, and form peer-learning support groups. The theme for 2010 was based on advocacy issues and was titled “Parliamentary Procedures and Engaging Effectively with Parliamentarians and Legislators”. The year 2011 took into account the pressing need for knowledge generation and the development of public opinion on the “Direct Taxes Code and FCRA: Implications for CSOs”.
2.CSO Partners’ Management Development Programmes (MDPs): Management Development Programmes (MDPs) are CSO Partners’ latest addition to its Capacity Building Portfolio. They were formulated owing to the need to provide detailed and exhaustive inputs on certain themes to NGOs and Corporates involved in social initiatives. The first MDP is aimed at CSR professionals in the corporate sector and is based on the theme of “Results Based Management for High Impact CSR Initiatives”. This will be carried out in January 2012.
3. NGO Advisory Panel: Direct mentoring support is another crucial way of building capacities of CSOs. CSOs stand to gain an immense amount by leveraging the network and expertise of senior professionals.
It is with this understanding that the NGO Advisory Panel was formulated. This initiative is a platform for small to medium sized NGOs to gain access to a panel of senior professionals possessing expertise in the areas of HR, Marketing, Finance, Organizational Development, Communication & Branding, IT, etc. Through this, organizations lacking resources and access to professional services gain the opportunity to receive pointed inputs and direct mentoring services from high calibre individuals who are experts in their respective fields. The NGO Advisory Panel has been institutionalized in Chennai through a partnership with the Loyola Center for Business Ethics and Corporate Governance. Dialogue has been initiated with institutions in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar for the same, and identification of panel members and NGOs is ongoing in all cities.
Visit our online library for more recent additions under different categories like poverty, women, environment,CSR and disasters. Resources are listed under three heads: legislations/policies/government documents, research and links to useful websites. If you would like to include any document in this section, please contact us.
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CSO Partners’mission is to create positive social change by strengthening civil society organizations and fostering active collaborations with diverse social contributors - corporate groups, governments, and individuals.
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