NGO activism will increasingly become an “even greater fixture” within the international community. Although this is considered to be an overwhelmingly positive outcome, it is not exempt from criticism. According to Dyann Brown, the practise of NGOs will need to “keep pace with the two other civil society sectors; government and private business”. These sectors have amassed a great deal of power in transforming universal codes of behaviour, and have secured optimal ends of success and sustainability in doing so. The same must be accomplished by NGOs.
To do this, NGOs must reflect a high standard of practise, and use their expertise, excellence and end-goal as instruments for widespread impact. We at Furity have curated a list of tips from leading experts within the third sector to help guide individuals towards this end. Each tip corresponds to an overarching quality which we believe anybody aspiring to join or start up an NGO should embody to secure success and sustainability.
According to Jean Pierre Delomier, Operations Deputy Director at Handicap International – Humanity and Inclusion, it is essential that you trust and believe in your cause. This is because trust eases the process of convincing others to become your allies, whether it be donors, partners or UN agencies. It is key to note that in addition to having trust in your cause, you must also wield trust in yourself. Delomier finds that as the need and demand for NGOs is constantly evolving; trusting in your abilities allows you to adapt and have confidence in your decision making despite challenges which may occur. A particularly compelling way of summing this is as follows; trust in yourself is trust in your cause.
Head of Humanitarian at Christian Aid, Michael Mosselmans believes that an invaluable way of understanding how NGOs work is by learning from the opportunities which they offer. By spending time at an NGO, you are able to gain access to the internal dynamics of how NGOs function and achieve success. This will allow you to establish a more solid foundation for your own NGO, and will allow you to truly understand the depth and context of problems which persist in the world, and how to approach them.
Bella Mosselmans, founder of Here for Good in Law, believes that perseverance is critical to achieving your dreams in the third sector. Although it can be difficult to break into the sector at first, once you are in, you will be challenged, rewarded and can truly create a memorable impact. This will motivate you and encourage you to pursue your dreams, and equip you with the skills needed to do this.
CEO of ActionAid UK, Girish Menon advocates that believing in yourself and in your aspirations is fundamental to the aim of a better, safer and fairer world. Instead of fumbling on what to do and how to do it, simply start somewhere, and gradually manoeuvre yourself towards your grand strategy. So long as you aspire to reach that end, and have a deep committed passion for your cause, you will succeed.
According to Stefanos Fotiou, Director of Environment and Development at UNESCAP, the most important question you can ask yourself is whether you truly want to create an NGO, or whether you could achieve more by joining an existing NGO. Understanding this requires a great deal of analysis and evaluation. An evaluation of the competing definitions of what is meant by an NGO, an evaluation of the best approach and worthiest cause, or an evaluation of how an NGO is best funded. These are just some considerations, although there are many more; the key premise of Fotiou’s advice is that you must always evaluate your options, your cause and your approach in order to make a sensible and sustainable decision.
Book A Workshop founder, Nidhi Agarwal, believes that engaging with resources, individuals and the wider market is essential to paving your path to success. Engagement allows you to gain a clearer and broader perspective for your cause, and can help you realise if your audience’s interests are truly being met. Instead of trying to be a perfectionist and losing money, engage with your environment so that you can identify the strengths and areas of improvement within your organisation. Learn from these, and adapt so that you can truly develop your product and purpose.
Barney Swan, creator of Climate Force, emphasises the importance of shifting your mentality from competition to cooperation. Surrounding yourself with people that can challenge and support you is invaluable, it allows you to stay motivated and expands your understanding of the steps needed to ensure success. An environment rich with inspiration, education and sources of empowerment allows for optimal performance, but more importantly, a sustainable cause.
- Be open
Being open to criticism is integral to the sustainability of your NGO. As long as opposition is fair and open, then we can view it as an opportunity for constructive feedback. This feedback can help your cause become more resilient, and allows you to identify and address weaknesses more effectively. According to Hugo Sugg, Director of CNS Earthquake Consulting and CEO of the Carbon Banfield Foundations, you must also be open to building relationships with individuals that can help further your cause. This is because individuals such as journalists, can often act as a voice for your cause and can ultimately help you create a memorable identity, so that you can start getting noticed for your efforts and your cause.
Founder of the Bright Network, James Uffindell, believes that our ability to collaborate is incredibly powerful. In order to build a good network, you must build a community of interesting people and understand how they all fit together as an ecosystem. You must cultivate your relationships over time because you never know when you will be able to help someone in your network or if they will be able to help you. Have a mechanism of how you are going to keep in touch with that person, and think about how you are going to sustain that relationship so that you feel supported throughout your journey and have access to varying degrees of expertise.
Committee members of Passport for Education, Alba Le Cardinal and Saga Jaubert, stress the need for planning and patience. Do not feel rushed to take action and create a concrete work portfolio, it is more worthwhile to plan your process thoughtfully, so that you can make an educated and considerate path towards your success. Using a methodological approach can be particularly helpful, although make sure to incorporate your narrative into this so that your work remains personalised and interesting.
- Take Action
Joe Alexander and Jahnvi Jhaveri, founders of ReShape Co., discuss the importance of taking action and exploiting every opportunity available to progress your cause. Don’t feel constrained or pressured into being successful, simply enjoy the process and make time for it. Especially if you are at university or a graduate, use this time to learn about the process of starting something of your own, and fully immerse yourself in it. This devotion will allow you to create something truly memorable and provide you with steep learning curves that develop your character and your cause.
According to Sherry Quam Taylor, architect of the 90-day online fundraising accelerator ‘Let’s Grow’, success is secured through investment. The investment of time, resources, knowledge and personal skills. However, it is critical to note that you must invest in the right thing. In order to do this, you must equip and develop a business acumen that is respectful and personal to every aspect of your cause and who it encounters.
To find out more information about the NGOs referenced, please listen to the Furity podcast where the experts mentioned above discuss in detail their experiences and advice for the next generation of non-profiteers.
Link to the Furity podcast: https://furity.org/podcast/
Note: All information has been extracted from Furity’s podcast interviews.
Written by: Zahira Rafiq
Edited by: Zahira Rafiq
Art by: Heart Brain by Gary Grayson