An Award to celebrate best practices among CSOs, NGOs and INGOs? Why not?

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When we talk about accountability among non state actors, we refer to ways and practices to improve the working modality of national and international NGOs, ensuring better results in a cost effective way, what now in jargon is called “value for money”.

Nepal should have the courage to import some good practices from more developed nations where a strong landscape of charities and not for profit organizations that often, especially now in time of economic downturn, are pushed to compete to survive and thrive, are not shy from 

Here something that Nepal should really consider: the creation of a national award on best practices among civil society organizations working in the development. The Award should be granted according to different categories depending on the nature of organization, the size and area of expertise.

Setting the framework for this kind of award would be beneficial to the development sector therefore to the country in several ways.

First, a sane competition to properly recognize the best ideas in the sector: the award will set the enabling conditions to allow the emergence of best practices with a proven track record and positive impact at local level. Despite the criticisms, sometimes well justified, there are plenty of brilliant initiatives that indeed are making a difference but often lack visibility or resources to be scaled up.

Why not showcase them, learn from them? Indeed the award will spotlight programs and projects that are really useful to the country and will help disseminate their achievements in a way that they could be reframed, readjusted and replicated also by others.

The dissemination and learning aspects of such an award is really important because if it is true that the applicants should compete for funding, it is equally crucial to create the conditions for some sort of enhanced cooperation, bolstering potential synergies and partnerships in the implementation of working approaches.

Indeed as far as I know, there is no a real copy right on aid outcomes and while it is important to acknowledge the ideators of successful ideas, much more should be done for kicking off a positive “mushrooming’ of working and effective solutions.

Look for example to microcredit: no one doubts that the ownership of the concept belongs to Greemans and BRAC but then the model evolved, changed and still is carried out in different ways and modalities. Why not the same for innovative solutions in the sanitation sector or education for example?

Second the award should be considered as a real celebration (rather than just a tough competition) of effective development work based on shared spirit, values that are based and overarching common goals. It does not really matter who is doing what, the importance of an effective grassroots organization is equal to the role played by a big donor agency as we are all on the same boat or at least we should.

Yes the award will infuse some sort of sane competition among players that would be further motivated to excel (also for prestige) but at the same time the award should offer a unique opportunity to forge a productive dialogue on ways aid for development should be better designed and delivered.

Just imagine the ceremony in which, some key note speakers will address the audience offering their insights and suggestions, also in a critical way, to make aid for development work more effectively. Of course the beneficiaries, those who should enjoy the results of development efforts should have a voice in the discussions.

Now some ideas on how the award should be organized. Given the unique nature of development interventions implemented in Nepal, a special prize should be given to the best partnership between international and national NGOs. Such award will truly give justice to an incredible list of effective and also innovative initiatives being implemented by local and national organization with technical and financial support from international non state actors.

Besides, the major areas of development like health, education and importantly, as recognition of one of the latest trend in development cooperation, wealth creation focused on income generation and livelihood, also through alternative sources of energies, should be all up for consideration through specific sector wise awards.

A special section of the award should be entirely dedicated to international nongovernmental organization that mostly are grouped under the umbrella of the Association of International NGOs in Nepal, AIN.

Obviously to make the all thing genuinely attractive, cash prizes to be used to expand and scale up the winning initiatives should b available. It is also true that just to beginning with, a symbolic recognition for the winners could be more than enough but certainly external development partners can pull some funding together to encourage not only higher participation but also the conditions but the scaling up of the best ideas.

Who should organize these celebrations? It will be interesting to bring on board the Social Welfare Council but it if does not work for many reasons, let’s not despair as an exercise of self assessment is always better than nothing.

The AIN, the National Federation of NGOs and also all others federations willing to be part of the initiative can preside and organize the events, again, possibly with some sort of sponsorship from the external development partners. A national media house could also be one of the co-organizer. A jury of independent but also well recognized experts can be formed to assess and screen the applications in the most inclusive way possible. In this regard, accessibility will be of paramount importance, allowing also small grassroots based organization to give it a shot in a specially designed category.

As I was saying at the beginning, there are many examples of similar initiatives overseas, we can copy, reframe and readjust the concept to local context. Let’s join hands and celebrate the best contributions to the development in the country. A last idea: what about including the opinions and feedbacks of targeted beneficiaries while reviewing the applications? Is it so radical? Maybe no.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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