Mid-year review June 2008: NGOs averted higher levels of chaos through use of new Technology by Ann Bown, a consultant with Charisma Communications and a non-profit sustainability specialist
This mid-year review follows up on my 2008 Forecast predictions …wherein it was mentioned that South Africa could find itself in a lot of political turmoil this year and spelt it with a small ‘t’ – well that has changed.
There’s been some rumbling that NGO’s are in for a huge financial set-back towards the end of 2008 and many are already talking about closing their doors as donor funds are slow to arrive or put on hold until 2009 – some have considered to ‘pause’ or reduce their activities, until December, providing staff with options either to agree to reduced salaries and time or share support services with other NGO’s in the same situation. Now that’s smart thinking.
The economy is taking a huge knock at the moment and this will more than likely continue for a few more months. Many non-profits are pinning their hopes on 2010 and the good news is that this is really going to happen so take heart. Those who have plans to up their income during the World Cup can remain positive but hold-thumbs anyway so that we don’t have a tsunami or a major earthquake.
The Lottery is still moving at a snails pace, due diligence being the culprit. 2007 adjudications are still in the pipeline and many NPO’s are reporting that site visits are currently taking place. Obviously no urgency or panic in the offices of the NLDTF! The really cool news is that the distribution agents have set-up an Oversight Committee who can review grant applications and ensure that due process is followed. They have yet to unveil the 2008 advertisement call for proposals! So keep your eyes peeled – it could happen soon.
More price rigging sagas continue and this time it’s medication for the poor and accused number one is Adcock Ingram, a kissing cousin of The Tiger Brand Group. They really do need to revisit their mission statement that says to increase turnover to R30 billion and increase earnings before interest and taxes by 20% before 2010. Unite 4 Health is their CSI campaigns.
During May we witnessed an explosion of xenophobic attacks, in Gauteng initially and then spreading to other parts of the country. This, so it has been stated, certainly caught many by surprise but the truth, as heard in the townships and at the coal-face of the violence, say it had been taxis talk as far back as January.
The fast response and relief efforts from the non-governmental organisations was admirable, many of whom had never had to deal with violence at this level against neighbours and friends living in their township or a nearby informal settlement. Without any training in disaster management they instinctively organized themselves into action and speedily volunteered assistance to people who were in desperate need of protection and shelter. Their ability to react so quickly was through the use and power of mobile technology, sending SMS’s, calling for help. The high number of cellphone users in South Africa, around 24 million, is one of the largest in Africa, and proved its might during this crisis, it probably saved lives and buffered thousands more from bullying and abuse, that’s why some affectionately refer to their cell phones as traditional African weapons – fighting injustice with technology
Slow to respond was the Gauteng Disaster management, who we might add have all the latest disaster alert systems in place. They only declared the turbulence a disaster after three weeks of meetings and deliberation, other provinces were equally tardy in reaction time. The DPLG (Department of Provincial and Local Government) should have been faster off the mark in preventing this disaster, reducing the impact and in coping with the consequences.
Gift of the Givers and SA Red Cross were the first NGO’s to be praised by the media, distributing blankets and food. Many NGO’s and CBO’s followed with physical assistance. South Africans rallied round donating thousands of items of food and clothing but the trauma inflicted on the victims is something hidden, many of us are unable to deal with this, so we need to pay tribute to the quick work of the Centre for the Study of Violence (CSVR) who within 24 hours after receiving a series of SMS’s had set-up a number of mobile trauma clinics and volunteer counselors, also within a couple a days set-up a dedicated web page on the xenophobic attacks that was advising people on how they could help. They also provided a Media section with emergency statistics and the type of cases being reported.
Social Scientist and researchers will probably continue to probe, ask questions for months to come but IDASA (Institute for Democracy in South Africa), through its community leaders, produced a snapshot report in a very short time, using cell phones and e-mail they were able to survey the communities where the unrest occurred within 2 weeks providing a sense of what happened and why it happened and a key recommendation has been for the building of the capacity of citizens and community groups to communicate with and advocate their concerns to the outside world through technology.
It’s almost sixty years since the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights – the world has moved forward a little bit but still the human wrongs continue in Africa and other parts of the world. Social change remains the core business of NPO’s, we can make a difference but we need reliable information, proactive citizens and connectivity to the media.
Within the next few years more people will be able to participate in the creativity of ICT, Microsoft has aligned its CSI goals with the UN Millennium goal #8 and aims to engage a further 2-3 billion people by 2015, those mainly living in under-developed communities. And that means anyone and everyone can become a techie - last week a 70 year old retired nurse from Mamelodi in Pretoria timidly attended an internet workshop stating that she couldn’t type and didn’t know anything about computers – by the end of the day she had set-up her own Blog (http//aidsworkers.ning.com) and was lobbying for the ongoing challenges of HIV and Aids, the plight of Granny-headed homes and the need for more OVC advocacy.
The reality is that we will continue to have bouts of turmoil and will need the crucial care of humanity that is pouring out of our non-profit sector, so don’t give up.
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