Saturday, July 12, 2008

In conversation with NGOpost

Today I arranged a phone call with Parul Gupta and Nitin Gupta, the founders of NGOpost and I found something that amazed me.

They felt that NGOs working on the same social issue rarely talk to each other with to share knowledge and exchange best practices. From her prior experience working with various NGOs related to education and women's development, Parul feels that there is a pressing need to enable such an exchange of information between the various entities of social sector to combat the social problems effectively. Does all this sound at least vaguely familiar? Well, this precisely what we at Targeting the Roots set out to find out too (as one of our objectives). In NGOpost, we have a credible testimonial that supports our understanding.

When asked about their opinion about the idea that we, Targeting The Roots, one (distant) day conduct a conference that woos NGOs of feather to flock together and share best practices, they had differing views (from what I perceived). Parul opined that, though it would be monetarily and logistically very difficult for a small team to successfully conduct such a conference, the idea will be productive. Nitin on the other hand highlighted the possibility that NGOs may actively participate in such a conference, but soon would forget the about the discussion and continue with their business as usual once the conference is over. Parul, agrees with Nitin's opinion, but felt that it is a matter of sustained "drilling down" into the NGOs mind and eventually such an initiative will move them to see that adopting best practices from their peers will prove to be more effective in fostering social change.

Who among the two is right may be just a matter of opinion. But I found that the idea of "NGOs talking to one another" no longer needs to be verified. The question is no longer seems to be "If knowledge sharing will be effective", but "How to make knowledge sharing effective".

Parul said that though such conferences among NGOs do happen, they are relatively rare (her estimate was about 10 per year all over India), and they are not usually well publicised. I have asked her to intimate me when she comes across one.


Parul Gupta said...

I like to draw an analogy between the domain of social work and any other profession. I am an engineer and researcher by background, so for example lets take that context.

Am sure all of us go to conferences or seminars in our field (esp in research and also sometimes in industry). There are no mandatory follow up actions or relationships forged in these events. Their purpose (very important, nonetheless) is
1. To educate people about cutting-edge work, best practices, most significant advancements in the area
2. Networking and to make aware of the collaboration possibilities that exist. Later if someone wants to consult/collaborate, they at least know who to approach!

And this must be true for any other profession - medicine, law, commerce etc! So why shouldn't the NGO/social work/voluntary sector be as professional, as efficient? Of course, people will share knowledge and collaborate only if they are convinced that its important for what they are doing. That's the difference in the social sector - its not as established a concept as in other professions. That is something that needs to change and slowly I am hoping it will!

Badhri said...

Thanks a lot Parul.