THE WAY FORWARD

Business & Finance –

 22nd- 28th May 2000 West Africa

THE WAY FORWARD

Ade Sawyerr continues his look at what African community organisations can do to get their houses in order

ANY successful organisation has a strongly developed quality assurance system, a democratic structure, a growing membership and an approach that pursues development projects based on need. It has a constitution or defined set of rules to guide its operations. Everyone is kept informed through the correct channels, through attending meetings and ensuring that agenda papers are sent on time, minutes are kept and monthly accounts are rendered.

That is the model which African community organisations must aim for if they are to overcome the funding and organisational obstacles that continue to hamper them. It is only when an organisation boasts these key ingredients that it is able to implement successful fundraising strategies and adopt communication programmes that keep it in touch with its public.

Projects must only be developed when people want them; not simply because there is money available. There must be a growing demand for the service and members must be involved in both the development and delivery of projects, as well as monitoring the organisation’s overall performance. Membership growth is also vital. An organisation’s membership must be constantly, if only gradually, increasing because it is from its members that it is able to recruit volunteer workers and future management committee representatives. A flourishing membership allows a group to continue to evolve democratically.

Fundraising must be planned strategically and must actively involve all the members of an organisation. Assistance must be sought from a variety of institutions: international, national, regional, local, trusts, charities and statutory companies. Organisations also need to be innovative in the way they keep in touch with the public. How do members, funders, employees, local businesses and others come to know about us? What events should we invite people to? How do we circulate reports, brochures, leaflets and posters to let our own target groups and the wider public know about the work we do?

Once these critical issues have been sorted out, organisations need to adopt a more proactive strategy to attract community involvement. It is in the interests of African people to be strongly involved in their communities, especially given the large amount of funding that is flowing into communities as successive governments attempt to tackle urban decay and regenerate inner-city areas.

The funding shift favours organisations that provide a definable service. Local authorities no longer provide general community grants; instead money is often made available through projects jointly funded by local authorities and specific statutory agencies. Health authorities, for example, often join local authorities in providing funding for groups involved in social care and health promotion. If organisations are to become involved in local community projects, there are several steps they must take.

At an organisational level it is helpful for them to be represented on the board of a local partnership group, as this is where decisions are made on how and where money is spent. At the next level, organisations need to bring their professional expertise to bear by serving on relevant sub-committees. African people can also gain from seeking employment in the voluntary sector where, at various levels, they make executive decisions and deliver services that benefit the local area. Then there are advisory panels, which allow people to exercise direct influence on their local community.

Most people belong to some kind of an organisation, whether it is a church, a club or whatever. We need to make waves within our local communities and be involved in the decision-making processes that invariably have a major effect on our lives. As individuals, we must therefore seek to join organisations likely to benefit us.

As organisations, we need to be affiliated to umbrella groups or support organisations. The first thing to do is to join the national umbrella organisations, get on the list of the local voluntary action council and make yourself known to the Africa Centre. You must also seek out organisations that provide services to black groups, such as KENTE, Project Fullemploy, Race on the Agenda, the Black Training and Enterprise Group, 1990 Trust, Afford and the Black Regeneration Forum. A new organisation, the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations, has also been established to build a fund for black organisations. African community organisations will continue to play a useful role in our lives. In order for that role to be even more effective, it is vital that they organise themselves well and build up the necessary links within the mainstream.

Ade Sawyerr is a partner of Equinox Consulting in London. He can be contacted on 0207-733-7000 or at adesawyerr@equinoxconsulting net.

22nd- 28th May 2000 West Africa

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