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Feedback Received - Mumbai Council of NGOs




Dear Vinay

Council of NGOs


Well done! You have come up with an idea that many people must be mulling over at the moment: if only the voluntary sector could speak with one voice. But maybe that is wishful thinking. The voluntary sector, of which I have been a part for more than 30 years, is as diverse in its make-up, motives and methods, as full of prima donnas and scoundrels, workaholics and wonderful people (maybe a few more of them) as any other sector. Bringing them together in any meaningful way would be tough.


Within the NGO sector there are a wide variety of organizations representing an even wider variety of causes and concerns. There are also a large number of CBOs, community based organizations, whose concerns are more often issue-based but whose voice is strong. Most of the committed people working in this sector are up to their eyebrows in their own concerns and have little time available for sitting on committees that don't seem to achieve very much.


We in Apnalaya have been part of various issue-based groupings on drug abuse, HIV Aids, TB, or the right to health, or education, and of course rationing, to name only a few. With the exception of RKS most of these groups start with a strong commitment from a number of NGOs to participate, but as the months go by attendance at the monthly meetings declines and eventually peters out, as members are too busy with their own programmes to spare the time for something that has no direct benefit to them.


I personally support any effort to bring greater respectability and recognition to the voluntary sector, and for that reason I welcome wholeheartedly the Credibility Alliance and the vetting done by Give Foundation. Many NGOs are reluctant to become members, and one has to ask why? If we are to command respect then we must assure that our house is in order first.


What do we need a council for? So that the government will listen to us when disaster strikes? Arising out of all the goings on of the last 2 weeks I have felt the need for a slightly different initiative. NGOs or the voluntary sector including CBOs are already  recognized all be it rather reluctantly by the government (by which I mean BMC as well as GOM) as having a better rapport with the people than they have, and as such, efforts are made in various programmes to involve NGOs in govt programmes. But within the NGO sector there are those who are OK about working with govt and those who are not; those who believe in working with the government to make it do what it is meant to be doing, and those who oppose govt or take a more confrontational stance.


Following the floods, voices have been raised in criticism of the govt from across the social spectrum. Noticeable among them have been prominent citizens, business leaders, media people, who have appeared on TV talk shows or contributed their views in the newspapers, or even moved the courts, all wanting to see an improvement in the functioning of the civic administrators and govt representatives. Some of them are sympathetic to the needs of the poor, some not so. To my mind a really powerful alliance could be formed to challenge the power of politicians if some of these prominent citizens could work with NGO and people's movement representatives on the major issues arising out of the recent flooding. 


Sorry, I have run out of time & effort... I am going out of Mumbai tomorrow, for a few days. I will back at my email by Friday. I don't know whether this is any help. The whole business of selecting representatives is also fraught with hurdles. Incidently, I think you are doing a fantastic job with Karmayog!

All the best, 

Dear Vinay

Some quick thoughts:

Definitely a great idea. Lot of us have felt the need for such a common platform. However, while brainstorming we need to keep in mind that there are number of such networks already existing and such a council should have its
own usp and not be a duplication of efforts and may even think of linking up to existing ones. 
Of course the current backdrop of disaster is appropriate for any of such effort. A council can play a vital role in monitoring the information assimilation/dissemination processes carried out by Government, proactively such council can make complementary efforts along with the government, it can disseminate the information to other organizations as also play a role in research and documentation As far as proposed members are concerned I think the idea should be thrown open to as many as possible and then take a call based on people/orgs who are with
the idea. Of course too many core members may be detrimental to any decision making process. We are perfectly ok with karmayog as convenor for the council precisely for the reasons you have mentioned, as most NGO personnel would really be involved with their core programmes they maynot really drive such an activity. I also take this opportunity to congratulate you on carving a niche for karmayog in a really short time. 
Dear Vinay:
Greetings. Thanks for the mail you've sent and I can envision that you are working on something whose idea has come. I will peruse your mail carefully because it raises the need to have cohesion in the seeming broadbanding of NGOs whose work, size, reach are dispersed across the spectrum; and respond in the next two to three days. I will definitely help in the initial deliberations.  
Once again, keep up the great work on the flood relief and have a great day. 
Dear Vinay,

Your proposal is quite interesting. YUVA would be willing to engage, although I am sure you realize that there are so many efforts at 'co-ordinating the co-ordination' of relief at present that it  seems like just tracking these developments and their own dynamics will take more energy that the actual relief.

If the proposed Council is aimed beyond just relief co-ordination and will provide the much needed space for continuous interaction and dialogue between voluntary development agencies of all hues, we would be enthusiastic about it.

I trust that Karmayog can also bring and sustain an environment of open communication, representation and participation to such a forum.

Best regards,
1) Concept is note worthy
2) List is too diversified hence sustaining the interest in the long run may be an issue.
3) Interaction alone may not serve the purpose of having a council.
It is better to begin with council of few NGOs representing a common goal, purpose of action, interested in implementation to benefit larger and weaker sections of the society covering all communities perhaps can set the ball rolling.
Thank you,
Vinay, as you go about setting up your NGO Council, you might want to have a look at similar activities that have taken place here in the U.S. It looks like you in a position to resolve some of the same problems non-profits had here.

You might want to look into the "Council on Foundations (" and their mission, strategies, and services. They have been working in this area for a very long time having started in 1949. They are quite large now but you should be able to pick up some ideas from their experiences.

In addition, (someone brought this up in a discussion I think) there are smaller "sub-sets" of this type of organization. Their purpose is to bring together non-profits from a specific region. Others are set up for smaller sized, and others are for certain types. So a specific NGO might be a member of a number of "Councils" that help them with the different layers of issues.

The problems you face are quite unique. But what you are trying to accomplish is really necessary and worthwhile. The value will be come clear as the organizaiton grows and develops.

Keep up the great work it is appreciated.

Bernie (
You are doing a great job through the website and now with the council formation, issues can be advocated in a more concerted and effective manner.

We are organising an event " Mumbai Meri Jaan----- A call for survival" It is a paper presentation on the recent crisis in Mumbai. The focus is on out of box Solutions and efficient delivery mechanisim. We can discuss the outcome and probably need to take it up with higher authorities.

Regarding the obective and functioning of the council,it can play a key role in lobbying and facilitating the manpower to work on policy issues at various lavels and you should be the convener. The structure will gradually emerge as per the need, situation and relevance. When the council meets, details can be worked out with broader perspectives and context.

Best Regards,
Nirja Mattoo,
Center for Development of Coporate Citizenship(DOCC)
S.P.Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai
Dear Mr. Somani, 

We do recognize the valuable work your organization has done in connecting people, organizations and institutions across sectors in responding to the floods of Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra. We urge you to continue playing this important role. 

The idea of setting up a council of NGOs is a noble one. In our experience a collective of Voluntary Organizations is much more effective if it works together on certain identified issues. Further instead of a council an alliance or federation may also be explored as a viable institutional mechanism. Further, there are so many differences between Voluntary Organizations, in terms of ideology and approach that unless we address these it is difficult to weave, funders, support organizations, action groups etc in to one entity. 

For the past year the Trusts focus has been to support strengthening of grassroots processes, of promoting and of building, Community Based Organizations and their federations. We feel that often the marginalised get left out from all decision making processes and civil society activism. 

We wish you all the best in facilitating interaction between voluntary groups, and we are open to be part of the dialogue between voluntary groups working in the city but would refrain from becoming members of the council. 

Thanking you for taking the initiative in building this relationship.

Yours sincerely, 
Tara Sabavala
Program Coordinator