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How to Navigate as an NGO in a Complex World


Unique training, better understanding of gender, valuable capacity building, good update on development trends, useful action plans, due to too many subjects covered, the individual subjects were not dealt with in depth. The Danida Fellowship Centre Newsletter has asked four out of 20 participants what they have learned from the course ‘Role of Civil Society in Aid Effectiveness.’

Text and photos: Jan Kjær

“The course is very interesting. It shows me how to work with different models to bring about change in the organization. We have learnt how advocacy has to be done and how different development activities can be achieved.”

Diriba Olana Deffa, Branch Office Director of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Development and Social Services Commission, is very satisfied.  He is one of 20 NGO representatives from all corners of the world participating in the ‘Role of Civil Society in Aid Effectiveness’ course in Copenhagen 29th of April to May 17th 2013.

“In the past, the attention has been on activities and outputs only, but everything has changed. Now the attention is on outcome and impact,” he adds.

Diriba is aware that something else has to change, too: “Until now we have applied for funds from donors only. That has to change. We have to look for funds on our own initiative in our own country. This will bring sustainability and a sense of ownership.”

Knowledge, skills and strategies needed

Managing and leading a CSO or NGO is becoming increasingly complex. CSOs are realizing that a widening range of knowledge, skills and strategies are necessary to achieve results, to enhance their impact and to remain effective in the work they do.

That is why Danida Fellowship Centre, in cooperation with Inka Consult, has developed the course ’Role of Civil Society in Aid Effectiveness.’

The venue of the 2013 course is in an old building in central Copenhagen hosting the Danish NGO MS Action Aid.

Outside the sun breaks through the thick clouds which resulted in heavy morning rain. Inside facilitator and course manager, Hans Peter Dejgaard changes swiftly between plenary sessions and group work.

Today’s programme focuses on organizational assessment. Lots of dialogue and questions asked by almost all participants. The room often breaks out in laughter.

Better gender balance

Mildred Khalil Neufville, Engineers without Borders, in Sierra Leone, is one of the 20 participants. She has been appointed to participate in the course by the Danish branch. She thinks that this training will make a great difference to her organization:

“What I have learnt I will give back. I am working for a voluntary organization and I will now be able to introduce techniques and strategies that can build up our organization and achieve good results.”

The topic of gender is one of the topics th she has learned a lot from: “My organization is defined by engineers and women are not a majority. The training here taught me that more women have to be trained to take key positions in the organization to give a better gender balance.”

For Mildred the course is a big achievement, because it is the first time she attends such an international training course.

“The content of the course is unique. Most teachers have been great communicators. They actually listen to us. The course has a great impact on my life and the life of my colleagues. It really makes me curious to read and learn more.”

Action plan is important

In a plenary session a discussion evolves around what keeps an organization together? What makes people work hard on a voluntary basis? Course manager Hans Peter Dejgaard comes up with one of the answers. “Parties! Which organization has the best parties?”

People need incentives to work in voluntary organizations and having a good time together is important, he states.

Hans Peter Dejgaard has many years of experience from Danish NGOs and has taken part in formulating many civil society strategies.

Mahdi Hamdan from the Danish Union 3F’s office in Palestine finds that generally the teachers and facilitators are very good: “They are professional in their work. For me it is a good opportunity to get information from the people who contributed to make the methodologies.”

For Mahdi it is the first time to dig into the content. “Before I was dealing with methods and tools, but I was not aware of the concept of the models.“

The action plan, which participants are working on during the three week course, is very important for Mahdi: “You have to reflect on what you are learning in your action plan. You have the feeling that you have the responsibility to reflect on what you have learnt here in your organization at home.”

Personally, the course has meant a lot to the Palestine participant: “It has enhanced my professional skills. I have become more confident and developed several methods and skills. The course is also a test or exam. I am together with other participants from countries all over the world and it gives me the opportunity to see what level I am on in an international context.. I haven’t tried that before as I have only taken part in training in Arabic countries.”

Too many subjects

The course manager Hans Peter is presenting organizational models and the participants discuss who should approve strategies in an organisation. Some reckon the senior programme officers, the director or management. Others say the board. The result is a long heated discussion. Then they move on to delegation of authority in the organization. Who signs checks and contracts?

Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan works at Care International in Vietnam. She feels that the course gives her an opportunity to look at the approach of her work in a more systematic way: “It has given me some new ideas on how to support my working partners. I have had time to get updated on the global context, the trends in funding modality, in aid, and in partnership”.

However, she also has some reservations about the target group. The course is not for programme staff.

“Country directors or deputy directors of local organizations would get more out of the course, because the course provides knowledge on how to do things on an organizational level. Country directors or deputy directors are the ones who can change things in the organisations and therefore it would be of more benefit to them.”

She also feels that there has been too many subjects during the three weeks: “I think it would have been better to go into depths with fewer things so we would master the knowledge.”

Elephants and statues

Back in the class room, they discuss strategic planning and actions plans, but suddenly course manager Hans Peter Dejgaard tells the participants to get up and walk around.

“Statue,” he shouts. All 20 freeze. They continue walking around and he shouts “elephant.” All freeze again with their one hand acting like the trunk.

Laughter fills the room again.

Having a good time is also important when you attend training.


About the ‘Role of Civil Society in Aid Effectiveness ‘course

The course addresses the specific challenges facing civil society organisations: The representation of the poor and marginalised in relation to public policies for poverty eradication, the fight for improved representative and participatory democracy.

This course provides tools and methods on how to address major challenges that are facing civil society organisation, including the aid effectiveness agenda (Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action). The communication technologies have also brought about challenges and new opportunities for civil society.

The course’s learning objective is that the participants have gained knowledge of the role and potential of civil society in relation to the aid effectiveness framework and Danida’s Civil Society Strategy, and, in the light of this, they have acquired essential tools for NGO management, organisational development and capacity building.

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