For years now I’ve been involved in NGOs and I’m constantly being surprised with how people perceive Board Members and how Board Members themselves perceive their role. To some, a Board is a group of people who endlessly do meetings after meetings with no avail and to others, it’s some mythical, grandiose, elitist group who got special powers to lead the organization. So let me help you demystify all that…
My involvement ranges from small local clubs to a national organizations to branches of international organizations. Irrespective of shape, size or topic of those NGOs, I can easily draw a line of similarity among them.
To start with, the Board is sometimes called Board of Directors, Steering Committee, Executive Board or Executive Committee, so in spite of the naming diversity, the roles and responsibilities stay the same.
So let’s talk about the core of the issue. Board members have 3 key roles that form the pillars of any NGO and are as follows:
Decision Making: Board member are usually the founding members or are elected members that lead the organization. In this context, all major decision making in the organization goes through them. Now it has been noticed over and over again that many Board Members become passive and rather apathetic to decisions being taken, which makes the whole organization go biased towards the opinions of the remaining Board Members. So if you’re on a Board of an NGO and you see this happening around you, don’t freak out, you’re not alone…its a trend!
Yet it’s important to deal with this issue as it is crucial to have all Board Members involved in all decisions or else you’ll start seeing resistance and conflicts arising here and there every once in a while, especially from those same inactive Board Members.
What makes decision making in NGOs different from Private Sector or Governmental Institutions, is the fact that everyone’s opinion matters and most decisions are done either democratically or through consensus, so it should never be a one man show. If it seems to be or become a one man show, then you know it’s about time to change some things…
Organizational/Executive/Functional: In addition to having decision making role, all Board have a distribution of roles and responsibilities where the most common structure is “President, Vice President, General Secretary, Treasurer & Accountant” thus each of those individuals not only has his decision making role, but also a functional role to play, whether it’s taking care of financials, or internal communication or following up on tasks or heading committees..etc. Thus if those tasks and responsibilities are implemented properly, you would’ve successfully built the second pillar of the NGO to ensure that it stands tall and becomes sustainable. When this role is done properly, the internal dynamics of the organization start functioning properly.
Jack-of-All-Traders: Yes you read it right, as soon as you become a Board Member of an NGO you suddenly get to become a jack of all trades as your responsibilities will expand beyond what you expect. So you roll up your sleeves and you start doing tasks related to strategic planning, outreach, public relations, proposal writing, volunteer management, project management, reporting, web development, graphic design, fundraising, training, consulting, event organizing and so on and so forth. So when you’re joining the Board of an NGO, its not just about doing your decision making or your functional role, but you’re expected to be involved at all levels, in all your projects and operations and to become well knowledgeable about them to assist, support and improve what your organization does.
So in a nutshell, I can say those 3 pillars are what makes a healthy Board and thus a healthy organization if they were implemented properly and professionally. If you’re a Board Member, and you feel you’re missing out on any of those…then double check with your team as you are probably holding your organization back because are doing them. Whereas if you’re doing all three and you feel other Board Members aren’t, then its about time you share the workload with them.
On a last note, properly leading an NGO can be as consuming and demanding, if not more demanding, then leading your own company due to the social factor of it and having several decision makers with you on equal levels of authority, ownership and responsibility…
So if you’re a Board Member on an NGO… God bless you! and if you know someone who is…now you know why they do so many meetings! hehehe
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Guest Writer: Lessons Learned from Politics by Radhia Benalia
As per my previous announcement this month, I will start hosting guest writers on my blog to share some experiences, knowledge and perspective that are worth shedding light on.
In this context, my first guest writer is Mrs. Radhia Benalia, the Deputy General Manager of CMCS Lebanon, a 2009 candidate for the BC Liberals for the constituency in Canada, an avid public speaker and translator with strong knowledge in project management. Her article is shedding light on her political experience when she ran for office in Canada in 2009. To get to know her better check: LinkedIn || Blog || Pinterest || Twitter
Enjoy the read!
Lessons Learned from Politics
In 2009, I was nominated as the candidate for the BC Liberals for the constituency of Surrey-Whalley in beautiful British Columbia. A unique experience. The election campaign happened “fast and furious” as I was nominated a few weeks only before elections. Fact is: I have done, seen, and lived the unanticipated, and these are the lessons learned I wanted to share:
If you ever think of going into politics, I’ll say you better keep pristine records. The other camp will cheerfully cut you to pieces and feed you to the dogs if they have anything on you. Even speeding tickets. Don’t break the law; don’t even lie about your résumé. You know what they can do with that!
Practice public speaking. Tirelessly. I was fortunate enough to have been teaching public speaking for a few years, and I surely had the chance to practice, and for a “rookie”, I did pretty well in debates and speeches, so I’m more than grateful for what I had learnt prior to my entrance into politics.
Hire a campaign manager that has the guts to tell you off and criticize you. Mine did repeatedly. He made me work 3 shifts and got me to talk about things I never thought I would a hundred miles an hour. Besides, he took care of me, chased me around every day of the campaign with a pack of vitamins, and made sure I ate well. My campaign manager was more important than I was for the campaign, and I couldn’t have done it without him.
Lose weight or wear those braces before you are nominated. What I mean to say is if anything makes you extremely uncomfortable about your looks, then remedy to that before you see yourself on camera and become devastated. You’ll see a lot of yourself everywhere. Every day.
Choose a campaign photo you’re comfortable with. You’ll be seeing the photo on billboards, posters, and even on TV; take the time to choose. Three years later, I still am glad I wasn’t forced into making a quick choice.
Oh, and about comfort, make sure you have a few pairs of very comfortable shoes. Trust me: The investment is worthy.
If you don’t have enough good people around you, don’t do it.
I was extremely lucky. My team was wonderful. Everyone worked so hard, and they were known for being one of the most supportive campaign teams ever. I couldn’t have done it without them either.
You‘ll be criticized over and over again, and then some. You’ll take heat, and it’s not going to be pretty. Candidates are criticized by journalists, constituents, and even by people who endorse them. Listen objectively, learn, and work on improving yourself. Do not waste time feeling resentment. It is useless.
Make yourself available to your constituents. Listen with heart. During the campaign I was “summoned” to a meeting with a group of citizens who were irate about the way the party I represented handled a safety issue in the area. I wasn’t the decision maker, but lobbied for the concerned constituents, and they knew I cared. It feels good to remember that I did not let those people down.
Learn about the history of your party and your constituency, and fill in any gaps you might have. You’ll be asked about things that happened when you weren’t even born and will be sentenced to political disgrace if you do not have the answers. I was once asked about a constituent allegedly abused by the police. I hadn’t heard. Trust me, I didn’t look good then.
Nothing is off the record with journalists. When my signs were vandalized during the campaign, I had a journalist make me think four times over an interview that I wasn’t on camera anymore in an attempt to “elicit” what she wanted me to reveal. My team had warned me, and fortunately, I didn’t beep a word.
Keep your family close. Do not let your campaign team become the “middle-man”. Always make sure your children know where to reach you. Listen closely to your spouse, and do not make any major decisions about your career without your family. They will be part of every bit of it. My family stood by me every minute of it, and I do thank them for that.
Be ready to move on whatever happens. Your life does not stop on ballot night. Whether you make the seat or not, there is much more to think about , work for and live for.
Read the numbers well. I was glad to find out that I had gotten more votes than my incumbent opponent did the first time he ran. Definitely what many considered a huge success, especially considering all the circumstances surrounding my nomination.
I hope this was helpful. However, I’d like to say that the biggest lesson I have learnt from my political experience is not to enter politics unless it is for wanting to make a change, a good one. It is only then that it can be rewarding.
Being a public figure and submitting yourself to scrutiny is definitely not a bed of roses. It takes a toll on your health, personal life, and even your freedom. If you’re doing it for the power or for the money, then DON’T. It is just not worth any part of it.
Systems Thinking is based on the field of system dynamics, founded by MIT professor Jay Forrester in 1956. The idea behind systems thinking is to be used when analyzing change, interventions and solutions to consider how the component being under study is interacting with other components in the system.
So for example, if we’re trying to introduce new roles in the organization or solve a social issue or introduce new projects and initiatives in the community or organization…we need to consider how those interact with other parts of the system. Many of the traditional methods take a sequential approach to analyzing issues, systems think
This leads us to actually ask, what is a system? Well in a nutshell, a system is a group related, interdependent, bound and related components that interact together. So the computer you’re using is a system, organization you work in is a system, the city you’re in is a system, the country you’re in is a system. In this context, systems can be a “component” of a bigger system. Thus our world is constantly interconnected and has multiple influences from the broader system on the smaller ones, and vice versa.ing on the other hand focuses on the big picture and how are it’s components interacting thus a more complex and iterative approach.
For example, the company’s “system” is made up of:
- Policies & Procedures
- Human Capital
- Facilities & Equipment
So to introduce a change in one of those 3 elements, whether it’s team performance or overall cost reduction, there will be an impact on the other 2 elements and thus in many organizations instilling some change in one element will end up leading to un-expected changes in the other and thus the “original” problem would be resolved, but other problems would’ve popped up.
The key benefit of Systems Thinking is that it provides a better way for analysis and for solving most complex problems that are plaguing our world from governments to communities to business and so on.
Systems Thinking is being used in very wide spectrum of fields today and this proves that the people are becoming aware of it’s value. Some of the fields where it is being utilized are:
- Engineering & Construction
- Management & Consultancy
- Health & Medical Services
- Manufacturing & Industry
- Business Analysis
- Project Management
- Policy Making & Governance
- Community Development
- Computing & Information Technology
- Sustainable Development
In conclusion, with the increasing complexity of our world today it becoming a necessity to be able to see the “big picture” and understand the systems we are working with or else our proposed solutions and improvements will fail to reach the impact expected with long lasting sustainability.
Last month I’ve given a lecture/session titled “Project Management for NGOs” to the PMI Lebanon Chapter as part of their monthly lectures.
In this context, I thought of sharing it with you. So below you’ll find the session description, learning outcomes and the link to download the presentation for your own knowledge and entertainment…. let me know what you think!
The world today has hundreds of thousands of active NGOs majority of which are project and program based and depend on ongoing grants and funding to secure resources for their projects. With grants and funding summing up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the amounts being lost on failed projects, unmet objectives and re-work is counting up to tens of millions of dollars.
Many leaders of NGOs consider this as a reasonable and un-escapable price to pay due to the fact that it is hard to recruit enough qualified project and program managers in the NGO field due to the short period of engagement, low wages with respect to private sector and lack of well identified project management training, tools and techniques.
With thousands of program managers, program coordinators, project managers, project coordinators, assistant program and project managers and so on and so forth, there is a huge gap to be filled for both the organizations and the individuals working in them.
What many don’t realize is that PMP standard can apply to NGOs by simply matching many of the terminology that is used by PMP with those present in NGOs. This lecture will help you understand how.
Lecture Learning Objectives:
- Understand and Define an NGO
- Identify the Numerous Types and Fields of Work of NGOs
- Understand the NGO Project Life Cycle in Most NGOs
- Map NGO Project Related Terminology with PMI’s Terminology
Link to Presentation in PDF: PMI Leb Chapter – PM for NGOs Presentation by Afif Tabsh – April 2012
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I’m proud to inform you that today I passed the PMP exam and thus I am an officially certified PMP. So you’re wondering what does that mean? What is PMP? What is PMI? Well read on…
PMP stands for Project Management Professional credential and is one of the 5 credentials that Project Management Institute (PMI) offers.
PMI is the world’s leading not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession, with more than half a million members and credential holders in more than 185 countries. Their worldwide advocacy for project management is supported by their globally-recognized standards and credentials, their extensive research program, and their professional development opportunities.
Government, commercial, non-profits and other organizations employ PMP certified project managers in an attempt to improve the success rate of projects in all areas of knowledge, by applying a standardized and evolving set of project management principles as contained in PMI’s PMBOK Guide.
Professionals obtain the PMP credential to verify their proficiency in project management with an internationally accepted certificate.
Using the 9 areas of knowledge identified by PMI, they become more proficient project managers, more productive in their work and apply internationally tested and confirmed processes that enhance the success rates of any project in any field.
One of the main beliefs of PMI is that “subject matter does not matter” and thus PMP certified Project Managers can excel in their work whether in IT or Real Estate, Non-Profit, Banking, Academic, Medical, Tourism…etc.
I hope that gave you a clear overview of PMI and the PMP Certification and I wish you the best of luck in your future projects!
For more information about my professional work check my LinkedIn Profile