NGOs 101: Field of Work of NGOs

NGOs 101 Series

Many of those I meet think that NGOs are limited to charity work and philanthropy. Yet throughout my work with NGOs, I’ve realized that they cover almost every aspect of “industries” or “field of work” that many of the Private Sector cover, as well as those of Public Sector and UN agencies.

Here’s a quick overview of the list of “industries” or “fields of work” that NGOs cover:

  1. Advocacy & Awareness
  2. Agriculture
  3. Business & Economic Policy
  4. Child Education
  5. Youth Empowerment
  6. Citizenship
  7. Communication
  8. Conflict Resolution
  9. Peace Building
  10. ICT
  11. Culture & Society
  12. Democracy & Civic Rights
  13. Rural Development
  14. Disability & Handicap
  15. Displaced Population & Refugees
  16. Education
  17. Environment
  18. Family Care
  19. Women’s Rights
  20. Governance
  21. Health
  22. Human Rights
  23. Charity/Philanthropy
  24. Labor
  25. Law & Legal Affairs
  26. Migrant Workers
  27. Relief
  28. Reconstruction
  29. Rehabilitation
  30. Research & Studies
  31. Science
  32. Social Media
  33. Technology
  34. Transparency
  35. Training & Capacity Building

Thus, the next time you hear of someone working in NGO, I kindly ask you not to label them as “Charity Worker” as many NGOs are not limited to charity work.

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Systems Thinking: Understanding the Complexity of Our World

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
  • Environment
  • 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.