NGOs 101: What are NGOs?

NGOs 101 Series

Many times I get asked: What are NGOs? The answer is usually a bit more complex than you’d expect.

But before going into my own definition, let me share with you some definitions by some renowned sources. So here they are:

  • “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government.”- www.UN.org
  • “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.” –  www.NGO.org
  • “A nongovernment organization is an association which is based on the common interests of its members, individuals, or institutions has no governmental status or function, and is not created by a government, nor is its agenda set or implemented by a government.” – www.SIL.org
  • “Private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development” – www.WorldBank.org

 

Now the problem is, none of the above is complete or accurate, here is why:

  • The UN definition misses out that such organizations should have a cause for the benefit of the community and that they should be not for profit. According to UN definition, most private sector companies would fall under the category of “NGOs”, which is obviously incorrect.
  • The NGO.org definition misses out that they should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGO bodies. Moreover, it limits the to “voluntary” work, while in reality there are thousands of NGOs that have paid staff.
  • The SIL.org definition also misses out on the not for profit part, thus once again being an inadequate definition.
  • The World Bank definition misses out on many factors. Their definition misses out on the fact that should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGOs, nor that they should be not for profit. Just to name a few that is.

 

In this context, after further research, discussions and meetings with stakeholders from NGOs, I’ve managed to identify the components that one can use as a checklist to check if the organization in study is an NGO or not. Here are the components or attributes if you’d like to call them so:

  • Is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons.
  • Not initiated nor managed by any government.
  • Doesn’t accept membership of governmental bodies.
  • Works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not for profit.
  • Can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.

 

Using the above, I can assure you that you’d be able to clearly identify what is an NGO and what is not. You can put them in a definition as follows:

“An NGO is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons that is not initiated nor managed by any government nor does it accept membership of governmental bodies. An NGO works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not profit, and it can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.”

Thus, the following organizations are not, and should not, be considered as NGOs or labeled as such: UNDP, ESCWA, UNESCO, ILO, OPEC, FAO, Arab League.

I hope that clarifies the issue for you and I look forward to hear your feedback on the definition.

NGOs 101 Series

NGOs 101 Series
Dear reader,

Considering the sheer number of questions and consultations I get regularly about NGOs, their types, fields of work, definitions, structures, proposal writing, fundraising and the like, I will be posting a series of articles about NGOs to cover such topics.

Here is a quick overview about some of the articles I’ll be posting:
• Defining NGOs
• Types of NGOs (by geographic scope)
• Fields of Work of NGOs (by industry)
• Functional Types of NGOs (internal structure)
• Project Management in NGOs (how it differs from those in private and public sectors)
• Fundraising in NGOs
• Proposal Writing in NGOs (how it differs depending on the donor/funding agency)
• Logical Framework Approach/Matrix (what it is, how it came into existence, when is it to be used)

If you’d like to know about other topics related to NGOs don’t hesitate to drop me a comment about it.

Stay tuned!

From 2013 to 2014: Reflections & Projections

2013 2014Now that we’ve embarked on 2014, and after spending some time reflecting on how everything went in 2013 in my life, I’d like to share some of the milestones and things that were important to me in 2013 and some of those that I have planned for 2014.

Over the years, I’ve learned that when we share and write what we have achieved, we value it more, and when we do the same for what we dream and plan of, we somehow become more psychologically motivated and committed to achieve it. So I do recommend you share the same, whether here as a comment on this blog posts or with your network somehow.

 

So here it goes:

 

2013

 

Personal:

·       Read A Lot: Just a quick estimate, I read around 3 articles daily on topics of interest, each ranging from 1 to 5 pages. So if I take an average, I read about 1,000+ different topics in 2013 alone.

·       Learned to Let Go: For someone like me who likes to stay on top of things and feeling in-control, it was a tough journey. But nevertheless, I did manage to let go of some personal relations, roles in NGOs and the actual need to be in-control of so many things.

·       Spent More Quality Time: Yes, this was a key goal for me to have a more balanced life in 2013, and I am glad to say I truly value the quality time I spent with family, friends and loved ones.

·       Traveled to New Places: In 2013 alone, I traveled to new cities I never visited before and are London, Oxford, Cappadocia, Mersin, Khartoum and Dubai.

·       Slept More Daily: As of early December, I managed to sustain a 6~8 hour sleep per day (up from just 3~4 hours previously).

 

Career:

·       Got Promoted: Through my work at CMCS Lebanon, I got promoted to the position of Deputy Operations Manager and will be starting my new role as of January 2014.

·       Coordinated A New Program at AUB-CEC: Also through CMCS Lebanon and in collaboration with AUB CEC, I’m proud to say I played a key role in launching and coordinating the Region’s 1st Project Management Postgraduate Diploma. But to be honest, team work is everything, and the team I work with at CMCS and AUB are the ones who truly made it all happen.

·       Trained A Lot: Throughout 2013 I gave more than 10 training courses at AUB and others, while I’ve also introduced a new certificate based training course about Business Analysis called Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) which I’m also the only certified professional in Lebanon till now.

 

NGOS & Volunteer Work:

·       Transitioned Out of Aie Serve: For 7 years, I served as a co-founder and president of Aie Serve and it was about time to let a new leadership come in place and shine. So I’m proud to say that we successfully did an elections where a whole new Board was elected and I transitioned to become one of the organization’s Advisors.

·       Revived Global Shapers Beirut Hub: In December, leaders of the Global Shapers Community from the World Economic Forum visited Beirut, and with their support and some Shapers in Beirut, I’m glad to say that I’m playing a role in reviving the previously dormant Beirut Hub. Thus 6 new Global Shapers were recruited in December.

·       Launched A Youth Project at PMI Lebanon Chapter: With the support of my fellow PMI Lebanon Chapter Board, we’re launching a new Project Management for Youth Initiative in collaboration with PMI- Educational Foundation.

·       Partnered with CSR AL Ahli: Another highlight for me is making a partnership between Aie Serve and CSR Al Ahli Group to provide Mentors for CSR in Action program to give Social Innovators who are working on serving the community the needed support to succeed.

·       Coached, Mentored & Trained Youth: Throughout the year, I realized I enjoy and become full of energy when I am training or coaching or mentoring youth, and thus I spent hours and days with 10s of them in training workshops, meetings, sessions and retreats.

 

 

2014

 

Personal:

·       Take Care of My Body: A healthy mind is in a healthy body they say, thus I’ll be focusing taking better care of my own body whether through sports, a healthier diet or just simply less stressful schedule.

·       Sustain Balance: Keep on the sleeping habits, take more vacations and continue spending quality time in abundance.

·       Keep Reading: With my current reading habits I guess I’m on the right track.

 

Career:

·       Excel At Managing Operations: Now that my new role involves working in Operations Management, I’ll be going the extra mile to learn more about it and excel at it.

·       Expand Training Regionally: Now that CMCS has some stellar training courses and workshops, it’s prime time to take them regionally in 2014.

 

Academic:

·       Start My Masters: I’ve got my eye on 2 Master Programs, and will be registering in one of them before the end of year if God wills. Eventually, it’s about time I proceed my academic growth after acquiring 3 professional certificates in the past 3 years which are PMP, CBAP and GPM-b.

 

NGOs & Volunteer Work:

·       Support Aie Serve’s Growth & Sustainability: With a new Board in place and a Strategic Planning Retreat scheduled early January, I’ll be doing all I can to ensure the new Board and all Aie Servians continue their work properly, grow and enjoy the journey.

·       Grow Global Shapers Beirut Hub: Now that we have a bigger team, January will be the month when the Hub will do their first event.

·       Transition Out of More NGOs: New challenges arise every now and then and in 2014, I’ll make sure to take on some of those, but to do that, I’ll need to drop of some of the current load. In this context, I’ll be transitioning out of my role in PMI Lebanon Chapter and Alumni UNESCO Club.

·       Building A Regional Network for Rule of Law: Through being a John Smith Trust Fellow, I’ll be working with other fellows all around the region from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain, to build and  institutionalize a network of chapters in each country to promote and work on rule of law.

 

 

That is about it for the time being, and I hope you enjoyed it and perhaps got inspired by a few things here and there.

 

I’d really like to get to know your reflections on 2013 and your plans for 2014! 🙂

Three Elements for Career Resonance

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I’ve found that there are 3 key elements that can help you choose the career that will allow you to be happy and productive to reach your career resonance. However, I would like to start by explaining what I mean by resonance. According to HyperPhysics, resonance in physics and sound systems refers to the natural frequency of vibration, determined by the physical parameters of the vibrating object, at which it reaches peak vibratory performance (2000).

Now let me explain how resonance applies our careers by elaborating on the 3 key elements.

Aptitude

This is our capacity to adequately perform a specific type of work. It is influenced by our thoughts and preferences (pragmatic or creative, multi-functioning or single functioning, numeric or wordy, extrovert or introvert…etc). So, the first critical step is to know our self which could actually be done by taking psychometric tests like Myers-Briggs, Jung Typology, MBTI and others. In conclusion, knowing our personal aptitude will help us identify what makes us tick hence our “natural frequency of vibration”.

Type of Work

This element is about knowing what type of tasks we enjoy. A job usually contains numerous types of tasks, not all of them which are pleasant. Thus, it’s important to know which type of tasks we really enjoy: is it dealing with people,developing content, building mathematical models, or doing research? Once we are able to actually list the type of tasks that we enjoy then we’d probably have narrowed down the type of jobs that we’ll apply to. Therefore, knowing our preferences in terms of type of work will allow us to choose the type of work that is in tune with our personal aptitude.

Work Environment

Last but not least is the work environment: the actual place you’re working in. Some of us enjoy a 9 to 5 job, others prefer a more flexible schedule. Some people prefer to work in big teams, others prefer small groups. Some prefer to work in a well-structured big company, while others prefer a more dynamic and less bureaucratic small company. All those play a major factor in making us comfortable to do the type of work we like to do.

Knowing the type of work environment that suits us allows us to really pinpoint the places we prefer to work in and thus complete the chain of “Career Resonance”.

So as an example, here is my own breakdown of the 3 elements:

Personal Aptitude Type of work Work Environment
  • Multi-tasking person
  • Extrovert
  • Night Owl
  • Pragmatic
  • Fast paced
  • Hyper focused
  • High emotional intelligence
  • Bad Memory
  • Un-interested in routine/mundane tasks
  • Challenge Seeker
  • Researching & writing
  • Setting strategies and plans & follow up on their implementation
  • Training
  • Consulting
  • Mentoring
  • Coordinating numerous team members and tasks
  • Individual work if it requires focus and a fast pace
  • Teamwork when it is about ongoing tasks/responsibilities
  • Prefer small teams and minimal bureaucracy
  • Friendly/family like work environment where professionalism isn’t about rigidity
  • Flexible work schedule, with possibility of work-at-home over-night

So as you can see, using the above 3 elements to find the right career for me in the right work environment is definitely a challenge.However, I’m already in a workplace that fulfills quite a lot of the above; thus I’m being able to achieve much more than in my previous job , Also, despite all the challenges and risks that I had to take to start achieving my career resonance, it was absolutely worth it!

The same applies to you.So, go ahead and define your preferences and needsand make your choice to leap towards your career resonance.

Why Arabs Won’t Rise Up Anytime Soon

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Building on my humble knowledge, I get to have some observations and analysis of the world I live in. So here’s one for the day: Arabs won’t rise up anytime soon!

My aim here is not to push you  to lose hope on Arabs progress, but rather trying to shed light on certain elements of why are the Arab nations still way behind in terms of technology, economy, civil-rights, and politics, just to name a few.

Yes, I’m an Arab and I sadly got to the conviction that Arabs won’t rise up anytime soon. If you observe how nations grew into world powers you will realize that most of them have two main factors in common: Institutionalization and care for public good. Apparently, those two factors are missing (either one or both) from almost all Arab countries!

We’re mostly an individualistic nation: a nation formed of hundreds of millions of individuals who want to shine individually rather than as a nation. Collaborating together for the common good in a well-structured and institutionalized manner is something perhaps beyond the short-term wins that those individuals perceive.

We dislike systems, processes, policies, procedures, long term goals and the common good when it contradicts with personal gain and hence we try to avoid them as much as we could! So if we can avoid filling a form, not follow a procedure, rule, or policy (or at least get away with it), take a shortcut, or go for a quick win, we’d will go for it.

Examples of what I mean here can be as small as not standing in line whenever there is a queue to not stopping on a red light or following the road signs. It can also be as major as politicians not acting as part of an institution with a system, but rather acting like heads of mafias, bending and changing the rules, the governmental institutions and policies to fit their own needs and desires. The bigger problem is not that they do it, but rather no one actually holds them accountable for what they do. Many people accept such a behavior and thus the issue exacerbates with time. Even with the so-called “Arab Spring” and the people rising to demand for their rights, the same thing was done all over again, “leaders” took charge and bent rules to fit them and their “group”.

Just to be fair, there are some positive deviants from the norm, like in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where they actually plan years ahead, put systems and policy in place, and do proper enforcement and follow up. In Egypt, though millions go on demonstration, they leave the roads clean and ensure things are properly back in place.

Nevertheless, most of us are always chasing the quick wins, the individual recognitions, the shortcuts and the “what’s in it for me” attitude, at least for the time being. So in a nutshell, we’re mostly an individualistic nation, we produce endless shining stars but not a collaborative galaxy!

My recommendation would be to start learning the following, so we can perhaps start taking baby steps towards progress:

  • Willingness to learn, humbleness, and long term strategic planning from the Japanese
  • Willingness to put the nation before self, economic agility and discipline from the Chinese
  • Structuring and building systems, pragmatic thinking and financial wizardry from the Americans
  • Strength and value of team work and communal wellbeing from the Penguins
  • Perseverance, discipline and working as one from the Ants

I’m saying all of this not with a perspective of despair but rather a belief that everything is feasible and if we learn to change how we think and act, we can definitely do wonders.

 

Other Articles That Might Be of Interest:

Compilation: Management & Personal Development

Personal Development
Personal Development

I was asked by some of my friends to compile related articles together in an accessible way. Thus, I’m posting this as a simple compilation of relevant articles under the theme of “Management & Personal Development”.

Check the links below of the aforementioned articles:

 

I hope you enjoy the articles and feel free to subscribe to my Blog for regular updates.