BANGO notes – Civil Society Organizations inclusion, in a time such as this

The NGO community in Barbados and the Caribbean is resilient. We have done so much with so little for so long, we are now experts at doing a lot with nothing.

Given the contribution from this sector it is our hope and desire that more consideration be given to the impact we have made and, in particular, that financial support will be provided by both Government and the Private Sector as we continue to help to build the economy of Barbados.

The important consideration for all legitimate NGOs, or the third sector as we are now being called, is impact. When we in the NGO community measure impact we seek to keep our measures simple and highly meaningful to both donors and those in the local community.

We have recognized over the years that this works to engage and motivate our beneficiaries, implementing partners, and other stakeholders towards a shared vision and ownership.

NGOs in Barbados and the region make a significant contribution to the sustainable development of the countries in which we operate. In addition to the considerable value and benefits we bring to the beneficiaries we serve, we also help to improve governance, policy formulation, decision making and problem solving in the public sector and private sector, and within the international development community.

In this era of a new normal, NGOs in Barbados and throughout the Caribbean find themselves in more of a continuity conundrum than ever before. Just at a time when most NGOs are currently accepting, learning and just beginning to practice social entrepreneurship as a main method for their sustainability and their beneficiaries’ longevity, COVID-19 presents a new challenge.

In speaking with a number of NGOs in Barbados and the wider Caribbean region about the impact of COVID-19 on their work to date, many of them expressed concerns about the effect of the pandemic on the people they serve and on their team members.

Dr. Marcia Brandon is the Secretary General of the Barbados Association of NGOs (BANGO) and the Managing Director of the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (COESL)

Dr. Marcia Brandon is the Secretary General of the Barbados Association of NGOs (BANGO) and the Managing Director of the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (COESL)

These are extremely valid concerns, because as with many Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), several NGOs are one man shows. Even if they have many volunteers, the direct impact of the pandemic lies with the leader. There are no NGOs in Barbados or the Caribbean that are re rich, some are more sustainable than others, but most are very, very vulnerable and quite fragile.

We know that many NGOs rely on grant funding to carry out their mandate; very few receive Government subventions, and when they do, it is not very substantial.

Many corporations and foundations have come on board, over the years, to assist the third sector financially and with other resources, often as part of fulfilling their own corporate social responsibilities.

But this is still not enough.

NGOs’ mandates coalesce around poverty alleviation and the protection of people and planet. All of these are buttressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With COVID-19, NGOs’ major concerns include more persons needing our services, whether our services are business and entrepreneurship development, health and wellness, homeless shelter, domestic and sexual abuse, mental health, community development, water, environment, counselling, elderly care, youth development, media, food security and safety among others.

While NGOs are flexible and nimble, with extensive on the ground and community expertise, and know how to reach the people, many of them are presently using family finances to implement programmes to benefit others. Where will the finances come from to help existing and new beneficiaries in this new normal?

Our thoughts and prayers are with our Government and frontline workers and all other essential services workers at this time. There are many of us NGOs on the ground in communities, coordinating essentials, delivering meals, groceries, flowers and other necessities to help make someone’s life better. We salute all of you and hold you up in prayer as we work through this pandemic.

Here are some next steps for us here at the Barbados Association of NGOs.

We will be inviting the Caribbean Development Bank to dialogue with us, at a mutually convenient time as soon as business resumes, or even before. This dialogue will be one which explores working with the third sector to build its sustainability, to better impact the sustainable development of Barbados.
We have started encouraging the Government of Barbados to give BANGO a hand up not a hand-out. This will help BANGO to help the third sector to build sustainability and scale up their impact. A proposal is presently with the Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations and we hope to hear from him as soon as possible, especially in light of this pandemic.
We will be inviting the private sector to start thinking creatively about the third sector’s role and how we can work together and reshape the impact of their corporate social responsibility programmes.
We will be inviting the international development organizations to engage and exchange with all national NGOs. We will help them to know the NGOs in Barbados, where they work, and see their expertise and level of impact.
• We will be encouraging the Government of Barbados to provide us an equal seat among the social partners.

BANGO intends to connect with these sectors to engage them and exchange value for value. Our objectives are to build the NGOs in Barbados and impact the sustainable development of all our people.

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