The dig­i­tal voices of NGOs

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Osama Man­zar

Amid all the neg­a­tiv­ity about the roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs), mostly from the gov­ern­ment and in many cases the busi­ness sec­tor, one fact that no­body can take away from the non-prof­its is that theirs is per­haps the only voice shout­ing out loud when there are mat­ters of con­cern, causes that need at­ten­tion, and is­sues that af­fect civil so­ci­ety. What is in­ter­est­ing is that there is a whole world that has opened up for NGOs, and that is in the form of dig­i­tal media.

Last week, I was sub­merged in a world of good­ness: the good that has been cre­ated by hun­dreds of non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions across In­dia, and all over South Asian coun­tries. The unique ex­pe­ri­ence of this good­ness is how NGOs have been us­ing dig­i­tal tools-right from the In­ter­net, to so­cial media, mo­bile, apps, pod­casts, video, cam­era, pro­jec­tor, What­sApp, mes­sag­ing and, in many cases, bio­met­rics, e-com­merce, so­cial com­merce, online fundrais­ing, peer-to-peer crowd-sourc­ing, and so on. It was in Pondicherry, and with 13 jury mem­bers to de­cide the win­ners for the e-NGO Chal­lenge awards, we spent about 24 hours, al­most non-stop, to go through 200-plus NGO pro­files and their ac­tiv­i­ties on how they use dig­i­tal tools for their or­ga­ni­za­tional ef­fi­ciency, cam­paign, out­reach, do­na­tions and the causes they work for. Meet Lha Char­i­ta­ble Trust in the hills of Dharam­sala. This Ti­betan or­ga­ni­za­tion and in­sti­tute has not left any dig­i­tal media op­tion un­tried. They have an online mag­a­zine called Con­tact, they raise funds online from across the world, they reach out to the di­as­pora through a Ti­betan lan­guage web­site and share com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues within Ti­bet. They have a YouTube chan­nel with hun­dreds of videos and films, and they are ready to launch an online fair trade shop of the items pro­duced by ex­iled Ti­betan pro­duc­ers to sup­port their liveli­hood.

Let's go to Ra­jasthan to meet An­nakshetra. Their mes­sages in­clude "save food and save life" and "we can end hunger". With a 24x7 helpline and web­site, An­nakshetra is mak­ing peer-topeer con­nec­tions-be­tween those pro­duc­ing too much food, and may there­fore be wast­ing it, and those who need them. Their online pres­ence also gives op­tions for do­na­tion, be­com­ing vol­un­teers and or­ga­niz­ing com­mu­nity feast­ing. Their web­site claims they have served about a mil­lion meals to the poor­est of the poor. A lit­tle fur­ther in Ra­jasthan ex­ists another beau­ti­ful or­ga­ni­za­tion called Ru­payan Sansthan, es­tab­lished to carry on the legacy of the late Ko­mal Kothari, the fa­mous folk­lorist and oral his­to­rian who sin­gle-hand­edly doc­u­mented and tried to save the dy­ing folk arts of western Ra­jasthan.

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