The digital voices of NGOs
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.