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How to build a good small NGO
December 08, 2006

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Who we are. And who you could be . . .

This manual has been put together by a group of people who work in or with Non- Government Organisations, (NGOs). Our experiences are mainly with NGOs in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and countries previously in the USSR. The NGOs are in cities, smaller towns and the countryside. Some of them are concerned with human rights but more with improving the quality of life of various groups.

The NGO field includes many dedicated and good-hearted people. But as NGOs attempt to grow, they face common problems. For example, often they fail to learn how to manage their money well. This leads to all kinds of problems . they function less well, their reputations suffer and they cannot get funding to pursue their plans.

So, with this manual, our goals are to help you to build best practice into your NGO; to prevent, recognis and fix problems. Wherever you are in the NGO field, you will find much that is useful in this manual.

Applying the exercises and examples:
Throughout the manual you will find best practice theory and appropriate EXERCISES. These can be done by one person sitting alone or, better, by a group discussing the text. By doing the exercises, each person applies ideas and theory to a situation (e.g. .does this project seem relevant for the problems?.). Each person learns throgh thinking and discussion. So please do the exercises if at all possible. Your NGO could have a small working group who meet regularly to do so.

There are also a number of EXAMPLES from existing projects. With each, you can check if there are any lessons for your own NGO. If there are topics where you disagree with the authors, you can argue it through to see if your disagreement is based on the reality of your situation.

Definition of NGOs:
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) asks for the following in an NGO, that it is non-profit; non-commercial; non-government; legally registered; and subscribing to universal humanitarian values and practices. However, legal registration may pose problems where the government is hostile. It can, for example, block external funding.

Other International agencies look for additional characteristics. Perhaps the most important are that the NGO has capacity . meaning that it knows how to make a plan and has the resources to carry it out . and that it is ready to be held accountable for its actions.

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