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AN UNFOLDING NARRATIVE OF COLLABORATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY AMONG CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS.

This article first appeared in the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN) journal titled: Navigating Accountability and Collaboration in Local Governance (2017)

 

Introduction

Accountability and collaboration in the civil society is potentially one of the more glaring cites for critique. Whilst people, and activists are impassioned by developmental needs in their communities, they are often not aware of or unwilling to engage current formations and groups with an aim to improve them by holding them accountable for their actions and commitments; they are more likely to establish their own organisations and attempt to advance their goal as an individual effort rather than collaborate and deepen impact of their interventions. More concerning, is the trend that even established organisations hardly venture into partnerships with one another. The justification relied upon is two-fold; first, is a question of values, and secondly one of resources. Values underpinning an organisation’s work and governance are sometimes to the exclusion of other modes and practices of other organisation.

 

Whilst the issues confronting government in their engagement with young people are not limited or specific to any demographic, there does seem to be a perception that being accountable is not a priority. For instance, institutions such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the South African Youth Council (SAYC), it is notable that whilst these organisations are mandated to, and purport to represent all young people, the nature of the accountable is unsatisfactory, evidenced by little evidence of feedback to young people about their work. This article discusses the DDP Youth Desk to exemplify the concepts of accountability and collaboration.

 

The DDP Youth Desk 2016

It was the feeling of DDP that, whilst youth may not be pursued as a core ‘stand-alone’ project, it is worthwhile investing time and energy into ensuring that the youth demographic is consciously kept within the DDP’s field of influence through its recognition within our community of practice. This was undertaken through investing time in investigating and connecting with the needs of youth formations in the communities in which we have the strongest presence. This assisted in finding capable youth organisations, and investigating what capacity gaps they had and how DDP can assist in building the relevant capacity. Further, DDP moved from being the direct implementing body of youth-related projects and would rather act as mentor to younger organisations whose core work is youth work and accompanying them.

 

The way in which DDP went about its intervention in 2016 was the steady recruitment of youth-based and youth-led organisations. The notions of accountability and collaboration underpinned the intervention right from the onset and have continued all along to date.

 

Re-Thinking Collaboration: Realities of Working together as Partners

 

Central to the success of the various partnerships was both the formal and informal opportunities for engagement that were made available; which included allocated time for networking and reflection on work done.

The focus on building the capacity of youth organisations, and not being direct implementers of projects in community seems to have worked well for the limited staffing at DDP. Given the nature of DDP’s oversight and accompanying role, younger and newer organisations were given an opportunity to thrive in the work that they can do in community, with the opportunity to be able to seek logistic and design assistance from DDP when they were unable to complete a planned action for whatever circumstance. In this way, accountability was enforced as agreements were kept by all partners and monitored through continuous engagements.

 

Critically, the work appears to have shifted the way in which individuals see their work in communities, and the way in which the organisations themselves collaborate and negotiate agreements amongst themselves. This is vital in ensuring that no one organisation has executive powers to influence any direction of the relationships in the network.

 

An emerging mode of intervention

It is important that when interacting with new/potential partner, there is a deliberate attempt to create an environment of trust through:

a)                  Transparency:

This is more than just about saying who you are, why you’re there, and where you come from as an organisation; it also relates to the individual stories of the people at the face of the intervention. Knowing, or at the very least, feeling like you know the person’s motivations and intentions creates a situation of less resistance.

 

b)                  Responsibility:

Having an organizational culture that emphasises accountability through mechanism and policy that show clear lines of communication, responsibility and decision-making is likely to ease the anxiety of new partners and collaborators. There needs to be adherence to a set of consequences when responsibility is flouted. This way, accountability amongst collaborators is enforced and respected.

 

c)                  Shared learning

As a developing community of practice, significant time needs to be built in and encouraged as part of the design of the intervention, that will allow reflection about the nature of the unfolding intervention. This reflection doesn’t stop at just looking at the potential indicators as part of the monitoring and evaluation plan, but also looks distinctly at the way the working relationship between the partner organisations is going.

 

Challenges with working with youth-led/youth focused NGO’s

Some of the issues that are often unique to working with youth organizations (especially at community level, present themselves only as the intervention unfolds- it is difficult to plan for, except to say that there needs to be a degree of time invested into incorporating buffers into the implementation timelines and so forth.

 

Some of the challenges include:

- Energy and priorities of young people are vast and varied. Which is to say, one cannot assume, even within the same community, that young people will be similarly engaged in the different interventions, regardless of how interesting a process design and implementation may have been.

- The push and pull nature of accountability- because of the intention of keeping deadlines and deliverables intact, partnerships can receive strain. There needs to be an understanding of what it is that is negotiable and non-negotiable.

- If there are no core common values, the cost of building the relationship is too extreme, to the detriment of the intervention: If organisations intend to form meaningful partnerships, the entry point should generally be around a shared/common vision. Any other consideration needs to be secondary as this may tarnish future engagements.

- Resource scarcity as impediment towards relationship building for sustainable network functioning without dependence on lead agency: Due to the nature of funding, particularly in South Africa, there is a need to know the organisation that has more resources or access to funding, is likely to carry the burden for the most part of the intervention. This is harmful for the building of meaningful partnerships as it ends up being a non-equal partnership where the partner with all the resources can impose ideas that would not have been as readily accepted if it were not for the dependence on funding.

 

Emerging lessons:

The following are some of the lessons that are unfolding as the intervention continues:

d)                  Managing power effectively through effective communication, for successful collaboration;

During our work, we have realised that unless communication is transparent among all parties involved in a network, collaboration is hampered. Effective communication promotes collaboration in the following ways:

  • Inter and intra-organisational relationships must be guarded and nurtured to ensure lines of communication remain open all the time;
  • Connected to the above point, is that through effective communication trust is strengthened among partners, especially as it relates to decision making and building consensus;
  • Effective communication fosters teamwork especially in governance matters where leadership is collective rather than individual-centred, thereby fostering accountability among partners.

e)                  Building on shared values to ensure long-term commitment to process and change;

 

Building on shared values to ensure long term commitment is a process and happens over time through increased interaction and information exchange as trust is built among partners. As partners identify with the values that bind them together in a network, the more they become amenable to the partnership. Shared values have in them inherent benefits that promote collaboration and accountability among partners in a network such as:

  • Influencing collective behaviour of partners in the network – partners are sensitive to each other and mind their actions thereby creating a shared culture that defines the network;
  • Shared values have potential of deepening trust among partners, which is fundamental for creating a cohesive network culture;
  • Connected to the above point, deepened trust as result of shared values, potentially increases the capacity of a network to outperform themselves due to their collective capacities to do their work as collaborators.

 

Conclusion

The DDP is persuaded that in enhancing youth development in the context of building engagement in communities, there is a need to think about new modes of collaboration that strengthen partnerships and promote accountability. This is a desirable approach recommended for civil society organisations seeking to deepen the impact of their interventions towards sustainable community development.

 

Changing Our Country One Conversation at a Time

Nonkululeko Hlongwane

 

It’s quite interesting how everyone, especially Community developers, spend their days talking about change without an understanding of what it means to communicate. This was also an error I suffered from prior to attending the “Connecting Communities” workshop run by Dr Rama. The biggest misconception about communicating in general is that all it requires is the ability for you to articulate yourself very well. When you’re pitching a business idea this works very well however when your engaging a group of people about real life issues with the hope of being able to plant a seed of change, this wouldn’t be very ideal.

A number of lessons stuck out for me during the workshop such as the importance of transparency and equal power, the art of listening and asking questions but most importantly I learnt the power of  allowing people to arrive at their own solutions without imposing them. The 2 and a half days was a major test for me as I specialise in delivering trainings which generally require me to prepare content to deliver. It’s not as engaging as dialogues are. However I’ve been wondering on how workshops and trainings would look like if they were delivered using the art of conversation techniques. How a workshop looking at digital active citizenship would be laid out and how effective it would be. With all these learnings one generally has to put it play in order to get better at having open, honest conversations. The true test is being able put theory in practice and watch the learnings unfold.

 

For me this opportunity came quicker than expected when I was asked to host a Civil Society Engagement on the Violence against women and children. Not having hosted a workshop before in my life but having attended many, I worried about a number of factors. Will I be able to shut up and listen? Will I be boring? Will the participants be encouraged beyond the conversation? Will I get the art of conversation terribly wrong?

You see these thoughts were the least of my problems. On the morning of the dialogue the participants started walking in, a rather “mature” group of individuals, more mature than the crowd I’m use to facilitating to. Automatically I started thinking of all the possible sicknesses I could make up on the spot to get out of doing the dialogue. Quite frankly I was wasting my own time, there was no getting out of it. As the room filled up I saw people who had probably run their organisations for years and years and here I was about to make them guinea pigs of my new found information.

I opened up with a joke and by no means was it to make them feel welcome but rather for me to laugh and actually get some oxygen to my heart J The day went by, we went in and out of group discussion in very intimate smaller circles. A dissent came up in the room which almost saw the women get up with their pitch folks but instead the dissent was amplified and spoken about. I had people coming up to during tea and commending me on how the dialogue was done and how great I am. This gave me the right amount of confidence to soldier through. We concluded the dialogue and seemingly by the smiles in the room. Everybody was pleased with the amount of work done.

 

We take the simplest things for granted, such as talking and listening and for me the most important thing I took away from facilitating was that we mustn’t over complicate things, the content is useless if the process is not right. I took away a new found respect for communication as a whole but most importantly I walked away and was thankful for all the gifts I received. I’m grateful for DDP creating both those spaces for me to further grow and I look forward to the many more lessons I am yet to learn and teach.

TERMINAL ILLNESS AT HOSPITAL

After many years of uncertainty and staff shortages, Addington Hospital has decided to approach the community for help. A committee comprising of Hospital management and the public that use the Hospital facilities on a regular basis, is being constituted to deal with these problems. Poor staff attitude is also adding to service delivery problems and these will also be addressed by the Committee.

 

Addington Hospital faced closure in 2010 due to staff shortages. The Hospital services patients from a wide geographical area of Durban. It is a 571 bedded and 2 200 staffed district and regional hospital, situated on South Beach, Durban. A vast array of services is offered and it has a Primary Health Care Clinic as well which is named the ‘Gateway Clinic.’ Primary health care is offered at this Clinic at no charge. Patients are referred to the ‘Polyclinic’ should they need care that the ‘Gateway Clinic cannot handle. The Polyclinic handles more complicated cases and a fee is levied according to the patient’s means. Referrals are made to other specialist facilities which Addington can’t handle.

 

The Children’s Hospital which is situated separately from the main hospital was closed in 1984 due to racial tensions when it was opened to all races for the first time. It was rebuilt in 2010 and is now reopened.

 

Doctors and nurses are drawn from other health facilities when the staff at the Hospital is stretched to the maximum. Staff absenteeism due to illness and leave, strain the existing system. The patient attendance is very high at all of its facilities and drawing temporary staff from other facilities is not an ideal solution as permanent positions need to be filled. The vacancies are not filled due to poor consultation between Addington Hospital and the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Health Department and management apathy. Staff from other Provincial health facilities are used to fill in when there are staff shortages.

 

Patients are often turned away from the Casualty Section and Gateway Clinic. Waiting times of twelve hours are common in the Casualty Ward. There are gaps in the service delivery.

Due to the pressure of being short staffed, it is common to find that blood results for example lie unattended until the patient asks. Patient files are not read properly by the attending doctor and unnecessary questions are asked of the patients which are already

recorded in the patient’s files due to staff attitude. Staff do not read the consultation history on file which places a burden on the patients having to remember their past consultations or carry their medication.

 

Patients at ‘Gateway Clinic’ are often turned away at closing time of 16:00 as they have not been attended to during the Clinic operating hours. They have to come back the next day and there is no guarantee that they would be attended to. They are sometimes referred to the Casualty Section and due to the high volumes at that Section, the waiting period becomes extended and unbearable.

 

The Pharmacy division of the AIDS and general dispensary have interns that are not properly supervised and the scripts are often not found in the files. The interns have no knowledge how to search or where to send patients back to the attending doctor and this causes enormous frustrations to patients due to time wastage. Due to the high number of patients, the qualified pharmacists often overlook the prescriptions that are not filed properly in patient files.

 

Complaints are not dealt with adequately by staff. There appears to be a vindictive approach by staff when concerns are raised by patients. There have been reports of patients being left unattended to after requesting use of bedpans.

 

The staff do not process the patients quickly for registration and also for the collection of files after registration as they waste time in processing file requests and ignore patient verbal enquiries. Many patients spend the better part of the day looking for their files after departments send them to other departments and the patients leave the Hospital through sheer frustration.

 

Appointments are made with certain specialists within the hospital by doctors within the Hospital and when patients keep the appointments, the specialist department has no clue as to what the referral is about. The receptionists at the departments do not offer any assistance and responsibility is put back to the patient and not on the medical staff.

 

The ‘suggestion boxes’ that are provided in certain areas of the Hospital and Clinics seem to be a waste of time as these are not followed up. Complaints are referred to the P.R.O. department which does not have the authority and accountability to make meaningful decisions. The Hospital Manager and Senior Management are not readily available to deal with complaints.

 

These accumulated problems have been left for far too long which is causing frustrations to the very people the Hospital is supposed to be serving and has also given it a tarnished image. The ‘operation’ is long overdue and it is hoped that service delivery will improve with the correct number and calibre of staff.

 Sister Bhengu is spearheading the drive to set up the committee. She is in charge of ‘Gateway’ and the ‘Polyclinic.’

 

 

Refuse Pollutes Our Community!

Slade van Wyk

 

The community of Mariannridge is slowly becoming polluted. A lack of refuse bins are the root cause of this issue. Refuse is excessive, unsanitary and uncontrolled resulting in an unclean, untidy and tatty living environment.

The issue of waste began in 2013, just after the community took to the streets to protest about their lack of housing. This housing protest turned into a violent encounter that was equally disruptive and destructive. “Coming from a community that already ‘lacked resources’ it was unfortunate that what we had (refuse bins) was destroyed just to get our voices heard,” said a local from the area.

This demonstration erupted when residents in the area found themselves in the midst of uncomfortable living conditions, so the solution was to take to the streets to get their voices heard. Looting and rioting, residents made use of anything that was in the way to block roads and cause unrest in the area. The community bins were burnt and destroyed in the outrage. The outcome of this event has been unsuccessful as no plans of housing development have been exposed to this day.

Prior to the housing protest, a local community organisation had liaised with the local municipal offices and the solid waste office to provide refuse bins as the community was in a polluted state. These officials kept to their agreement providing rubbish bins, they (local municipal offices) even went beyond what was asked and also provided the community with refuse bags to assist the collection process of the job. The provision of refuse bags has continued on a monthly basis.

I would like to pose some questions to the community, or rather begin a dialogue or conversation; I would like to know if we (the residents) do not realise the issue at hand and try to resolve it, then who will do it on our behalf? When is the right time to step in? How much longer must we marinade in our own rubbish, no pun intended, until we realise that we are in a crisis? How do we go about solving this issue? Who do we (the community) contact and hold accountable for resolution? And lastly how do we ensure that the same actions do not repeat themselves and lead us into darkness again?

Our living environment needs a face lift; it is unhealthy to live with waste surrounding us daily! This issue needs to be reported and re-reported until something is done about it. We need to raise awareness to our locals and make it known that living in this state is a danger to us and to the natural environment. Officials may sit back and lack interest but actions have to be taken. Simply asking for assistance could be all we need to work out this problem.

We can begin solving this problem by creating awareness of the importance of a clean living environment. Local community organisations, that have a vested interest in the community, can assist by providing platforms to inform community members of the actions we can take to resolve the issue at hand. Fund raisers could aid the burden and provide garbage bins that we could situate in designated spaces.

If we claim that this is our community and our home, we should not sit back and suffocate for our own mistakes; we can serve penance for our sins and work towards a beneficial solution.

 

Kept In The Dark

SOUTH AFRICA IN TURMOIL! FOR WEEKS NEWS HEADLINES HAVE BEEN BOMBARDING US WITH SHOCKING HEADLINES AND EVERYBODY HAS BECOME A SOCIAL MEDIA POLITICIAN. EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION! BUT DO THEY? WHAT ABOUT THE SILENT MASSES???

Snenhlanhla Shangase

 

Nositha is one of the Ugu District Municipality villages, the most desperate looking villages in this area, despite being less than five minutes away from the lush suburbs of the Margate and Ramsgate, with their blue-flag beaches and a booming tourism industry. Nositha schools, despite many efforts by neighbouring Non-Government Organisations and Churches, are just plain sad. 

 

Outsiders fear driving into the area in bad weather. On any day of the week scores of young, unemployed adults can be seen sitting under trees, in their small yards or on the veranda of the only grocery/convenience store in the whole area. Nositha, as other villages of course boasts some excitement that can be had from time to time. People meet at any of the two taps that provide the whole village with water, for some much needed social time.

 

SOME OF THE MAIN COMMENTS WERE:

  • “The ruling party saved us from apartheid!”
  • “There are no other parties to vote for. We can not trust DA we do not trust white people. EFF doesn’t count, Malema is Zuma’s son who is just angry with daddy and will go back home one day!”
  • “If ANC goes the social grants will go with it!”
  • “Because I am ANC, my family has always been ANC and we will always be anc come rain or sunshine!”

 

Conversations flowed easily until politics was brought up... The atmosphere changed. A distinct aggression settled over the crowd.

“Politicians don’t care about us. They care about the money, their expensive drinks at Sky-Bar (upscale restaurant, hotel and bar in Margate). They drive past us in their Mercedes like we are nothing.” This was one of the comments thrown about, with most of the villagers all having their say with similar comments.

After a long discussion about the many services they have been promised but never received, I wanted to know why they did nothing about all this, and looking at me like I was crazy, they said: “We are just the little people on the ground, what can we do?

I then pushed to find out what political party they voted for and if they would continue to vote for it. An astounding, if not completely surprising “Yes!” filled the air.

“Why?”, I wanted to know.

 

MY OBSERVATIONS WERE THE FOLLOWING:

The people are completely ignorant of current affairs. They either knew nothing or very little. These are people with only SABC Television, no internet and no social media. Newspapers do not sell in this area but who could afford them anyway?

They are greatly impacted by national politics but strangely or intentionally in the dark about them. Could this be the reason for the lack of logic behind some of their reasoning?

 

SO WHERETO FROM HERE?

After spending time with these people and others from similar rural communities, my solution is: An ‘Open Dialogue Workshop’, to gather the people in one place and dialogue with them about current affairs like the SASSA debacle, what ‘junk status’ means, or why the noise of the cabinet reshuffle and what the marches are all about. The aim should not be political reshuffling of the mind but basic education on current affairs. This should be about people venting, connecting and learning from each other.

HOW TO: CONVERSATIONS WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS


I spoke to Bab’ Richard Sima a traditional leader of Nositha he said:
“The ANC dominates in Nositha. The young and old alike know
nothing about politics, they just support the organisation. Ignorance
is bliss, they do not know what they are missing so they are
happy with crumbs. Young people need political education, it is
time for them to fight. We are tired. We have fought our struggle”,
however we are all affected by political unrest. If the rand
drops, prices go up and government spends even less on community
projects so we will lose even the crumbs that we get. The young
people are the only ones who can bring change now.
I also spoke to Solly. An ANC official who did not want his name
nor his position revealed as his office is under investigation.
“The questions you ask suggests that the people are ignorant.
The people are not ignorant. They know what the ANC has done
for them. Obviously people need change but change takes time
and it is not an overnight business. It might not look like it but
we work very hard and all this negativity we face is not helping.
It’s just propaganda.”


WOULD YOU SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY DIALOGUE PROCESS IF
SOMEONE IMPLEMENTED IT?


Bab’ Sima “ I can’t support such programs. It could only work if done in secret. I would not want to be seen as taking sides. It’s the only way to stay in touch with my people. There is too much division already and my interests have to remain above politics at all times.” Mr Solly said: “We support all efforts of people empowerment. We do not, however, support people who have agendas to blind our people with their political propaganda. Bring your proposal but we cannot promise money as all our energies are concentrated on empowering our people” As confusing as this was I had no hope of finishing this conversation as the Glenfiddich 15 years Reserve that had been flowing all evening was taking its toll.            

   

                                

A CALL TO ACTION:

Whether the local ANC or other stakeholders will support this initia- tive or not, IT will not stop me!

Africa does not have to be the Dark Continent when so many of us can actually see the light.  “It only takes a spark to get a fire going”  It is not right that the majority of South Africans live in the dark about matters that can have such a disastrous impact on their daily lives.  True Ubuntu is sharing the truth with each other.

 

I need volunteers, I need donations, I need people with insight to help me share this message. Help me bring this much needed light into  rural South Africa.

 

“LET US REMEMBER THE FORGOTTEN”