Nivedita Datta, VANI
Resilience -that is, the process of coping with stress in times of rapid changes, became a key dimension of people’s lives in 2020. Civil society organizations also showed remarkable resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. As in many countries around the world, CSOs in India became engaged with the task of extending support in the form of material relief and other services to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to those ones affected by the nation-wide lockdown enacted by the Government in order to prevent the spread of the disease and its aftermath economic impact.
Thus, the Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) adjusted its efforts of furthering the understanding and acceptance of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability and the need for adoption of its tenets to the specific context of Indian Voluntary Sector operations through the “new normal” of social media. Given extensive CSOs’ involvement on relief and rehabilitation activities during the pandemic, VANI has continued to engage with its members and non-members and urge them not to lose sight of putting in place appropriate accountability practices according to the Global Standard. This was necessary, as CSO standard procedures are many times overlooked in the zeal for rendering services during emergency situations.
Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that people were placed at the center of CSO work and that strong CSO partnerships were developed -which are essential for CSOs to become credible, impactful, and effective- became crucial for building resilience to overcome the crisis. Indeed, people-driven work and strong partnerships are two of the commitments of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability, which have been promoted by some of our member organizations as reflected in a collection of cases recently compiled by VANI around the Global Standard’s 12 commitments.
People-driven work means that power and resources are adequately shared between CSOs and the people supported through projects and activities, and that the priorities shared by the community members and other stakeholders inform CSO’s decision making processes. This in turn, requires careful design of CSO primary constituents’ engagement throughout an organization -both within particular projects and across various areas of work (such as planning, communication, evaluation, etc.).
Set up in 1979, Gram Vikas is an organization working on community development in remote and hilly districts of the states of Odisha and Jharkhand. During the pandemic, and after a series of consultations with community members, Gram Vikas adopted a plan to support families suffering from loss of daily wages due to the pandemic, which placed people at the center of its COVID-19 response. The village members collectively decided the content of the basic relief packages received. Additionally, women from the villages took the lead in identifying the neediest families and determined the most appropriate support required. Further, in order to address the challenges faced by migrant workers stranded in different areas of the country during the COVID-19 related lockdown, Gram Vikas partnered with other local organizations to build support systems to migrant workers. Thus, the Bandhu Helpline shared information on access to food, shelter and other basic needs for this group of people.