Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Returned from the IVLP program

It has been a while since I blogged last time.

Just returned for a very learning and fun filled tour of three weeks to US under the IVLP program with another 22 people from other nations. There was another colleague from India.

The theme of the program was 'NGO Management and Civic Activism' and under this theme as a group we were taken through five different places in US starting from Washington DC, San Diego, Charlotte, Boston and Vermont.

The idea was to introduce us to the best practices of NGO managment and to show how the trinity of Government, NGOs and civil society interfaces successfully to bring about social change. The participants in general were from developing countries and the challenges in each of the country was very unique, though common at certain levels.
For example gender discrimination is there in India as well but the condition in a place like Quetta in Pakistan is much more difficult. Similarly places like Serbia, West Bank offer different challenges altogether.

It was great to understand how US has been able to create a truly Federal Democracy and also the philosophy behind it. The freedom to connect with the politicians came as a complete surprise to me when we interacted with the City Council Commissioner of Charlotte.

On an overall basis we got to see the sunny side of the NGO sector in US and it was really amazing to see how the organizations try to work harmoniously with the civil society both educating it and also drawing its resources for its mission. Some of the organizations like 'Year Up' have clear parallels in India.

The idea of a healthy relationship with the government and the NGOs has tremendous value in terms of the potential for problem solving that can get unlocked. Not sure how much time it would take in some of our nations to learn these practices.

Along with the scheduled agenda, the 'unplanned' component of meeting and interacting with the participants from such diverse nations like Israel, Slovania, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sudan, West Bank , Jamaica etc was an altogether unique experience.

When we get to understand the internal struggles of working in specific countries, we realize that the world is really far from flat. The challenges of low economic growth leading to unemployment amongst youth, corruption, political upheavels, hostile neighbours, environmental degradation, violence based on identity, human rights violation, gender based discrimination, AIDs are some of the common pain areas. The role that NGOs can play in the face of such massive issues calls for serious introspection.

I consider myself privileged to be part of such a charged up gathering of people in a nation which surely understands what human potential is all about and how our institutions need to be organized to make the best of our time and resources.

As a group, we are now trying to understand how to take this international network of experience to add value to our local efforts towards critical issues. I am sure something of value will emerge out of this collaborative effort.

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