Laying a Foundation: Training for Leaders of Caribbean Nongovernmental Organizations

“I am the most senior member of staff at Environment Tobago, and have worked for environmental NGOs for more than 15 years. The Local Capacity for Local Solutions timely intervention into my career path has, so far, had a very significant positive impact within a short space of time.”

BARRY LOVELACE, MSC, ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION COORDINATOR,
ENVIRONMENT TOBAGO

Environment Tobago is an environmental nongovernmental organization (NGO), established in 1999 and registered under the Trinidad and Tobago Companies Act of 1995. As a proactive advocacy group, Environment Tobago rallies the public to engage in environmental stewardship, conservation, and sustainable development. The organization has over 100 registered members, managed by an elected board of directors, three salaried staff members, one on-the-job trainee expected to join the team soon, and occasional volunteers. Most of its fieldwork is accomplished by volunteers and members.

Barry Lovelace, a senior member of the staff, says he first became aware of the USAID Local Capacity for Local Solutions (LCLS) program in July 2018, when a colleague forwarded a call for Expressions of Interest that had been issued by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre in Barbados. It was an invitation for senior NGO staff to participate in a regional workshop on advocacy. Mr. Lovelace recalled that the application process required significant time and effort; “however, recognizing the potential value of the offer, I made time in my busy schedule to attend to it. Upon retrospect, this turned out (and is still turning out) to be a very valuable decision. My proposal was successful and as a result, a chain of opportunities has kept opening up, thanks to the LCLS team.”

The leaders’ workshop took place in Guyana, July 10–13, 2018. In addition to teaching the attendees proven techniques for successful advocacy, the session allowed them to network with other regional NGOs on various aspects of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr. Lovelace reflected that this exposure helped him to “broaden my perspective of the sustainable development efforts in the region. Now I don’t feel so alone.”

The leaders who participated in the workshop created a social network platform, where they frequently interact and support each other. According to Mr. Lovelace, “I am of the view that the NGO sector will lead the way to meaningful Caribbean Community integration, and Environment Tobago is well on the way.”

Second, the advocacy workshop led to a follow-up invitation from LCLS to submit concept papers for a “Comprehensive Capacity Grant.” Environment Tobago submitted a competitive proposal and was shortlisted. Mr. Lovelace was eventually invited to a proposal-writing clinic in Trinidad, sponsored by LCLS, to be guided in writing the full proposal: “This was the first workshop I had been to, in all my years of attending workshops, where the output of the workshop was the development of an actual proposal that will go forward for evaluation and potential approval.” Further, he explained, “I left the workshop feeling more competent, such that, even if my proposal were to end up being out-competed (which I doubt), I am confident that the skills I developed during that week of training will allow me to pursue successful proposals in the near future.”

Third, although Environment Tobago’s Comprehensive Capacity Grant proposal was still under review as of this writing, if successful, it is envisioned to deliver tremendous development benefits to the organization and to the individuals who were tapped to undertake the various activities. The proposal focused on three areas of capacity:
Fundraising and resource mobilization
Upgrading of the financial management system
Setup of a database management system

Fourth, Mr. Lovelace learned of an LCLS- sponsored opportunity for a scholarship to take an online certification course — “Essentials of NGO Management”— administered by LCLS’s major partner in the Caribbean, the University of the West Indies. He applied for the course and scholarship, was accepted, and presently is working toward the certificate. He shared, “Although I am midway through this course, already the experiences there have improved my ability to express a clearer vision for Environment Tobago. I am better able to see the big picture, and I also am able to see myself in a leading role within the NGO sector in Tobago, helping to chart the way for a more sustainable society as the island makes its contribution to the SDGs.”