In June 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Local Capacity for Local Solutions (LC4LS) project sponsored a scholarship for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to enroll in an NGO Management course (offered by the University of West Indies Open Campus) for leaders of organizations in the region. Among the attendees was Ms. Sheddona Richards, who has been a volunteer for several years with the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) organization in Grenada.
Ms. Richards says that performing volunteer work and sitting on the Executive Committee of CYEN–Grenada made her realize that leaders need more than passion when working with NGOs. Strong administration and management knowledge are also essential. She confirmed that the NGO Management course was instrumental in developing her ability to effectively align the organization’s goals with its activities. One of the many “sterling lessons” she gleaned from the program was the importance of clear goals and effective strategic planning.
Ms. Richards explained, “In the Caribbean, we have unique challenges and development issues, not just as persons of many diverse cultures, but also as nations of small sizes; limited resources; high vulnerability to natural disasters; narrow production bases; inadequate human resources; high social vulnerabilities; and high rates of poverty. Our challenges are great and can never be resolved by ever-changing governments, which often are more concerned with political will than with sustainable development goals.” She believes that NGOs are necessary to ensure that governments are kept accountable and can provide support in a way that benefits all stakeholders. “Through the NGO Management course,” she said, “I now have a better understanding of and improved appreciation for these factors and am better equipped to assist with designing CYEN solutions that improve our responsiveness as an organization.”
Ms. Richards pointed out that in just a few months, this course covered a range of topics, such as the history of NGOs, ways to overcome sustainability issues, opportunities for resource mobilization, and project proposal writing. In fact, she was a member of a group that was assigned to develop a proposal for a selected NGO. “That was a very valuable exercise,” said Ms. Richards. “It allowed me to improve my skills in this area and enhance my contribution to CYEN fundraising.”
For Ms. Richards, the value of the course has extended beyond her personal development. As a result, transferring her new knowledge to other CYEN team members, the institution as a whole has been strengthened. “I would recommend completing the NGO Management course to anyone working in the NGO sector in the Caribbean,” she said. “[The course] provides the fundamentals required to achieve successful programmatic and organizational outcomes. One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”