|Its programs build water systems and also plant community forests to prevent the dropping of the water table. Its volunteer and professional staff resolve inter-village conflicts which have destroyed water supply to neighbouring communities by restarting the abandoned local school, building a swimming pool, beginning a solar ovens program managed by women, and offering teenagers a daily karate course. They start an innovative community radio station / solar power micro-credit program using scrap PV material from the Czech Republic to decrease the isolation of the region and its dependence on fossil fuel and charcoal. As one volunteer from Italy comments, “What inspires me to work with AMURT is the optimism with which it integrates all of its community projects, always starting from the bottom up, always focusing on those whom it serves.”In countries like Haiti where AMURT and NHE go hand in hand, the influx of development aid inevitably affects the educational initiatives of Ananda Marga. However, the integration of programs and management structures of NHE is inherently present in its holistic philosophy even without the extra relief its “big brother” agency can offer. Here are a few simple tips to take your vision for a well-financed and integrated NHE project from an idea to reality:
- Define Vision and Identity
Create opportunities for debates. Involve diverse groups of participants. Interactive and team-building visioning exercises encourage people to develop a keen interest in and identity with the project. Use the small cards method, guiding the participants to put ideas and issues on little pieces of paper, one per piece, then splitting the ideas in groups and drawing together a comprehensive and concise vision. Use this visioning process together with the SWOT method to assess the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
- Get the system in place
It was probably OK not to balance your family check book when you were on your own; however running an organization requires very careful administrative procedures. Probably the most important step is to create an organizational Manual for Administrative Procedures. The document outlines the detailed steps for every single financial and procedural transaction of the organization. It is crucial in obtaining the trust of the donors, and more importantly it will help create a project management structure which will address issues such as purchasing of materials, payroll, accounting, and administration.
- Think Out of the Box
Be creative; Experiment, Push the Limit, Take risks, Don’t miss on any opportunity out there.
In Haiti a school rooftop accommodated a garden started with a few used tires, the experience helped create a wide school-to-home organic gardening concept now funded by CIDA and studied by the Ministry of Education.
- Professional Conduct
Define a modest but independent office space. Decorate it, bring colour and plants, and organize the files and documents. Create business cards, brochures, T-shirts, stickers and logos. Print the vision of the organization, design a website, post regular e-mail updates of program activities. One of AMURT’s education partners in Haiti is DEFI, a French NGO consisting of 4 young people working from an attic space with walls covered with children’s drawings and crafts, reminder whiteboards, and inspirational quotes next to shelves of neatly organized folders. Don’t judge the scope of their work by the casual simplicity of their office environment. They have started from scratch an applied science education program and spread it to more than 800 schools, with the ambitious but realistic goal of covering the entire country.
- Create Synergies
Network, form collaborative relationships, create contacts with potential partners such as community groups, GOs, NGOs, UN, and IDAs. Do not even for a second allow a sense of inferiority to prevent you from knocking on any door. Keep your new contacts updated with e-mail reports, photos, e-letters, and regular invitations to cultural events. Try to think of these partnerships as friendships, even if they represent a financial contract. Your objective is not merely to find finances for your projects, but also to learn from others’ experiences, and facilitate a process of coordination and cooperation among others with similar vision. Your sincerity and idealism are your greatest allies, and already put you in a leadership position. A dynamic and community oriented approach can often break an impasse, and open doors to rewarding and mutually beneficial partnerships. In Haiti the national karate association became one of AMURT’s most active allies, and this synergy ensured the popularity and participation of the youth in an otherwise controversial community initiative.
- Think BIG
Increase your operational scope. Set high goals and standards. Seek broad alliances. Maybe your project can add a community outreach extension such as a women’s program, a youth after-school activity, an Internet center, a special interests club, or an urban tree nursery and reforestation initiative. Feel the pulse of the local community, and tailor all your programs accordingly. Pay attention to particularly harsh problems such as AIDS, sexual exploitation, violence, and prostitution. The community focus of your projects will allow you to access a wider and more diverse pool of grants and
contacts. The universal aspect of your ideology will inherently serve as a uniting forum for diverse groups and ideas.
- Start Broad, Pinpoint Gradually
The diversification and broad scope of the project goals and activities are extremely important especially during the first stages of the project. Keep in mind that the project goals should not necessary stay fixed, but could be flexible and able to adjust to local conditions. With the increase of your knowledge and experience gradually pinpoint the project objectives, always consulting both donors and beneficiaries.
Initially AMURT’s proposal to CIDA included the rehabilitation and curriculum support of 2 NHE schools and 5 regular schools in the NW. The local communities petitioned the organization to instead open and manage a secondary school. After prolonged needs assessment which included visioning forums and input from both government and sponsor consultants AMURT amended the project goals. The project concentrated on setting up 3 model NHE schools one of which would serve as a teacher-training and professional education centre. All things considered, at the end the proposal financed a NHE project of large scope without originally having such an objective. The initial broad focus and community orientation of the project proposal was crucial in gaining the trust of both the funding agency and the local population.And always remember that the success of any project will be determined by the degree of your ingenuity, persistence, and constant ideation on the broad purpose of your mission.