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Governance for CSOs

Making an e-course on governance for civil society organisations in Rwanda, is that a good plan? Many people say it is.

Some time ago, I was in a long discussion with the director of a civil society organisation. He told me:

Our volunteers are our members and they have to pay membership fees, but they expect to get something when we have a project because then they can do a small job. But it has to be agreed with our board who are our volunteers, too.

I tried to sort out with him what the difference between a member, a volunteer, a board member and a staff member was, but this uncertainty about different roles was profound. It turned out that nobody really understood. We had a good laugh about it, and the experience made me think.

Serving as a board member

I am also a board member of a Rwandese NGO. When I joined, I asked what my responsibilities were. According to the Executive Secretary, the board was mainly there for fundraising. I thought the board was there to govern the organisation and to guide the Executive Secretary, so I asked for this information in writing. The document I received did not answer my questions. Ever since then, the Executive Secretary keeps asking me what I have done to fundraise for the organisation. In return, I ask her for an annual plan, a financial report and minutes from previous board meetings. An interesting clash of expectations.

Energy spark in a meeting

Then I met Alexis Rukundo, who was also doing some work with boards about governance. He has served on many boards himself. We spent several hours swapping funny stories about all the things that happen on boards, in organisations, and between boards and organisations.

All this energy resulted in a plan to write a project proposal. We decided to make e-based training material for civil society organisations on governance. We wanted to see whether we could help move the sector forward in Rwanda. We wrote a nice six-page document and went out to find partners to help us to improve the proposal and find funding.

A good proposal

It seems we hit the nail on the head. All government and civil society partners that we talked to said it was an excellent proposal and that there was no training material available for boards and organisations. They wanted to partner with us as they felt it was a much-needed project.

The next step is to find funding. We do not need a whole lot. For €80,000 we can make a lot of materials and put them on a self-training website or blend learning with either face-to-face training or coaching. However, funds are usually already committed so the search will take time. But if the idea is good, the funds will come.

Interested in knowing more? Please contact me: gvdhulst@threemountains.academy or Alexis: rukundo.alexis@gmail.com.

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Gerry van der Hulst

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