The value of Start Network membership to our new local and national NGO members
In 2020, 12 non-governmental organisations from Pakistan, India, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo joined Start Network. These new members joined as part of Start Network’s plans to build a more balanced network made up of more local and national actors. As we reflect on the value of a locally led network and the challenges of building one from the perspectives of the hub leadership and external stakeholders, we share here some of the new members experience and stories from their engagement with Start Network. These are synthesised into three main themes – operational practices, visibility and credibility.
Development of Standard Operating Procedures, Policies and Practises
Following the Start Network due diligence process, all new members developed and improved their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), policies, and practices. The due diligence process has prompted reflection and brought value to new members. Every organisation had identified different policies and procedures to improve following the due diligence process, some were general governance practices such as increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions while others were practical policies such as data protection. Improvements in policies and procedures helped new members to adopt and integrate best practices into programmes which in turn lead to increased partnerships and financial benefits.
“[Due to] our work with Start Network, we were able to adopt and integrate best practices and policies into our work. As an example, I would like to tell you that anti-fraud and conflict of interest policies were added to our SOPs. These policies have now become part of our formal SOPs.” Ghulam Mustafa Zaor, HANDS, Pakistan
“We have been given details about our weaknesses, and our qualities. It is necessary to emphasise these points in reforms, and to improve our capacities; we are in the process of establishing a program [to make these changes]. Jean Mudekereza, AFPDE, DRC
"Due diligence… was for us a kind of organisational analysis and therefore the autopsy which helped us to improve our policies and our management instruments, this improved our governance and gave us credibility to our partners. For example, during the evaluation of the offers for projects linked to the flooding, Handicap International discovered us and asked to join forces with us in the mobilisation of funds by working on an alert." Eddy Yams, Caritas Goma, DRC
“[The] evaluation of [due] diligence [has]... stimulated us to improve more… [the recommendations] have enabled us to improve our services in the various interventions that we have in the field, it has helped us programmatically and financially, therefore belonging to Start adds great value to our work.” Jean Marie Vianney Kanamugire, Caritas Goma, DRC
New members stated that they have benefited from increased credibility after joining Start Network. Organisational credibility is important, but it also leads to many other benefits for new members. Credibility helps to form partnerships with donors and provides a greater voice to members and local communities on the international stage. For example, new members state how the positive image associated with being a Start Network member has attracted partnerships with ‘prestigious organisations’, given more weight to proposals, resulted in more projects with international organisations, and provided more donor opportunities.
“Start Network is a credibility stamp on any organisation's profile. Once you get that stamp, which you receive after a due diligence process that requires answering 195 questions and backing them up with proof, many donors and various significant opportunities open. We can definitely feel the difference… The comprehensiveness of due diligence of Start Network was up to the mark. It allowed us, rather prepared us, to improve upon our systems, policies and mechanisms to an extent that we managed to win many projects and solicited biddings. This improvement allowed us to have three projects with WHH including Together Project which is a mega program, UNESCO project for girl's education, UNHCR emergency response plan for 2021, Concern Rapid Fund project for curtailing Covid-19, and CARE International project in response to Covid-19. Although some of the donors were our previous partners, the improvement in systems have added to their trust in us, and we believe credit goes to Start Network.” Najeeb Ullah, IDEA, Pakistan
“We have been approached by a US based organisation… The [organisation] was impressed after learning that my organisation is a Start Network member. I would say that this has added value to our organisation as an international organisation has approached us.” Sanjay Pandey, Yuganter, India
“Belonging to the [Start] Network has given us a certain credibility which has contributed to us being funded by other donors such as UNICEF, the DRC Humanitarian Fund and the Global Human Rights Fund.” Anuarite Kabuo, MIDEFEHOPS, DRC
“Start Network has improved our credibility and as a result it has improved our voice… For example, INDUS Consortium contacted us to participate in a bid and to provide a voice for poor people. This would not have happened if we were not part of Start Network.” Naseer Channa, BSDSB, Pakistan
New members reported increased visibility after joining Start Network. Visibility gives voice to ground realities at an international stage, improves organisational credibility, and increases partnerships. For example, some new members were given opportunity to participate in meetings with international organisations, have messages disseminated through radio and other media channels, and to have increased digital visibility. In one case the increased confidence felt by an organisation encouraged them to lead on more projects and to raise more issues, this increased their visibility, voice, and influence. In another case, the new member was able to present at a forum with international organisations that had been organised by Start Network. Ultimately, the new member stated that increased visibility alongside credibility contributes to increased influence.
“[Start Network membership] very much increases our visibility, both within networks and outside of them - it's much easier to find information on organisations now. Digital visibility has also increased significantly, and we have even received a few partnership requests from small organisations.” Christian Zihindula Basibuhe and Deogratias Pondu Maheshe, AFEDEM, DRC
“[After becoming a Start Network member] We are gaining confidence... and we are taking leadership in some of our work. This helps us to increase our influence and raise issues which we were not confident [enough to do] before… Now we are leading other organisations which is very good, and this gives us more importance.” Tirtha Prasad Saikia, NEADS, India
“After becoming a member of the Start Network, our organisation’s influence and voice has certainly increased… [An] assembly organised by the Start Network which was attended by international organisations helped us to raise our voice… I would say that our local experience and exposure has its own worth... I was able raise local issues at a forum and due attention was given to them… Further, government and other NGOs are giving more importance to our voice due to engagement in the Start Network.” Jamshaid Farid, HELP Foundation, Pakistan
Future for Start membership
From these interviews, it is clear that new members perceive significant value in joining Start Network, from improvements in policies to increased credibility and visibility. At the same time, new members have made recommendations for how to further increase that value.
Improvements in SOPs, policies and practises was perceived as a valuable element of Start Network membership, but it was reflected that Start Network should ensure that new members are continually supported to improve and strengthen their organisational systems, such as SOPs, policies, and practises.
Improvements in credibility and are important for new members, and it was recommended that these could be improved further by providing a formal recognition of Start Network membership, including giving more visibility to new member logos, and providing training and support to improve the digital presence of some new members.
As well as the tangible values of membership mentioned above, the final quote highlights the benefits of collective action and how by joining Start Network, NGOs can help bring about positive change by acting together.
“I would strongly recommend local organisations to join Start Network due to number of reasons. Firstly, it is important because the due diligence process of Start Network make the organisations think through its policies, protocols, and they end up developing those protocols. It is of great help for the local organisations as it strengthens them. Secondly, it is important to join as strength lies in the collective work, not the individual. Civil society organisations are in crises and have to ensure their survival which can only be possible through joining Start Network or international forums.… I would like to reiterate here that we have successfully projected the local issues at the global forums, increased our interactions with international organisations, developed good connections with district governments, and following up on protocols which will help our organisation in creating a larger social impact.” Jamshaid Farid, HELP Foundation, Pakistan