This series is written by Godwin Yidana and edited by Gayle Pescud.
Starting and managing an NGO in Ghana, or anywhere, can test the most saintly of spirits. Keeping it functioning ought to buy you a first class ticket past the pearly gates. Perhaps we’re exaggerating a little. But what we’re trying to say is that setting up an NGO in Ghana (or Africa) is NOT EASY and operating it successfully is even more difficult. In this series we’re going to show you how to get an NGO started, how to keep it going, and give you a glimpse into some of our ups and downs.
We’re going to help you learn about starting an NGO in Ghana over a series of posts, beginning with Step 1, today, defining your vision and mission. This step is generic for NGO management anywhere, so please feel free to pass this information on to anyone who is thinking of starting an NGO or may be uncertain of the direction of their NGO.
Over time, we’ll look at operations and give you glimpses into our own NGO struggles and achievements straight from “the G-lish NGO diaries.”
The Beginning: Setting up the NGO
You need a compelling vision and genuine commitment to that vision for the long-term. If you do things right you will go MaD (making a difference) in a way that fully benefits your target communities.
I will explain the ten basic steps to help you form and run an NGO in Ghana, starting with number 1.
1. Develop Your Vision and Mission
These will explain your organisation’s existence and focus its activities.
And, this will “sell” your NGO to the world.
Writing a vision and mission is like crafting an elevator pitch: short, clear and a little intriguing, if possible.
But let’s look at the difference between vision and mission first.
Your NGO’s vision is what the community would be if the problem is solved. A vision is the “ideal situation” that you hope to achieve.
At the most basic level, your vision could be “World Peace”.
Your mission would be to “eradicate conflict by…” and listing ways to do this.
G-lish’s vision is “Economic choice and environmental regeneration for impoverished communities in Ghana.”
Establishing a meaningful vision requires consultation and time. You must identify a problem that requires a solution. Sometimes this is very complex and technical and sometimes it is simple.
The best way to determine the vision, and thus problem to be solved, is to spend time with your target group/s to learn their needs, aspirations and future goals. The ability to be flexible and to listen is important. It’s important to get it right now, before you start down the wrong path.
You might want to bring solar panels, but the community might really want and need a health clinic. Just because you have something to offer, does not mean that it is helpful to the community. Adapt your offer to meet real needs will save everyone a lot of time, stress and money.
Most importantly, research organizations similar to the one you are starting to ensure you are not be duplicating the work of other groups. It is more beneficial to address a neglected need, than a need that is already catered for, unless the other groups is not doing a good job. In that case, you can attempt to do better.
Your ideal community after the problem is solved is, therefore, the basis of your NGO’s vision.
Why don’t you try thinking about the problem in the community that you could solve and how it would look when it’s solved. Then try writing that vision in less than 30 words.
If your vision is “Economic choice and environmental regeneration for impoverished communities in Ghana” then addressing this vision becomes the mission of your NGO.
In other words, the mission is the “how” of your NGO. How you will get it done—in a few short sentences.
The mission consists of specific goals.
The NGO Cafe says a mission is “an organizational story said as a slogan in less than 30 seconds…packages the core values and principles of an NGO. It operationalises the NGO’s vision and assists in developing goals and objectives of the NGO.”
“Supporting impoverished communities develop sustainable sources of income and establish regenerative environmental practices for current and future generations”.
We also express this in a “tag line”: Income generation, re-generation, next generation.
Income generation refers to the projects we are developing to create sources of income, re-generation refers to the environmental work we are doing to “re-generate” the environment in the communities where we are working on income generation, and next generation refers to the future and the legacy we aim to leave.
Notice the emphasis on generation, hence “G” lish, a simple name incorporating our key vision and also nicely branding our organization—a bonus and point we planned for. (It’s also kind of cool that our names are Godwin and Gayle in Ghana).
Your NGO’s mission statement will serve as a guide for the direction of your organization. It will also clearly explain your focus to donors and the general community.
The statement should be concise and incorporate the core values and philosophy of your NGO.
Can you make yours as simple as this?
What is your NGO’s vision and mission? Can you express them in less than 30 seconds and less than 30 words? If not, try rethinking and re-crafting them.
Next time we’ll look at defining your NGO’s goals and objectives.