Helping Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni NGOs to ensure business continuity throughout Covid-19

Picture1 Header.jpg

Covid-19 has impacted local NGOs (LNGOs) in many ways since early 2020. In addition to financial hurdles, many of them faced difficulties in maintaining business continuity due to their business model and limited infrastructures which simply did not allow them to transfer their services into remote operations.

The Programmes Department at the Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD), launched a capacity building initiative to help local NGOs in Iraq, Syria and Yemen to adapt their organizational set up to the challenging context of Covid-19.

The initiative delivered capacity building virtually using online platforms. Rather than traditional training, at the outset, the project carried out an in-depth organizational needs analysis with each participating Local NGO from which it was possible to develop a tailored coaching and mentoring ‘plan’ for each organization.

This ‘plan’ went beyond simple staff training and incorporated more in-depth and detailed mentoring and coaching to allow for adaptability and resilience. The ultimate aim of the project was to promote sustainability and business continuity in the LNGOs by addressing the gaps in their organizational capacity.

Remote training took place from April 2020. 27 NGOs participated with 335 staff engaged in coaching and mentoring. A total of 246 days mentoring and coaching took place through 117 capacity building activities.

The Programmes Department at HAD worked with 17 subject matter experts and a regional project manager to make sure that the content and approach of the mentoring and capacity building was context specific and really addressed the needs of the LNGOs.

In additional to developing the skills, knowledge and understanding of the LNGOs across a range of different core areas, the project achieved some other unintended but positive results.

For example, the LNGOs gained not only specific knowledge and skills, but also confidence in their abilities to adapt to Covid-19 and other challenging contexts. The NGOs now have the confidence to adapt those procedures to different contexts through the ‘learning by doing’ approach adopted by the project.

The scope of the project was significant especially considering the tight time scale, more significant however was the approach used and the end results.

In the first instance, engagement in the project allowed the LNGOs to think about how to adapt to the current Covid-19 crisis to make sure they could continue to provide essential services and support to their communities. Secondly many of the LNGOs had never been through a process of addressing and strengthening their organizational processes (rather than their technical abilities), and this project allowed them to think beyond their day-to-day activities and develop long-term strategic thinking.

Feedback has shown that the NGOs are now able to both develop new procedures and plans for organizational sustainability and resilience and understand the importance of those procedures for their continuing business viability.

Finally, perhaps the most significant result of the project is that there has been a change in mind-set amongst the LNGOs, a shift from thinking purely about their work in a developmental context to understanding the importance of organizational structures necessary to ensure their sustainability. One respondent noted: Because of Covid-19 …” the funding and the money from other countries to helping Syria is reduced now and that's so difficult … Resource mobilisation [training/coaching] was very important, it’s a new concept for us, it helps us to think in a new way… and we learnt new ways to add Covid-19 activities in the budget”.

As a result of this project, HAD is looking at implementing further capacity building projects in Yemen and throughout the region. While this project went some way in addressing the gaps in capacity, there are still significant needs within the LNGOs to ensure they continue to build, support and develop their communities.