On The Road Blog
Diversity Is No Barrier to NGO Unity
- By Joseph Bednarek on February 29th, 2016
- Category: Blog, Europe and Eurasia, Featured, Featured Blog, Home, Middle East and North Africa
In late January, 14 Global Fund for Children grassroots partners from four countries—the United Kingdom, Serbia, Turkey, and Lebanon—met for a Knowledge Exchange in Belgrade, Serbia.
At first glance, this grouping might appear to bring together NGOs from countries that do not have much in common, but after a short examination of the most prominent issues that are present from Beirut to London, one sees that these countries, and their NGO communities, are bound together by many threads.
In fact, the GFC grassroots partners from these countries were invited to this Knowledge Exchange because their communities have all been affected by the European refugee crisis, a process that started several years ago but intensified over the past two years with the large influx of Syrians fleeing the civil war. The Knowledge Exchange was an opportunity to discuss how the Syrian refugee crisis in particular was affecting the communities of our GFC grassroots partners, and how those NGOs were responding.
The participants of the Knowledge Exchange were a diverse group, one of the most diverse that I’ve been involved with for a Knowledge Exchange. There were representatives from Serbia’s Roma minority and from Turkey’s Kurdish minority, a Scot, British citizens of Turkish and Indian origin, and a Lebanese citizen with Armenian roots.
Participants held various positions within their organizations—executive directors, board members, program managers, psychologists, and outreach coordinators. Some of the NGO leaders at the Knowledge Exchange had been with their organizations for less than a year; others, for more than ten years. But rather than presenting an obstacle, this array of nationalities, ethnicities, experience, and professional backgrounds contributed to an ideal Knowledge Exchange atmosphere of exploration, collaboration, and creativity.
Over the course of the Knowledge Exchange’s four days (January 26–29), we were reminded of something that we knew already but sometimes forget—that NGOs are usually the first and sometimes the only reliable source of assistance for vulnerable children during human emergencies such as the Syrian refugee crisis. Child-focused NGOs are staffed by dedicated, compassionate individuals who devote their professional lives to helping the underserved in their communities, often for little or no pay.
This Knowledge Exchange, like many others, provided a safe space for the NGO leaders to reflect on their individual and organizational achievements and challenges, and reserved precious time to celebrate the successes and importance of their work for children. I left Serbia as impressed as ever by our grassroots partners, and proud to call these leaders my peers, colleagues, and role models.