Many national development projects have been set aside since the onset of the global financial meltdown. The increase in the number of Community-based Organizations (CBOs) on the island is due to local communities finding alternative ways of implementing growth and development strategies.
Jamacob offers a few tips about CBOs and how to get your local group up and running.
Types of Community-Based Organizations
Whether grass-roots or faith-based, revolutionary or political, CBOs propose positive change within their respective communities.
Neighborhood projects, community Disaster Response, Skills Training, Job Placement and Conflict Resolution are efforts born from, or function in association with community-based organizations.
Citizen’s Associations, Neighborhood Watch groups, vocational training centers, church outreach programs, charities, amateur sports clubs, and youth groups are all prime examples of the various community-based organizations in Jamaica.
While a number of CBOs in Jamaica are formally registered and audited by the government, most still function under an umbrella of small groups of people banding together under the leadership of a few community movers and shakers.
Unfortunately, these informal CBOs run the risk of being mistaken for scams by investors who aren’t familiar with the community. In this case, groups may need to register their organization in order to establish some credibility.
How to start a sustainable Community-Based Organization
1. Get the right people involved
Starting a CBO is no easy task. It requires effort, dedication, and most importantly, time. Rewards, whether monetary or otherwise, will not be evident in the first few months of implementing the project, and as such, many CBOs eventually dismantle due to frustration and poor organization.
While assembling the team, it pays to be mindful of the fact that individuals with established roots in the community, and those who are greatly affected by the issues at hand, tend to devote more energy and time to local projects. These persons are best suited as primary members and are the ‘go-to’ contacts when tackling issues. Citizens with less commitment or available time are best engaged as secondary members who’ll assist the core team in fulfilling each project goal.
2. Implement Proper Management Strategies
Some persons are planners, some are doers, and others have the contacts to make things happen. Effectively engaging the right people can make or break any CBO. Part of proper management involves appropriate allocation of duties and not simply delegating assignments like a task master.
For example, someone with great communication skills makes an excellent Public Relations officer and by working in collaboration with a tech savvy project member, can develop a high quality marketing campaign that will give any community project global reach and impact.
Skills Evaluation exercises can help groups pick tasks and projects that best match the personality types of members, thus avoiding the trap of not engaging the natural skills of citizens for the right assignment.
3. Develop a strong network and forge partnerships
Once a team has been assembled and the various responsibilities have been assigned, CBO members should focus on building strong networks within the community, as well as with government organizations, external groups, and other CBOs.
Networking and establishing a list of key contacts makes it easier to gather information about funding opportunities and to market the group’s project.
A neutral zone in the community, such as a resource center, offers a space for regular meetings and is a great contact point for networking. These areas are also centers of learning, enabling community members to access resources that would otherwise be unavailable. This in turn, empowers and encourages citizens to be proactive in addressing community issues.
Harnessing the power of social media sites like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook, are great ways to reach out to the Diaspora and attract supporters, while forging partnerships and opening avenues for future business ventures. Job opportunities are often posted on sites like Elance, ODesk, and online community notice boards like Jamacob.
It is critical to develop partnerships with reliable contacts within government agencies. Organizations like UDC, NHT, local parish councils, NGOs, and elected representatives can lend a hand by offering tax incentives, collaborations, and social support to start-up groups.
Budding CBOs can also draw inspiration from other communities. Community groups like Breds are prime examples of successful, sustainable CBOs with a clear mission, massive impact, and an excellent marketing campaign.
Creating alliances with neighboring communities can lead to projects that will benefit the entire region. This will be less taxing on the resources of any one community and results in economic growth for all.
Photo by CB_27