New Dimension of ASEAN GO-NGO Collaboration


                (คำบรรยายในการประชุม ASEAN GO-NGO Forum on Social Welfare and Development จัดโดยกระทรวงการพัฒนาสังคมและความมั่นคงของมนุษย์ (โดยสำนักงานคณะกรรมการส่งเสริมการจัดสวัสดิการสังคมแห่งชาติ) เมื่อวันที่ 8 กันยายน 2549 (ประชุมระหว่าง 8-9 กันยายน 2549) ณ โรงแรมสยามซิตี้ กรุงเทพฯ)


          Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), or civil society organizations (CSO’s), or public-benefit organizations (PBO’s), or non-profit organizations (NPO’s) are themselves quite various, to say the least, in each country, let alone among countries. In each country, situations are also ever-changing, never staying still. Among the countries in ASEAN, furthermore, differences abound in the areas of government setups and characteristics, legal and administrative systems, social structures and norms, and so on. Therefore, to talk of ASEAN GO-NGO collaboration in general, easily runs the risk of over-generalization. That being the case, however, I would like to offer some thoughts for consideration by asking a number of key questions as follows.

Question (1) : Collaborate for what ?

          When we set out on a journey, we need to know what our destination is. Likewise, when we talk about ASEAN GO-NGO collaboration, we should be clear as to what our ultimate aim is.

          Is it social welfare ? Is it social development ? Is it human security ? Or is it total societal strengthening ?

          It is conceivable, perhaps advisable, to classify the aim of collaboration into output, outcome and impact. Hence, the aim of ASEAN GO-NGO collaboration may be stated as bringing about “social welfare and social development” which will lead to “human security” as well as “total societal strengthening”.

          Being clear, and being agreed, about the ultimate aim of collaboration, will prevent the likely pitfall of too shallow, or too narrow, or too rigid, or even misdirected objective or objectives of our efforts. It will also do away with an unclear destination which would not be helpful in mapping out strategies and programs of the intended collaboration.

Question (2): Collaboration for whom ?

          Apart from being clear about the ultimate aim of collaboration, we should also be certain as to for whom our collaboration is intended.

          It is all too easy to jump to a conclusion that the collaboration is intended for the poor and the disadvantaged. That may be correct in the case of the government and NGO’s carrying out activities dealing directly with the target persons.

          But there are many other cases where the government and NGO’s do not, or should not, deal directly with target persons, but rather through other organizations, agencies, or institutions such as local governments, people’s organizations, local institutions, or local NGO’s, to name but a few. Indeed, that should generally be the case. That should be the rule rather than the exception.

          Hence GO-NGO collaboration should be aimed principally at supporting the major executing bodies such as local governments, people’s organizations, local institutions and local NGO’s, as opposed to trying to deal directly with the target groups, except in a limited number of cases where there are clear, legitimate reasons.

Question (3): Who Collaborate ?

          Whether it is for the purpose of social welfare, social development, human security, or total societal strengthening, the actors, or partners, or participants of the programs are likely to be various, and the major actors need not be the government or NGO’s. Where the government or NGO’s are the major actors, the results maybe short-lived or not sustainable, or they may not lead to real social development or real total societal strengthening.

          What may be more desirable is that those closest to the problems or the situations should be the major actors. Hence people’s organizations, local governments, local institutions (such as religious, educational or cultural institutions) and local NGO’s, should be the major or the principal actors, with appropriate support and/or facilitation from outside organizations.

          Collaboration, therefore, should be not just between the government and NGO’s, but rather among the various actors and partners involved. What is more, the axis of such collaboration should be the people’s organizations or organizations that are closest to the people, which can be deemed to belong to the people and / or operating for the true and lasting benefits of the people and in a sustainable manner.

Question (4): Collaborate at what level ?

          People is any country or society are normally scattered. They in turn are part of a local community or an administrative unit, typically a local government unit. Or they are part of a certain kind of area-based grouping of classification.

          So when we talk about GO-NGO collaboration, or, as stated earlier, collaboration among the various actors and partners or participants, then such collaboration can and should take place at all levels of a society or of a country. The nature and manner of the collaboration will necessarily and appropriately be different in different cases and at different levels.

          For GO-NGO collaboration in particular, it is conceivable to design, or plan for, a collaborative structure at the national level which is in turn linked to collaborative structures at other levels. Ideally, this should be done through consultative processes among the various stakeholders so as to be appropriate, agreeable, harmoniously workable and efficiently effective.

          Then, since we also have international collaborative structures such as ASEAN, the level of collaboration should therefore go higher than a national level where appropriate. In this context, an ASEAN GO-NGO collaborative structure can be designed and its mode of operations mapped out accordingly.

  Question (5): Collaborate about what ?

          It is all very well to collaborate, but what do we collaborate about?

It should be useful to think of 3 levels of collaboration.

          First, the strategic level. Here the strategies for bringing about social welfare, social development, human security, or total societal strengthening, may be:

          ·        Having the right public policies,

         ·        Undertaking the right knowledge creation or knowledge management,

        ·        Carrying out the right communication or campaigning programs,

         ·        Bringing about the right networking or social mobilization for specific purposes.

          Having identified the strategies to be undertaken, the parties involved can then agree on how to collaborate in connection with the said strategies.

          Second, the supporting level. Here the appropriate support for social welfare, social development, human security or total societal strengthening undertakings, may be of a technical, financial, administrative, or other nature. Likewise, once the nature and the specifics of the support are identified, then it is not difficult for the parties concerned to agree on the way collaboration should be effected.

            Third, the operating level. This is the case where the parties concerned are directly involved in the operations of social welfare, or social development, or human security, or total societal strengthening measures. Since the parties are directly involved in the operations, they can agree among themselves about the way in which they are to collaborate with one another.

Question (6): How to collaborate ?

         Agreeing to collaborate is one thing. Knowing how to collaborate is another. There are of course no fixed rules, nor is there one right answer. However, a few suggestions are offered for consideration here.

          First, there should be the right “consciousness” or the right attitudes among those who are to collaborate with one another. The “consciousness” or attitudes of compassion and goodwill, of love and respect, of understanding and tolerance, of positive and creative thinking, etc., are all desirable for constructive and effective collaboration.

           Secondly, the right “mental models” or “paradigms” would enhance collaborative efforts, while lacking those, or having the wrong ones, would sooner or later bring about difficulties or problems in the collaboration. Hence efforts should be made to understand one another’s mental models or paradigms so as to see to it that they help, rather than hinder, the collaboration as much as practicable. In the situation where mental models or paradigms are not compatible, understanding and tolerance should be resorted to while trying to find a creative way around the problem.

         Thirdly, there should be on-going constructive consultation and “on-action”, interactive and mutual learning and development among the collaborating parties. Such consultation and learning are beneficial to all sides. If the “on-action”, interactive and mutual learning and development can be carried out along the line of “knowledge management”, then it is even better, and should help improve both the collaborative processes and the actual social welfare, social development, human security, or total societal strengthening undertakings, on a continuing basis.


          I would like to conclude by saying that, in carrying out ASEAN GO-NGO collaboration, the following should be borne in mind and put into practice in the most appropriate and practical manner possible.

          First, see and understand the whole picture. Also see it as a complex, dynamic, and adaptive set of systems involving many parts, mechanisms, processes, etc.  

          Secondly, develop and practice mindfulness. This should help clarify constructive thoughts as well as inculcating creative “consciousness”, attitudes and “paradigms”.

          Thirdly, continually practice and refine “on-action”, interactive and mutual learning and development among all the collaborating partners.

          May I wish each and every one of you all the success and peaceful happiness in the most desirable manner possible!

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