Note from the Director Programmes
We at NFI take a lot of pride in our work, and believe that NFI occupies a distinct niche in the development sector today. NFI’s distinctiveness could be attributed to three factors:
Partnerships with fledgling initiatives
NFI focuses on developing institutional capacities in the voluntary sector in remote and far flung areas of the country, mostly in the eastern and northeastern parts of India. People living in such areas are often cut-off from the mainstream development processes. The Chakma community in the Northeast, the Mushahar and other scheduled caste and backward communities in Bihar, tribes in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are some of the examples of communities with whom NFI and its partners work.
These locations often have a very low concentration of good voluntary organizations and even if they are present, the large institutional donors with their existing funding mechanisms are not geared to work with such small voluntary organizations. Often, these local initiatives wither away as their institutional capacities to undertake long term development work, in spite of strong voluntarism, local leadership and understanding of local contexts, fail to grow. Given an opportunity, these organizations can do useful constructive work with the local communities on health, education, livelihoods, sanitation and other social development, which in turn can improve peace and governance prospect of the area. Through NFI’s grant making in most of its thematic initiatives, the programme staff plays the role of nurturing the potential of such organizations to work with the most deprived with a long term perspective. Many of NFI’s partners developed through such nurturing and symbiotic partnerships are later able to leverage funds from other sources, though some face the dilemma of compromising long term social change as opposed to task-oriented short-time project interventions.
NFI tries to make grant that are process-oriented, both at the community and organizational levels. Processes such as community mobilization, catalyzing gender and youth centered and community based inclusive platforms to work on a long term constructive work mode, strengthening of systems of planning, monitoring, financial management and learning from the experiences on the ground are inbuilt in the grant proposals across all programme areas. NFI programme staff works closely with each grantee as a mentor and partner right from the stage a proposal is developed and through the process of implementation. NFI tries to link its smaller partners with more established NGOs and resource organizations in order to build their knowledge and capacities both in the areas of generic institutional functions and programs such as education, health, livelihoods etc.
Integrating Development Action with Development Communication
Development action consists of a range of projects that enable marginalized sections of society to improve the quality of their own lives. Spearheaded by local NGOs, such projects try to bring about long term change by engaging intensively with communities, groups, and individuals at the grassroots level. Responsibility for implementing these projects rests primarily with the partner NGO. However, NFI provides a regional perspective, strategic direction, and operational guidance on a long-term basis. Further, NFI tries to raise the level of public understanding on issues affecting marginalized communities through its development communication projects. It supports and initiates a range of projects that seek to inform and to stimulate reflection; to facilitate discussion, debate, and dialogue; and to strengthen organizations engaged in development action roles. Communication grants are to encourage people to work for change through their own initiative and also to influence policy discourses.
In other words, development action projects bring about long-term change locally, while communication grants strive to encourage people to share experiences and understanding at the local, regional, as well as national level.