Preparing Cambodian NGOs for the Future


KANAVA’s Carol Yee recently completed her third assignment with the USAID/Cambodia-funded Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations (CBCLO) Program, which is implemented by VEGA/IESC in Phnom Penh. She focused on two activities. The first was to facilitate a two day training, “Organizational Management Priorities for Today and the Future,” and secondly to work with CBCLO staff on developing a pilot program to create the initial IT platform for the Impact Strengthening Development (ISD) Certification Program.

The training was attended by 21 senior leaders of Cambodian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), whose organizations cover technical areas from agriculture and natural resources management, to health and education, and media production. The training was divided into four sessions: strategic planning, succession planning, new opportunity development, and change management. The participants joined in lively discussions as we went through the materials and worked on related exercises. The area of greatest interest was strategic planning. While all of the organizations currently have strategic plans, most had not attended training on the steps to develop strategic plans that will guide their organizations and are tied to their budget.

A new subject for participants was succession planning. Most had not heard of it and were intrigued to learn more. While they were less certain that they would be able to create and implement a succession plan for their organizations, the discussion provided them with food for thought.

All of the organizations face the potential disappearance of their primary funding sources, so they were quite interested to learn about other potential sources of funding and ideas to undertake new opportunity development. Whether it is continuing to pursue funding from international donors, or building relationships with the private sector, or instituting fee for services activities, there are a variety of ways to seek funding. In fact, Carol noted a Johns Hopkins University study of a number of civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world that showed only approximately 12 percent of their funding comes from international donors, while over 45 percent of their funding now comes from fee for services, a key strategy KANAVA includes in its training on diversifying funding sources. To meet future funding challenge, Cambodian NGOs must begin a shift from being almost totally reliant on a single donor, to diversification where NGOs manage their own budget and seek funding from multiple sources and customers to support their independence and resilience.

Change management was also an interesting topic of discussion. While most of us do this quite naturally, trying to explain it in plain language can be quite challenging. To facilitate the participants’ understanding of this topic through visualization, CBCLO’s Danielle Wilkins created a short animated video about a fictional case study on Soriya, the Executive Director of Seav Pou La Or (Books are Good), whose organization grows exponentially after a very favorable article in an international newspaper. Chief of Party Raty Ouk provided the narration in Khmer, which brought the story to life for the audience.

Carol was also able to work with Danielle on establishing parameters around the development of the initial IT platform using the financial management functional area from the ISD assessment tool as a pilot. We are looking forward to testing this pilot in the near future and how this online tool can help with the development of capacity building plans for the assessed organization.

KANAVA is pleased to be able to assist Cambodian organizations in their development and growth so that they are better positioned to be sustainable in the future and continue the important work for the betterment of Cambodian society.

Kanava International