Who runs your NGOs?

This blog follows on from yesterday’s.

If there are too many wildlife NGOs (as I believe, and as some of you believe) then how will mergers or closer working come about?

There are four major stakeholders involved: the senior staff in the NGOs, their trustees and their members – oh yes, and the Nature whose conservation we all want.  But Nature doesn’t have a voice and so one or more of the other three need to speak up for Nature.  However, it is worth mentioning Nature because that should be a beneficiary of the decisions of the other three players.

Who can name the Chief Executives of the following wildlife NGOs: RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts,  WWF-UK, Buglife, Marine Conservation Society, Butterfly Conservation, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Plantlife?  How many did you get out of eight? My guess would be not very many: two? three?  And what does that tell us – not much really but I thought I’d ask!

When it comes to trustees of these organisations then I am fairly sure that you don’t know many at all.  I don’t know very many and I am fairly sure that my knowledge in this area is quite a bit more extensive than most readers of this blog.  And what does that tell us – nothing much really except that I suspect we don’t know much about the people who have the power in wildlife NGOs.

Except we have power ourselves because we are the major funders of NGOs and money talks.  Actually, a finely crafted letter to a Chief Executive or Chair of trustees can talk quite a lot too. NGOs are quite like MPs – they are there partly to represent our views and to do what we want but most  of us hardly ever express a view.

Maybe we should?

Here’s a closing thought on wildlife NGOs for you to ponder.  My view is that wildlife NGOs aren’t very good at collaboration or competition amongst themselves.  They very rarely compete against each other openly.  No NGO markets itself as having ‘saved more water voles than any other UK NGO’ or even ‘having the best nature reserves in East Anglia’.  They don’t put themselves forwards as the best place for our money.  Is that odd?

And when it comes to collaboration, which brings us back to yesterday’s blog, I think there is a lot more that could be done – particularly in the area of advocacy to government.  Rarely do NGOs subsume their identities in a common campaign – it happens but it is rare.

So NGO land is a land of soft competition and weak collaboration, in my view.  Is this how it ought to be – maybe it is.  Or maybe my view is wrong and I’m not seeing it clearly enough. What do you think?

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36 Comments

  1. I think you are absolutely right. I have felt this for a long time with considerable, occasionally seismic, frustration.

    But I never had the wit, or whatever to ask the question about change might come about.

    Now, I am thinking.

    I scored three on the Chief Exec quiz. Guess that's where to start.

    Soon, I will be writing.

    Happy days.

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  2. Ian Peters

    Mark - at the risk of setting off a slightly off-topic discussion, the Chief Executive point is not as far from being on target as it first seems. When I worked for the RSPB, I often heard the charge that the CE was paid far too much money and this was a diversion of funds/donations. Indeed, there is a heavy suspicion that this is much more valid as a criticism in famine relief charities (I am not accusing anyone in particular, by the way) and I hear this idea aired an awful lot even now. I was even scolded by one callerand told that I should work for free too (goodness knows how I would have paid my bills) because the RSPB is a charity. The explanation is of course, that all charity workers have to be paid in line with the equivalent posts in the City or in the wider world (actually most roles including execs are often graded or paid slightly lower than the average outside of NGOs but you get my drift). The reality is that I put in hundreds of voluntary hours covcering calls for BGBW, the Bird Fair, reseve events and that includes a stint with Lancashire Wildlife Trust at the Environmental Resource Centre in Bolton. So what relevance has all this?

    Well, if I can put in the voluntary hours, often as an anonymous part of a team, why can we not have a regular system where the best minds of the NGOs are available on a permanent basis? It does not even have to be the same people all the time and it is certainly not necessary to hang on to the egos that are all too often attached to doing something charitable for free (not just in conservation). Basically, we cannot avoid the need to pay people for doing a job in NGOs but if those same people wish to think in charitable terms then there is no reason why they cannot form the kind of representative panel we so desperately need.

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    • Mark

      Ian - interesting points thank you. I think you might give the wrong impression about the size of Chief Execs' pay. Considering the RSPB is 100 million pound a year 'business' CE pay is very modest.

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      • Ian Peters

        Mark - Indeed! Hence why I included the bracketed caveat (is that the right term?). However, I do not think we should hide behind the fact that the execs are paid far better than a pleb like myself could ever hope for. It is a relative thing of course but from working in Wildlife Enquiries I can tell you that the public are not all as sympathetic as you would think (or arguably, as much as we should expect them to be).

        As Robin says members should be treated as shareholders and accorded full respect when they ask a legitimate question. Whilst I am aware of the policy in RSPB Wildlife Enquiries, it is worth noting that the BTO, WWT, the Wildlife Trusts and many of the NGOs mentioned do not have an enquiries service (English Nature does but they do not publicise its existence even as a governmental organisation) and the RSPB can sometimes be found wanting once an enquiry passes out of Wildlife Enquiries as I have found out since I left.

        Without hesitation I will praise the PR teams for all the organisations in the quality of what they put out but it is the selective process that is invoved that sometimes feels a bit shakey. The RSPB tends to score better than most in that respect because people (the public) can and do make contact if something catches their attention allowing PR's gears to grind into action if a particular subject gathers 'enough' interest. Yet in the context of what these recent blogs are about, is it right to have a reactive system for conservation or should it be absolutely proactive?

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  3. Robin Edwards

    The role of CE for a Nature NGO is not one for someone who is happy to "do their time" and keep a low profile but requires character and the guile to be seen to be defending their cause. I think it fair to say that this is why many CEs remain unknown, even to members of these organisations. Take our very own RSPB as an example - as a member (shareholder?) I don't even get a reply when I write personally to their CE?
    So joe public instead rally behind celebs like Dr May and where are the CEs punching the air when nature is under threat?

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  4. Roderick Leslie

    So maybe we need a mega NGO, like the National Trust ? Or maybe it should BE the National Trust ?? Its Chief Exec should be appointed by head hunters and its trustees should be very great & good - and, even if you've heard of them, definately not people you could ever imagine actually meeting.

    Everyone wants nice, well run organisations - but good management doesn't add up to good leadership and we are seeing a spectacular leadership deficit in both national politics and our conservation NGOs at the moment. Innovation and change are rather random things - it's hard to wake up in the morning thinking 'today I'll have a radical, world changing idea' and a lot of the big business institutionalisation we are seeing creeping into our NGOs actually militates against radical ideas and imagination - not least because all the systems allow people to go to work every day feeling they are working hard & effectively without ever having to think. But at the moment if a bright new idea comes along the instinct of most of those in charge would be to suppress it quickly before it disrupts the smooth running of their NGO.

    Which is a long way round to saying cull the diversity and you even further reduce the chance of anything different happening, anyone original getting a say. Of course, everything will be neat and tidy, meetings will run smoothly and there'll be lots of time for poring over the books wondering why the organisation is none the less in gentle decline. Take care what you wish for.

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  5. First of all I scored six of the CEOs but then I was a CEO myself and knowm personally some of those still going strong.

    You have hit the nail on the head with this one Mark particularly with trustees. In the early days of the wildlife trusts I am sure that most trustees had no idea what their responsilities were. Most agreed to join up because of their interest in wildlife and went to sleep when budgets and management issues were discussed. To be fair a lot of charities have slimmed down their Councils to a smaller number and day to day trustee management is carried out by smaller executive committees.

    There is no excuse for members of an NGO not to know their trustees as their names and pen pctures are published before AGM's

    I do have a concern though about the relationship between trustees and staff. I am certain (I did it) that staff "manage" trustees so they can get on with their own agendas. Trustees can find themselves in a position where they are only rubber stamping what comes before them.

    The answer with trustees is to make sure they know their responsibilities before agreeing to serve. The trouble is that if you do that many who used to jump at the chance would say NO.

    As memebers we should write to CEO's and trustees if we feel we have something to say. I have to say I need to write to the CEO of the RSPB about a small regional matter right now. I will be furious if he fails to answer. When I was a CEO I always made sure that all letters were answered and I signed them even if I was not the author.

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  6. Mark has a good point, but it also needs carefully thinking about. I am one of those CEOs that no one has heard of, and I am not sure that is a particularly bad thing. The role of a CEO is not to be a celeb of some sort, but to lead the organisation. I have personally been actively involved in creating three NGOs: viz: TRAFFIC, the Bat Conservation Trust and World Land Trust, as well as Wildlife Link, and I have sat on the Boards of many others and worked as a consultant for several. When these three were created they were created because they would fulfill a role that other NGOs were failing to do. However, in some cases the existing charities then expanded their remit and duplicate the new charity, and in other cases new opportunistic charities spring up merely copying others. I have always advocated careful scrutiny before supporting a charity, and indeed on the WLT website I have posted my personal guidelines for assessing a charity http://www.worldlandtrust.org/news/2010/08/john-burtons-guide-evaluating-charity.htm and also a load of FAQs which are guidelines that could be useful for most charities http://www.worldlandtrust.org/about/how-we-work/faqs . So I will comment on one other point made in this discussion and that is the salaries of CEOs. I think if you check (and all charities have to disclose -- see the Charity Commission website) that very few of us CEOs earn more than £60,000 (anything above that has to be disclosed). And I agree that in view of the hours worked, the commitment etc none of us earn anything remotely comparable to the outside world. And I wouldn't want to.

    Finally, Roderick Leslie has a good point, up to a point. Diversity is a good thing, but micro NGOs may not be. Small is beautiful, but it is possible to be too small. These days the paperwork needed to run a charity is such that there is a critical mass, otherwise the overheads are disproportionate, to the spend on conservation. And size is also relevant to the objectives of an NGO. Lobbying NGOs need to be as big as possible to be effective, with as many supporters as possible. grant giving foundation charities can have very small overheads. But it's all an area well worth detailed scrutiny and debate. Perhaps Mark Avery should convene a debate, some where like the RGS meeting rooms.

    This may sound like a plug for WLT, but I do believe in how we present ourselves, and we do try to be as transparent as possible -- which not all NGOs do, and we do welcome constructive criticism. Ideally we would all be out of a job; unfortunately that is very unlikely in my lifetime. The world is in a mess, and as long as an NGO can demonstrate concrete achievements, more power to their elbows..

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  7. andrew

    By the way. The gov. appointed a retired military man to try to increase the efficiency of the aid/famine relief etc charities all working in the same area, to share logistics etc. To no avail, he gave up.

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  8. Bimbling

    Its my view that there is, an of evolution within organisations, particularly 'pressure' groups. Environmental groups are no exception. It applies to political groups too, perhaps more so.

    To try and explain briefly with a scenario: an active and 'radical' membership engages in direct action, gains much publicity and grows its membership. It takes on new staff and develops policy and action plans and strategies and sees that potentially, greater wins can be had by getting politicians to 'do the right thing' and it generally becomes more mature in its nature and probably in its membership. The radicals see that the organisation has 'sold out to the suits' and decide to break away and form a new group of activists and the cycle begins all over again.

    I appreciate this model doesn't hold true in every case and may be clearer to see in the fairly regular fragmenting of radical elements through the history of say Palestine, or Irish Republicanism.

    It seems that as an example from conservation, the RSPB (with its radical direct action inception) manages to keep a foot in both camps; the advocacy and influencing, and the direct action. Now, the direct action element clearly isn't staff chaining themselves to yellow plant, but covert surveillance and practical conservation work on reserves may, for the sake of this argument, be a suitable proxy for buzzing whalers in a zodiac or moving to live in the crown of a tree. In this way RSPB satisfies a broad spectrum of a population.

    It may be able to do this because it is now large enough financially give resources to all areas of where its membership wishes them to be directed (mostly) or convince its membership about new areas of work, perhaps satisfying the radical(ish). I guess work through Birdlife International in for example the Overseas Territories might be seen as slightly radical departure from 'core' birds in the garden and countryside membership. In this way the organisation keeps itself both mature and well funded, yet youthful and active...if you see what I mean.

    Indeed, it may be that the whole bird NGO sector is sufficiently mature that a specialised division of labour between the groups has now taken place, with each knowing what their and other's contributions are - here I'm thinking RSPB, WWT, BTO.

    How does this relate to your blog today? Well, its possibly a long winded way of saying: if your Tangled Web across the suite of conservation interests is to be drawn together to a more orderly, (and influential) whole, then the larger organisation(s) that result must satisfy the needs of their whole membership or settle on a division of labour across the groups, if damaging fragmentation is not to be the result.

    Alternatively, and I'm going to stop soon, perhaps the amalagmations and fragmentations will produce the radicals, who in turn, as Rod Leslie suggests, produce the ideas that the 'mature' beauraucracies then turn into policies, plans, actions and outcomes. And everyone is better off - other than the CEOs and senior management teams of those that have disappeared.

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  9. Wez

    I am not entirely convinced by this concept, as the bigger the organisation the becomes the less effective it can become in peoples lives. It is good for larger campaigns and has its place - but I believe networks of very small groups would achieve more.

    NGO's need to 'lead from the middle' rather than top down. The most common complaints that I hear are related to people local environment - and they are disappointed that their cause isn't recognized by NGO's remits.

    We become complaisant that our Facebook 'likes' and e.petitions and monthly direct debits will protect what matters to us, and it is not always the case.

    NGO's need to spend more time facilitating local movements and thoughts with support ..e.g Rather than saying you local wood isn't a SSSI or we don't get involved with green belt issues, they should say ... here is you admin / survey instructions / our past experiences / cheep bird feed / list of local people that might help -- get on with it yourselves

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  10. Hen

    You're not wrong Mark. There are many people who have been debating this for a while now. I find this open letter to environmental campaign groups to be one of the best pieces on it, although Charles Secrett has now refined his ideas and many of us across the entire environment sector are working with him to turn those ideas into reality.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/21/charles-secrett-open-letter-activists

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  11. Jack Valiant

    Roderick, it is not just the conservation NGOs that are lacking in leadership. Have a look at the statutory ones - they seem to be in even worse shape!

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  12. Jack Valiant

    I am of course referring to the statutory conservation bodies not statutory non-government organisations...but then, maybe this is the way to go!

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  13. Nick Hall

    Should it not be possible to find a balance by having an umbrella organisation, funded by the NGOs and directed by a board of members drawn from the NGOs, which could co-ordinate the big campaigns and legal cases brought on behalf of "Nature" as a whole? This would still allow each individual organisation to concentrate on its core objectives and the umbrella organisation would have the benefit of all the others' expertise, resources and support. In addition, the burden of legal costs etc could be shared. We are after all on the verge of what are likely to be a huge number of cases concerning HS2 and other projects.

    A similar experiment, albeit on a much smaller scale, was carried out in 1948 when the Angler's Co-operative Association was formed to fight pollution on behalf of clubs, associations and landowners who could not afford to take on polluters on their own. The clubs etc effectively pooled their resources and a number of landmark cases were won by the ACA on their behalf. The ACA was merged into FishLegal recently which is now part of the Angling Trust but the principles remain the same.

    There would be teething problems I am sure but why not give it a go? It must make sense for the various organisations to combine forces where necessary without having to change their own fundamental principles and specialisms. The smaller organisations should welcome it because they could perhaps "punch above their weight" and it would allow the larger ones to expand their areas of influence and to show their members the benefit of strength in numbers and a combined approach.

    Just a thought.

    Nick

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    • Pete Mantle

      Sounds like a great idea Nick. You've got my vote

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    • No reason why Wildlife & Countryside Link shouldn't take this ball and run with it is there?

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  14. James Williams

    Mark – I’m occasional reader of your blog (I wish I had more time) but today’s and yesterday’s blogs have struck a chord. Giving Nature a voice; yes there are many NGOs that speak up for nature. These same organizations, as you say, also represent their members. They should act as a conduit for the many everyday folk who also love nature, do care and on occasion want their voice to be heard. I am one of those people. I have signed various e-petitions but am often frustrated with the lack information given by NGOs on the issues at hand (both for and against). This what I like about your blog with your links to odd bits of information which enable me to ferret around, inform myself and make my own judgement. More often than not, you never get a follow-up on how the petition was used what its impact was. OK I will give Greenpeace their due, I do get quite a few e-mails updating on how they have used their petitions to pressure various companies e.g. Asian Pulp and Paper (APP).

    National and local governments and companies may not all ways take note of our voices but as the whisper becomes a shout they cannot help but hear us. I agree with you, there is much more that environment/nature NGOs can do in terms of advocacy. I’d like to see them get smarter at connecting people and not only between organizations but with information (not just skim-read facts) and support networks etc. I think our NGOs should collaborate much more on key issues and, here I agree in part with Wez, facilitate and support local and national movements, so that like-minded people can connect, inform and equip themselves with the tools to influence and bring about change. We have the technology now and your blog! I’m a little tired of reading ‘How can you help – donate now’.

    James

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    • Mark

      James - welcome and thank you very much. Let's make that whisper into a shout.

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  15. Well I'm actually quite proud to say I scored a big fat zero in Annual Guess The CeO (I assume it's going to be annual). Firstly I wouldn't like to see too many NGO's merge as I feel it will dilute the effort made so far in their respective field. I can see where smaller (no insult implied) NGO's such as Plantlife, BC and Buglife might merge as all three share a vested interest and a merger might make them more marketable to a wider audience.
    I feel very uncomfortable with the level in which some NGO's engage with politicians and get involved in politics. Obviously conservation will involve politics and dealing with politicians, but sometimes I feel nature sometimes looses out. I've felt uncomfortable with some NGO's work with politicians in 2012 and fear it could be again to the detrement of wildlife. Remind a thicko like me, NGO does stand for NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION yeah?
    A friend (non-birder) asked me how well did the RSPB protect Hen Harriers and to be honest I couldn't answer it (appart from a blatant obvious answer), where would I check for a summary of the RSPB's work in 2012 for Hen Harriers. Sure I can find blog posts and updates about ringing sessions and occasional monitoring, but I mean an actual timetable of work and targets to safeguarding a particular species future both the actual bird, it's habitat and laws or new laws needed to protect the species.
    There isn't an accountability in bigger NGO's for species numbers only on projects on their sites and not nationally on public/private land nor habitat destruction. No targets for habitat constructon/protection that isn't under "their" ownership etc.

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  16. Ian Peters

    One thing I would like to add as a point to consider is that the world changes and what we are seeing now is analogous to evolution in that we can only possibly view a snapshot of history. The RSPB has its current position of second largest conservation (if we allow the National Trust into this category) organisation simply because it was talking the language people wanted to hear 40 years ago and it was also the most universally accessible of all the conservation charities in terms of interest in its subject and its actual message. We should never forget that this was all a matter of luck (the same for the National Trust) and there is no guarantee that the priorities of the world will not change (even just in conservation). If we think of football, we think it will be eternally popular but there is absolutely no guarantee of this given it is younger than many sports. Part of me thinks that enough of the NGOs are aware of this to explain away the reticence in spreading messages too wide in case they are unpopular (as per what was mentioned in response to Mark's bog yesterday). Yet, another part of me fears that the NGOs have gone ultra-defensive and despite such things as 'Future Directions' no one is looking far enough forward to a time (I hope it does not happen) when conservation drifts out of the public psyche. Hence why I mentioned yesterday that it is all too easy for politicians to adopt a divide and conquer attitude when dealing with NGOs. Mergers may not be the answer but the meeting of minds concept should be easy enough to achieve even if members have to sit voluntarily.

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  17. Mike Gillett

    I agree that there should be more collaboration between NGOs on influencing government policy and running campaigns, and to make it easier for people to find out what action is being taken on a particular issue. I know this isnt a uk example, but there appears to have been silence in terms of campaigns against poaching elephants & rhinos in africa .... you would - think some well-known NGO would be campaigning on it. Having been to kenya 3 years ago, i would gladly donate, finally i have found out that IFAW are doing some work behind the scenes.

    Im not convinced competition between NGOs would be a good idea - i think it would suck resources into marketing their achievements versus 'rivals', and also their activities are too dissimilar to be able to make any meaningful & fair comparisons

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    • Mark

      Mike - welcome and many thanks. Don't WWF work on that issue?

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      • Mike Gillett

        Yes, ur right, and it seems theyve helped get some results at CITES meeting in Thailand
        http://www.wwf.org.uk/news_feed.cfm?unewsid=6492

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    • Ian Peters

      Mike - I think it depends on whether you are on Facebook in the first place and what pages you choose to Like but I have been seeing a lot of heads-up messages about elephant and rhino poaching recently. For all its faults, Facebook is an excellent communication resource and it also saves on having to surf individual websites.

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      • Mike Gillett

        Thanks Ian, i'll make sure i 'like' a few more NGO facebook sites

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  18. Diapensia

    Some kind of Afiliation for conservation bodies, from the larger ones to local wildlife groups? This would leave all organisations to deal with local problems while at the same time a coming together to discuss wider issues. Perhaps a "union" for wildlife? As with any large concern, a check would need to be kept on how it operates. It should not become "top heavy" with admin. and not be run by people whose main interest would be to further their own interests. There are some wildlife organisations who consider it not part of their remit to campaign for wildlife protection. Their concern is only to record wildlife. They end up writing epitaphs.

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  19. Jamie McMillan

    Well, there are a lot of big hitters commenting today. And I'm afraid I don't agree with many of them.

    I've commented before here that I think a diversity of small conservation charities and pressure groups is to be welcomed. Think of them ecologically - each one exploits its own conservation niche far better than one big generalist organisation. They do jobs and take on causes and reserves that the big guys overlook. They can move very quickly when necessary - not having unwieldy corporate and committee structures to get in line before acting. And they can sometimes punch above their weight by acting together on issues and projects. Think of the dozens of NGOs that have weighed in on the Badger cull debate, while larger organisations like the National Trust (I think?) have been much more cautious, not wanting to upset lobby groups within their memberships.

    Locally here it is a group of small charities including the local wildlife trust that have come together as a consortium to buy a large chunk of Dorset that came up for sale, in what could prove to be one of the most significant Dorset conservation projects ever undertaken (now named 'Wildlink'). The big charities, including, it has to be said, the RSPB, just weren't interested. Fair enough with limited resources, but without the small guys, it wouldn't have happened.

    The problem with small specialist conservation charities is fundraising. Here big organisations win every time, so the fact that so many small charities still survive suggests that they do serve a vital function.

    But I have an idea for them : microsubscriptions. Personally I can't afford subscriptions/donations to all the groups I'd like to give them to. But what if I could give just one subscription, say at around the RSPB/NT level, but split it on a micro-subscription website between a hundred or more small wildlife charities? They might each only get a few pence from me, but multiplied up, it might be the difference between survival and bankruptcy. I could even tick the ones I particularly want my sub to go to.

    Is there anyone out there who knows about microfinance who could be persuaded to take this on?

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  20. James Williams

    Jamie, I would, in part agree, with you that diversity is important and small organizations are more flexible and can mount effective challenges. The big NGOs have their place and have the money and clout to be heard (mostly). I wouldn't like to see amalgamations of smaller NGOs but more collaboration and connections, so they too can access finance and give voice of their combined membership where they share similar views.

    Your call for micro-finance is a great idea. Which reminded me of this website, founded by Richard Leakey, to support the work of many smaller organizations working in east/central Africa. http://wildlifedirect.org/participate/ .They do offer a donation system but it’s fairly simple. Send in a cheque with the name of the blog you wish to support. What about crowd sourcing websites?

    I'd be interested in a convention/camp/symposium where the general public can come along and meet various environmental / nature NGOs hear about their work and listen to speakers on various topics (Occupy for nature – well in that vain) Are there such events?

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  21. After all these comments one thing is abundantly clear. Generalisations are pretty pointless (including this one).

    Some NGOs cooperate a lot and some not at all. If you asked our staff (World Land Trust) and that of BirdLife International about cooperation I think the response would be pretty positive. But there are plenty of well know organisations we don't have close relationships with -- usually because their modus operandi are significantly different. And we sit within a network of 27 cooperating partners, so it is a sine qua non with us to work with other NGOs. However, we are not a lobbying or campaigning NGO, we are a funding/fundraising and implementation NGO. You can't compare apples with pears (well you can, but only for certain purposes).
    Finally Mark through down a challenge: I think I can safely claim that the World Land Trust has helped purchase and protect more land than any other NGO in the UK. More than the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts together. I am not 100% certain, because the "protect" bit can be subjective. But on the purchase side I am pretty certain, and we are gathering the data. But then so what? I am the first to point out that helping our partner in Paraguay buy land a few years ago at $20 an acre is not really comparable to buying land in East Anglia at $10,000 an acre? One has significantly more biodiversity than the other as well. But is this only what it's all about? Over to you Mark.

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  22. Logan D Steele

    As an employee of one of two relatively recently merged charities working for the benefit of older people it took Prince Charles to finally champion the merger. I would not expect too many NGO"s to vote for a consolidation, it will have to be driven from outside.

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    • Mark

      Logan - welcome and thank you for your comment.

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  23. Mark, you can certainly be relied-upon to pose some serious questions! Seeing the names in the forum takes me back - a career with RSPB, CCW (what happened to this once shining example of combining forces, forging 4 small bodies to create a more-effective one?) as well as CWT, CAMBIENT & BS councils. Taking size first: I've most-recently worked with probably one of the world's biggest NGOs, the Scout Movement of which there are about 34 million members operating at grass-roots level almost everywhere, save for Mainland China & perhaps 6-7 other countries. But, it is their local capacity & stying-power which really shows the way! They join forces through the 'web (1/2 million at a time over a weekend!) & can collaborate (e.g. in 12 countries, simultaneously they helped to eliminate leprosy!). They are not good at collating their impact, though - until now, when they can show that a current peace-initiative records over 9.5million scout-hours dedicated to promoting peace, tolerance & other crucial traits since September. One national association, "Oz" is partnering a transport firm to re-afforest the Murray-Darling Basin (size of Spain!!!) These are kids & volunteers, re,ember! The mesage is clear - get the act together! I once asked a naive question about black grouse conservation - no one could actually answer the point but we kept feeding £1/2million into the programme because it was promoting the habitat & conditions for this & many other species to thrive. I was content & fought to keep that going, later. I do not like competition, though between NGOs who do not need to waste efforts/resources fighting each-other for a temporal financial prize which is probably not their most important strategic priority at that time. We had a scheme in Wales which avoided that nonsense but enabled excellent wildlife & landscape conservation & visitor-management to be boosted on several key but neglected sites by NGOs, there & which everyone thought to be a winner. BC promotes its activities & can say that c.80% of its expenditure is on direct conservation management - excellent! More: it multiplies donations tenfold via the Landfill tax system - nothing short of genius. So there are lessons about scale & impact, here & in how the results should persuade more people to "back winners". Micro-finance - care as this is definitely an admin nightmare. For the trustees - ask lots of "direct questions" - it pays to be an irritant & avoids groupthink & complacency which are the enemy of creative action!

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    • Mark

      Alan - welcome and thank you for your comment.

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  24. John A Burton

    http://www.worldlandtrust.org/news/2013/04/am-prepared-criticise-particular-ngo
    Some more follow up, to a blog I wrote in response to Mark's. Anyone else want to throw in a ha'pworth or two?

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