BRANNGO Presentation to BNS
I’d like to thank Andy Sparkes and the BNS Committee for inviting me to update you on the Britain-Nepal NGO Network – BRANNGO. I’d also like to add my thanks to the Nepalese Embassy for kindly hosting this event. I realise I am all that stands between you, a stiff drink and a delicious curry, so I’ll
BRANNGO was conceived and launched in 2018 by David Thomas. After many years of charitable endeavour in Nepal he recognised that a lack of coordination between different organisations andagencies made delivery of help to those in need less efficient than it could be. With in excess of 800 UK NGOs having an interest in Nepal, there is clearly scope for this. BRANNGO therefore has as itsguiding principle collaboration among its members, associates and partners with a view to increasingthe benefit that each donated pound, rupee or dollar delivers. This is highlighted in our logo, shown above, both in the motto ‘Collaborating to deliver more’ and the Nepalese word ‘sahayoga’ meaning ‘collaboration’ or ‘cooperation’.
David kindly invited me to get involved after I retired from full-time work in late 2018, and in early 2020 he suggested that I take over from him as Chairman, a tremendous honour. It is a role which I very much enjoy as it enables me to work with many highly-motivated, very experienced and capable people who share my interest in helping those in need in Nepal.
So what does BRANNGO do?
Well, in its pre-Covid existence, BRANNGO held face-to-face conferences, some of them here in the Nepalese Embassy thanks to strong support from the then Ambassador, HE Dr Durga Bahadur Subedi.
However, the impact of Covid meant that from late 2019 we had to move online. In some ways this worked to our advantage by enabling us to gather more people together more easily and include more people based in Nepal. In the last 18 months or so we have had 39 webinars or other online events, which I think is a very respectable achievement.
The ‘engine room’ of much of this activity has been the BRANNGO working groups, which I launched
shortly after taking over as chairman. The one for Health, chaired by Lisa Whitehouse-Foskett, has
been particularly active.
Lisa has run regular sessions looking at the status, management and impact of Covid in Nepal, but has also had several events looking at topics such as how emergency medical care is delivered in response to disasters and the vexed subject of child-trafficking. I am particularly pleased that in relation to child-trafficking BRANNGO has compiled our first best-practice brief, an emerging feature of our work that I’ll say a bit more about in a minute. I’d also like to mention the very good working relationship Lisa has established with the Nepal Doctors Association and the Nepalese Nursing Association in the UK, which have been particularly beneficial partnerships.
The other productive working group is Education. Some 60% of BRANNGO members have an interest in this wide-ranging subject, and the initial chairman, John Matthews, did a great job of trying to wrestle things into shape.
Unfortunately other commitments meant he had to stand down earlier this year, but I’m delighted that Sarah Mackaness has recently taken up the reins and is doing wonderful things to refine the framework for discussions and narrow down the many possible topics to a manageable number that are most closely aligned with our members’ interests.
There is much more to be done, but Sarah has made an excellent start and I am sure that in 2022 we shall see this side of BRANNGO expand and flourish still further.
As a brief aside, I’d like to put in a plug for John Matthews’ excellent book, ‘White Chalk’.
It describes his remarkable efforts to raise money, mostly in Dubai where he lived at the time he started the project, and set up schools in Nepal. It gives first-class insights, based on his practical experiences, into the realities of setting up and running a NGO there. It’s also very funny in places. You can order it from https://www.johnmatthews.uk. It costs £25 and proceeds go to help to fund his NGO.
Back to BRANNGO. Our third working group is to do with Environment and Climate Change. This is only just starting to take off in the wake of COP26. I was very pleased to meet Abhishek Shrestha a couple of weeks ago, who was a member of Nepal’s delegation to the conference and has kindly agreed to give us a presentation on ‘COP26 and Nepal’ – and I’ll be delighted to open that up to BNS members as well when it has been scheduled.
Now, as any business will tell you, Zoom has its limitations, and as we learn how to work around Covid restrictions I anticipate we shall move to a more balanced mixture of online webinars and discussion and face-to-face meetings. In fact, I’m pleased to say that we shall be having our first large-scale get-together in April here at the Embassy, with the theme of ‘The impact of Covid-19 on NGO work in Nepal’. Details will follow shortly: I do hope some of you will be able to attend.
We have also improved our use of other technologies. Our website is now a wonder to behold, with a smartphone-friendly homepage containing all the key information ‘in the shop window’ as it were. Among other material the website has an interactive database of UK NGO activity in Nepal, and collections of other briefing material.
Our Facebook Group has over 400 subscribers and hardly a day goes by without someone posting useful information there. This is an interesting insight into how people communicate nowadays – less via paper newsletters, conferences or even emails, and much more via social media. With this in mind we are going to look at how to better exploit Facebook and other social media such as
WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram, in ways that benefit how BRANNGO functions.
The role of social media also highlights that networking among our members, associates and third parties is a key component of BRANNGO’s strategy. With this in mind we continue to develop our Partnership Programme with other organisations. Our relationship with the Britain-Nepal Society is one of the closest links, and I’m delighted that we have been able to help publicise both BNS’ fundraising efforts and also how to apply for its annual grant. I am sure this relationship will continue to develop as there are a number of obvious benefits from our collaboration.
But our partnership programme encompasses several other organisations. In the UK we liaise with the Non-Residental Nepalis; the Britain-Nepal Chamber of Commerce; Tamu Dhee; and Bond, to name but four. In Nepal we have a MOU with the NGO Federation of Nepal and are building a relationship with the Association of International NGOs, as well as having more informal links with
several other organisations such as GAN.
Our relationship with the Nepalese Embassy doesn’t really come into the same category, but I should highlight it as an important part of how we operate. We have been very fortunate that successive Ambassadors have been most supportive of our efforts and very much hope that HE Mr Gyan Chandra Acharya, who we expect to be in post early next year, will continue the trend. This isn’t just a question of ‘social diplomacy’ if I can call it that, or the much-appreciated use of the Embassy as a venue for gatherings. It is also to do with having a good and productive exchange of information and views with the Nepalese government – but more about that in a moment.
I should also say that we have been very lucky to have Kirtijai Pahari as our representative in Nepal. Many of you will know him from his membership of the BNS Committee and tireless work to deliver BNS-sponsored Covid aid in Nepal, but he has also done a great deal to help BRANNGO establish itself with the British Embassy there and build links with organisations such as NGO Federation of Nepal and the Association of International NGOs. His monthly press summary has been a great success and is now also shared with BNS members – I hope you enjoy it! I also send out a short newsletter each month summarising a few key points about Nepal and what BRANNGO has been
doing and has planned – but I think Kirtijai’s press summary is definitely the star of the show.
So, after that quick gallop through our activities, let me say a few words about BRANNGO’s future strategy. Over the last couple of years we have put a lot in place, but there is a groundswell of opinion that we must develop and diversify how we function. This is another large subject in its own right and is still in the melting pot, but let me mention a few of the main proposals emerging from the discussions.
First of all, we need to be more focused in our working group activities, so that they are more directly relevant to the needs and interests of our members, associates and partners. We also need to build a portfolio of recommended best practices based on the information gathered by the working groups. As I mentioned a moment ago, we have started to do this with the topic of childtrafficking, but there are many other subjects out there forwhich we need to do the same.
Secondly, advocacy on key issues affecting NGO work in Nepal is also seen as a priority. Encouraging ‘Collaboration’ is an admirable principle but it needs to be translated into beneficial improvements for it to be of any value. We need to look at more and better ways of doing this, possibly involving greater use of social media to widen our target audience, and by lobbying on issues such as the management of UK overseas aid, something that has changed and is continuing to change, and of course Nepal government policies and regulations that inhibit or could potentially enhance the provision of aid. Although not related to Nepal, the Centre For Social Justice Foundation in the UK may be a useful model for how we approach all of this. So – lots to think about in this space.
A third major theme of our discussions about future strategy is increased engagement from BRANNGO members and other stakeholders. We need to look at the demographics of membership in relation to who is actually running NGOs in Nepal, and possibly adopt a more targeted approach to inviting people to join, perhaps against criteria of what they can offer rather than just what BRANNGO can do for them – a sort of ‘ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’ kind of approach. This is all up for discussion, but we need to implement changes to how we manage membership and what membership means.
I am sure there are many other things that we need to take on board, so I think the message is ‘watch this space’ – and I look forward to updating you all on progress on some future occasion.
Well, let me stop there. Thank you for listening. Any questions?
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