From the first reported case of COVID-19 on January 30, till date, there are over 3 lakh confirmed cases. There has been a huge shift in response to different countries. In India, when the world’s biggest lockdown was announced on April 24, industries, sectors, businesses, communities, and the Government reacted in different ways to combat the pandemic.
As we know, the lockdown has a different effect on all spectrums of society. The situation for the most marginalized and the most vulnerable communities are overlooked. The marginalized communities are battling with the sudden unemployability the lockdown has caused. They have been denied wages, opportunities to earn a living, and to go to their villages. What it means for them is a difficulty to cross between two borders, due to the closure of dhabas, food joints, public transport, and commutation facilities. The lack of enough resources has forced many migrants to walk hundreds of miles home. The result is the “blindspot” for at least 200 mn migrant laborers who are grappling with this situation.
However, after the lockdown, different organizations and bodies came into place to tackle the situation in their different capacities. There have been different kinds of engagements on every side, which are:
Individual and group efforts helping with funds and also providing rations, essential commodities, and cooked meals.
Funders and donors providing donations, grants, funds to different groups/organizations to serve the needy and strengthen their response on relief work.
Different community-based organizations are serving their community, mostly providing relief materials/ration/cooked foods to the poorest and needy population.
Networks and platforms are making different initiatives visible and connecting the needy and those who are in need.
The media is also making the efforts visible.
Given the urgency of the situation, these players have been strategically planning to help those who are in need. Be it providing rations, cooked meals, packages, or other facilities like equipment, materials, etc. The coherent idea was to entail a strategy that is in line with the response and relief to those in need and to settle the dust around the situation.
On those lines, the Sukhibhava Foundation evolved to respond effectively in a coherent manner. The response was to support the grassroot organizations and make them visible through a platform. The initial idea was to reach the organizations on a pan-India basis and understand the challenges they are currently facing. A lot of organizations are acting as a supporter of other organizations.
In this space, Sukhibhava decided to act as an interface between the grassroot organizations and the platform to catalyze the change for better outreach. Our main focus was to understand if they are facing any language or technology barriers and if these barriers are limiting their interaction with the larger ecosystem. It was essential to equip the organization in the long run and examine the potential skills for a pool of resources.
The first step was to connect to some grassroot organizations that we know of and know more about their work and the challenges that they are facing. This was critical to examine the future course of action and map out if the language or technology issue is really existing. Upon which, we got to know about more organizations that are facing the same issue. The curious process to know more about the scenario brought out certain patterns that made us consider our next action points.
Upon, connecting with different organizations we observed the following:
Collaboration – A lot of collaborative efforts are going on at this time. Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) are collaborating with the government, the communities they are working for, some other groups, and with other Social Purpose Organizations. The collaboration is in terms of getting funds, material support, support by getting human resources and guidance in planning and implementation. However, these collaborative efforts are helping the society to sustain at this time and also making the work more effective as different bodies are using different capacities and finally they are converging at a single point of focus.
Crisis management – Those who are working in response to this scenario, are working with very little resources and most of them are in need of funds. Some of the techniques they are using are through crowdfunding, word-of-mouth, etc. The organizations that are working with these complex problems are doing a commendable job in this situation and utilizing available resources optimally.
Adaptability and innovation – Organizations, to serve the community at this time are trying their best in adopting different approaches to minimize the hazards and to maximize the impact. As the movement is restricted due to the lockdown, they have started online and telephonic sessions with the staff, resource persons and communities they work with. As there is an urgent need to discuss this COVID-19 situation, they have started a discussion on it and are also aligning their work with this pandemic or planning to address the effects of this pandemic in line with their work. Using native languages.
Post pandemic plans – Different organizations are planning to provide relief depending on the context and as per the emerging needs. They are working to address the gaps that are emerging due to this pandemic and the after-effects. However, to tackle this situation, there is a need for the long term and effective planning. Organizations know their community well. They have analyzed the post-pandemic situation and they have brilliant ideas to control and minimize the post-pandemic hazards i.e. livelihood creation, preventing hunger, etc.
Along the way we found some challenges that are still existing and need some thought to be put on which are:
As there are no existing databases present to identify and map out the basis of their capacities and the kind of work they do, it was very difficult to find the organizations that match our criteria. Reaching to these organizations came out as a very difficult task to complete.
Also, on the other hand, it was difficult to reach out to the right person who is taking care of the COVID-19 initiative from the funder’s or donor’s side.
Mapping out the organizations based on the conversation is a challenge here since the ground reality is not visible at this moment, and also it is difficult to do a reality check in person.
Challenges to fill the gap by the Social Purpose Organizations which are operating on a larger scale.
While working for this initiative, we observed some positive sides which gave us a glimpse of hope and also a number of challenges. There were some gaps still existing, which were making the process slow or emerging as a barrier in the process. However, we realized that the existing gaps need to be replenished to make an effective impact. For which we identified some scopes:
Technology- As it was difficult to find the organizations that are working on the ground and facing different challenges, it would be good to prepare a database of the SPOs who are working in different areas. Technology can be helpful in terms of mapping them out and then making them visible within the ecosystem and to channelize resources as per the need. The database will help to identify the organizations and resourceful groups that can work to build their capacity so that they can make their impact more effective and increase their sustenance. It will also help the development sector in taking different initiatives in the future.
Special provisions– Funders can make special provisions to help them with funds and share the due diligence process so that they can have access to that. They can also design the reporting format as per the need. There the process should be clearly explained to remove the confusion.
Role of Media– Media is working as a good platform to bring different initiatives into the notice of the people. But, in some cases, reaching out to the right person is difficult. There is the need to have specific information regarding the communication channel and they should also respond to the organizations in need.
Government–Social Purpose Organization collaboration– We found that in some places, Social Purpose Organizations are ready to serve but are having difficulties in getting permission from the government to do the needful work. However, it would be a great opportunity for both of them to work and make an impact on the ground. The impact would be more effective when both the bodies will serve the community from their complementary skills and capacities.
The current scenario is a silver lining for the social sector to work in collaboration and have a collective impact. A ray of hope still lies to respond and replenish the situation in a more effective manner. This can be done by a brave initiate of Sukhibhava to think differently to something new and bring a widespread change.
About the Author: This piece has been written by Nilanjan Panda and Shradha Bahuguna, students of the ISDM Class of 2020 in the 1-Year Post-Graduate Program in Development Leadership.