In-School Productivity Campaign | NGO productivity – A must for sustainability
The Jamaica Productivity Centre's recently held Productivity Forum was a gentle reminder that productivity in the NGO sector is a must.
As expected, the conversation was mostly focused on the manufacturing and distribution of products and services through the private and public sector. The expectations in these sectors, set by the organisation or by the general public perception, are generally understood to be high, with taxpayers and stakeholders respectively either praising successes or lashing out against substandard customer service and/or products and services.
In essence, while the jury may be out on what a productive organisation really looks like, the public perception is that the private and public sectors are expected to be highly productive. This brings to question the productivity of the third sector (as defined below), where many development related services are offered to the public at large and to niche populations who may otherwise not have access to critical services.
This third sector of charities, non-profit organisations, voluntary organisations, community-based organisations, service clubs and social enterprises, is a vibrant system of change agents who are focused on meeting social needs at a community and national level.
JAD exemplifies third sector
A prime example is the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD). For 80 years the organisation has offered a suite of services to persons with varied levels of hearing loss, including hearing screening and audiological services, Deaf education and training services, sign language training and interpreting services, and social support for families and individuals.
Though not focused on making profits, global changes in development has resulted in the need for third-sector organisations to become more self-sustaining, and highly accountable to stakeholders from the board to the beneficiaries. As a result, the JAD and other parties in the third sector, are equally responsible for ensuring that we maintain high standards of operations in line with the global expectations, as well as the overall objective of maintaining relevance through organisation reviews, modifications and growth.
The JAD uses several strategies which include the acquisition of new equipment for our Hearing Services Unit to improve the accuracy and ease of hearing assessments; engagement of training for staff in general and niche areas; implementation of technology-based systems to improve data management, communication and collaborative work; organisation restructuring to improve programme planning, execution and monitoring and evaluation; and the capacity development of our social enterprises by tapping into training and opportunities for the JAD Binders offered by the corporate sector and international organisations.
Notwithstanding, JAD appreciates the ever-changing nature of organisations and understand that there are still opportunities to become more productive. Increased productivity not only makes the organisation more appealing to stakeholders, but also provides the opportunity for the development of best-practices in our area of work, improves our ability to meet the needs of beneficiaries, and provides the potential to reduce some operational costs. Note too that reduced operational costs is a great win for any third sector organisation as this would mean that funds usually required to support routine expenses can now be routed to programme implementation for beneficiary gain and organisational capacity development.
The JAD is serious about being a productive organisation and as a strategy of continued sustainability we know that we must:
- Strengthen policies that guide processes and structures without adding complexity.
- Engage employees to encourage ownership of each process and to support dialogue on how processes can be improved to increase productivity.
- Document experiences that highlight best practices in the execution of our area of work.
- Maintain strong relationships with all stakeholders to ensure that feedback on productivity strategies are considered in the continued review processes and growth of the organisation.
The JAD looks forward to working with the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC) to conduct productivity audits across the organisation and to host information sessions with staff to further develop and encourage the culture of productivity. With confidence, the efforts behind these productivity-building activities will improve the management of our Schools for the Deaf, increase productivity in our social enterprises, and enhance productivity in our administration of this organisation that provides invaluable support to the Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing communities in Jamaica.
- Kimberley Sherlock is executive director of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf.