On community organisations

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How much value are they adding, asks PAWAN LUHTRA.

According to experts, a successful strategy for an organisation, business or otherwise, is one that accomplishes two goals: it creates value (meets and extends demand), and then allows one to capture enough value to prosper. This is, in a nutshell, what an unbiased consultant will preach at any review of an organisation. The question is, can this be translated across our various community organisations?

Enough has been written and discussed about the plethora of community organisations across the Indian diaspora in Australia. Not only community organisations, but media outlets, showbiz entertainers and community functions have sprung up in the past few years. As the number of Indian Australians has skyrocketed to over 400,000, there are now enough communal and commercial opportunities that have emerged, allowing for more competition. While in the commercial world, the harsh reality of economics will determine long-term survival, community organisations need to take a long hard look at the twin questions of creating value and after that, prospering within their market.

Over the years, most community organisations have certainly created value; they have brought together groups of people from specific linguistic or regional background and bonded them through shared factors. They have conducted get-togethers, celebrations and maintained traditions for their members.  They have connected Indians in their country of migration.

However, they need to ask themselves if there is something they can do which the others cannot. Are they duplicating their services and creating divisions? Is there a unique service which they can offer to the community?

If the answer is ‘yes’, have they captured enough value to prosper? Have our community organisations flourished, as the community has grown in numbers?

From an activity point of view, if they have increased membership and financial stability, they can be seen to have captured the value within the community. If they are still where they were about two to three years ago and have not been able to grow, it may be time for them to merge their energy with other groups while continuing to serve the community. While it will be hard to let go of egos, taking this decision to merge will only strengthen the community which, one assumes, is their reason for being involved in community organisations.

From a community relations point of view, politicians and bureaucrats need also to set up some criteria to measure the depth of community organisations. Sadly, this lack of due diligence allows important space in forums to be taken up by those whose contributions to the community are marginal, while those silent but true workers are often pushed in the background. One assumes it will not be too hard to set up the evaluation criteria (and being an evaluation of community voluntary organisations, it does not have to be too harsh), to audit the veracity of these organisations and rank them accordingly. Those who are in the top tier will benefit from government grants and other handouts, others will be lower in the pecking order.

This carrot-and-stick policy will allow the true believers to serve the community; the others will slowly fade away, unless they perform.

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