Sarvodaya Donor Relations: Sharing Learning And Accountability Across Power Divides

Alisa Oyler, School for International Training (SIT), Brattleboro


In the provision of public services, a certain integrity of intent is necessary to build a healthy and vibrant society. The services provided by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are part of the brick-and-mortar foundation of social protection. They are the fluid and responsive place of human compassion,[What does this mean?] and rarely are they intended to be a permanent solution to a social ill. Instead they are meant to catalyze a self-healing with the people that participate.[Again, it is not clear what this means]. To do this they must be fine tuned to the situations and contexts which they address. As the number of dollars spent on social services and ‘development’ projects undertaken by NGO’s increases, it [What?] is simultaneously burdened with higher (?) expectations of both process and product. In the case of Sarvodaya, the largest indigenous NGO in Sri Lanka, the rapid increase in aid dollars received as a result of the Indian Ocean Tsunami has created an exaggerated case of the impact of this ‘scaling up’ in one organization. Some of the lessons learned from this case can be applied to other actors within what has become the aid industry.

The research in this paper focuses on the relationship between the donors and the institution of Sarvodaya. It seeks to determine the nature of their influence, and whether that relationship can truly be termed a ‘partnership’. Through the provision of examples of the impact of the donors’ on the decision making structure of the organization, the research will attempt to assess the value and potential harm. [Of what?) It seeks to make recommendations to the practices and structures that could improve the dynamic between the actors. Practically, this is expected to have implications for the establishment of a Partner Coordination Unit within the Sarvodaya organization.

Although Sarvodaya is a unique case, many of the findings and suggestions are applicable in other contexts as well.