Mistakes Made, Lessons Learnt

Failure is simply an opportunity to start again, this time more intelligently. At ECF, we believe in admitting our failures rather than hushing them up. We all make mistakes occasionally, but these mistakes make us sit up and take action, invite change, and become a little wiser.

Another reason for willingly sharing our problems is because we have reason to believe that if there’s something we haven’t got right as yet, there’s somebody out there who has, and we don’t hesitate to ask for help, suggestions or innovative ideas. Similarly, others working in this field might also be able to learn from our mistakes, at least, not to repeat them.

Lesson learnt #1

Aditi Tembe, Senior Programme Manager talks about lessons learnt in the Alumni Programme

Q. What are the main programmes run by ECF to stop violence and discrimination against women?
A. ECF’s main programme is Action for Equality that is run in two parts.
The first is the AfE Graduate Programme (GP). Mentors deliver a unique and attractive programme of cinema and livelihoods training where adolescent men uncover the pivotal role of women in their lives. Adolescent men are introduced to various topics that include- violence, gender violence, sexuality, STI’s, RTI’s, healthy relationships and other topics relevant to women. They are also coached through a process of personal behaviour change towards women using bespoke tools that help them manage their behaviour over time. At the end of each cycle, men take collective action to support women in their community.

Usually men start demonstrating changes like helping with household activities or not abusing their sister etc. However, we are aware that over time the frequency of these activities will drop, unless we provide AfE Graduates with continued “touch points”. In order to reinforce and sustain the positive behaviour change in men, continued opportunities must be provided for them to practise the new found pattern of behaviour. The Alumni Programme builds on this insight and provides volunteering opportunities for graduates to develop, prepare and deliver interactive and multimedia community activities on issues that focus on violence and discrimination against women

Q. What problems do you face in the 2 programmes?
A. The main challenge here is to ensure that men volunteer consistently for AP events. We have found that despite the huge number of men that attend AfE Graduate Programme, the number of men in Alumni Programme is less and inconsistent.

Q. Have the reasons for these dwindling numbers been identified?
A. Yes. One of the reasons is that AP events are held on Saturday. This is a day off for them. They are obliged to take time off their ‘funtime’ to attend AP events. Also, most of the men are in their 10th, 12th standards and find it difficult to attend AP events due to exams and parental pressure to excel at this level in school/college. Some of these men have taken up jobs. Some don’t get along with other volunteers. All these reasons together contribute to the dwindling numbers in AP events.
In my opinion, the reason these factors start affecting their attendance is that they are adolescent men who are letting go of their play/fun time to come to AP events where they only learn of women’s issues. Some of them get it theoretically that they can be a part of the change, but not all of them identify with the problem. From all our communities we have 60- 70 men who do feel that they have a personal link but a majority of them do not completely get it.

Q. Is there a solution to this problem?
A. We have started recognising that this is about developing men holistically and not only with regard to women’s issues and from gender perspectives. Considering that they are going through a different phase in life – their needs, expectations others have from them need to be addressed as part of our programme.

Over the coming months the focus will be on understanding trends in participation levels, testing simpler modules that are of interest to men but still meet ECF objectives and identify incentives. Most importantly design solutions that develop a sense of belonging in men towards the issue and the programme.

Lesson learnt #2

In the last four years, the work we do at Equal Community Foundation has grown significantly. The size of the team, the number of men we work with, and the impact our work has on communities continues to grow. We often get asked: Though the work you do is impressive, how do you fund it? And the answer to that question is something where we have learnt a few lessons in the last four years.

Our work is entirely based on donations. Fundraising continues to be a challenge even after 4 years. In this period, there have been many times when we have been trying to meet ends on a month to month basis. Even though we were aware from day one that this wouldn’t work on a long term basis, priorities were different then. But now, things have got to change.

We have come up with a solution that we have already started testing:

Step 1:
We have consciously decided to invest in one full time person on fundraising.
Step 2:
Rather than relying on one source or one type of source we will diversify the areas where we raise our funds from. We will be focussing on raising funds from four major sources: Foundations/Trusts, Corporates, Events and Individual donors.
Step 3:
In the past we have not raised funds from individual donors. Designing and implementing the mechanism for that will become the focus of fundraising in the coming months. There are three main reasons behind this step:
– Individual donors can provide a constant input of funds throughout the year.
– It is relatively low risk, i.e. in case a major institutional donor is not able to continue for some reason, our work doesn’t get affected.
– Individual donors can act as the medium through which we can create awareness and generate further support for our approach of working with men to end violence and discrimination against women.
We do realise that this is an issue that many people in India feel strongly about but don’t know how they can contribute to the solution. We are presenting individuals with an opportunity to do that.
Step 4:
We recognise the value of each and every rupee that is donated towards our work. Thereby, we recognise the value of maintaining transparency and commitment in our interaction with each and every donor. We will invest more time in understanding the relationship with our donors. As everyone knows, identifying new donors isn’t easy. So, maintaining the current donors is crucial. This applies to all types of donors.

It all seems very simple. It is nothing new. We too knew about it for a long time. But, now is the time when we can and will focus on implementing these steps.

If you have taken interest and reached the end of this article, we assume that you are interested in our work. Perhaps you would like to support our work by becoming a part of our monthly giving programme. If you are interested, please click here to sign up as an individual donor and do give us your feedback on the registration process at donate@ecf.org.in as the team is working on it as you read this.