December 1st was just another day for many of us. Each one of us went about what we were doing with the same intensity and dedication that we have been consistently showing for the last two decades and more. What made the day special was the fact that it was this very day 24 years ago, we registered the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement. December 1st was our 25th Foundation Day. There were no celebrations, no public display of our achievements or any media report of this event. All that happened was a few of us exchanged greetings on our group email. This is what makes our organization so special. We have been so quietly and consistently working for the cause of nation building that we have not had the time for aggrandisement or for news paper humbug. 24 years seems to have gone by so fast. I still remember one senior monk telling me more than 23 years ago that we would not last a year or two. He had said that society would be sceptical supporting a group of young men and women whose only asset was their commitment, concern for social issues and compassion for humanity. Thankfully, he was proved wrong. We can today proudly stand tall and say that we have not only managed to survive the last 25 years, but also live all the values that we cherish.
It is not that we have not had our share of ups and downs. We have seen many a challenge and we can be sure that the coming days will not always be smooth sailing. We are facing challenges on many fronts. The solution seems to be finding the right balance, the right equilibrium and the right mix of pragmatism and idealism without compromising on our core non-negotiable values.
HR, for us begins with being able to attract and retain staff of the right calibre. In part, this means being able to offer salaries and conditions of service that are as adequate and secure as possible. From the subject of adequately remunerating our staff there has grown another debate, one that is about the general “professionalism” of NGOs and their staff. One view holds that NGO staff should be paid rates comparable with staff in other sectors, based on the recognition of the demanding nature of their work and to ensure the respect of their peers in other sectors. Another view sees NGO staff as people who should be selfless, poorly paid workers and dedicated amateurs rather than slick professionals.
We understand that we walk a thin line between being on the one hand professional, and achieving it by paying adequate salaries and investing in staff development, and on the other hand, retaining our traditional values and ability to be effective and efficient. It is not an easy line to walk.
Sustaining the various projects and programs that we have initiated is also financially challenging. We need to be look at enhancing our internal revenues while reducing our dependency on donor partners. We also need to make sure that our social obligations are not sacrificed on the altar of project sustainability and our attempts to increase user fees.
Mobilising resources also forces us to relook at our own policy of working silently and without much media hype. The current realities necessitate that we begin spreading the message of our organization and its activities. We need to carefully balance the need to build a public profile for our organization and its work while at the same time ensuring that we as individuals continue to remain unseen and unheard.
Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement started as an emotive response to the social situation. We reacted from our heart and started doing what we felt is our way of giving back to society. The management strategies and processes that we are incorporating today are responses from our mind and intellect. We need to be aware that managerial processes are not the end but only the means to translate our concerns of the ‘heart’ into concrete and tangible responses.
We are inevitably affected by trends in other sectors of society, by labour market forces and by prevailing social attitudes, which increasingly lean towards individualism. To an extent, we have to live with these trends and are inevitably affected by them. We, however, have to keep in mind the values and non-self-serving aims which drive us and express them in all aspects of our work. These values are a much needed counter-force, especially in societies where self-serving individualism becomes extreme.