There are many hundreds of NGOs, local and international, in Cambodia, some say too many, and their effectiveness in their particular spheres of operation vary considerably.
While they all aim in their own way to make a difference to the progress, prosperity and social structure of this developing nation, many appear un-coordinated and structured, duplicating each other’s efforts, resources and personnel.
In recent months even one of the world’s leading NGOs, Oxfam, despite its size, organisation, money availability and reach in 99 countries, has restructured to get maximum impact and effectiveness from its work and programs in Cambodia.
Oxfam moved to a common office with a single country director, reduced their eight affiliates to four, with more efficient use of financial and human resources to increase the positive impact of their work in the Kingdom and be more effective as an organisation.
There are many smaller scale NGOs who have similar problems – operational, organisational and financial. Many are also chasing at times elusive and fought over donor funds.
And while not an NGO itself but self-termed a “social enterprise”, the Pari Project is a Cambodian-based business which deals solely with grassroots development organisations to help make them more
financially sustainable and more effective by increasing their internal skills, resources and capacities.
While self-termed a social enterprise, Pari acts as a consultancy and PR and fundraising business agency. Its aim is give organisations the tools they need to better serve their target market.
American Allie Hoffman, 27, founded the Pari Project and first came to Phnom Penh at just 21 to work for the Cambodian Children’s Fund, an NGO that provides educational and vocational training opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
She returned to Cambodia on holiday in 2007 and while visiting grassroots NGOs working with street children in Phnom Penh, felt they lacked program development and management and that many of their projects were under-serving the children in their care.
Pari was born coming from the belief that the majority of NGOs do not live up to their full potential. and now has 15 full-time staff from countries which include the US, Hungary, New Zealand, Italy and Canada. They have expertise in public relations, graphic design, law, marketing, human resources, systems management and IT.
All, says Hoffman, have come to Pari out of a shared desire to apply their skills and knowledge to the social sector.
Pari balances a workload of 15-20 clients at any given time, not limited but heavily weighted to NGOs.
Founder Hoffman says Pari carefully selects who it works with, making decisions based on whether the team feels the potential client “believes in better”. This guiding philosophy, she says, seeks out those that are innovative in their approaches, clear in their leadership, and fully dedicated to building their team.
Divided into three teams (Grants, Creative and Best Practice), Pari has worked with more than 40 organisations since its inception, covering sectors that include disability, HIV/AIDS, primary education, arts and culture and human rights.
Its “team” structure means it offers services ranging from branding, marketing and design to strategic planning, project and program management.
Pari aims to assist each organisation it works with in realising their potential, so they can participate meaningfully in the development of Cambodia.
The Pari Project horizon is itself looking to the future, due to open an office in Uganda next year. For more information, contact: www.thepariproject.com