Integral Adding Value in Bangladesh

Nancy Tenbroek is the current chair of the Integral country group in Bangladesh. Here she updates us on their current activities and gives us her view into the value of collaborating …

Photo: The Integral Country Group: Front row: Kohima Daring (World Renew), Suchitra Behara (Tearfund), Nancy TenBroek (World Renew); Back row: Milton Dhali (Transform Aid Australia), Tim Danz (Food for the Hungry), Prodip Dawa (World Concern), Saleh Uddin (Food for the Hungry), Elish Mazumder (Tearfund) 

Who makes up the Integral Bangladesh country group? 
We have had a core group of the following agencies meeting face to face: Tearfund (UK), World Concern (US), World Renew (Canada and US) and Food for the Hungry. Transform Aid International (Australia) has recently joined our meetings and Cedar Fund (Hong Kong) has also attended when they are in country.  Most recently, World Relief Canada has asked to be part of meetings via skype. 

Some of us may have known each other before the group, but we have not worked together before – so this group that brings together Integral Members in Bangladesh is a very positive development.

Tell us about some of your recent activities
We have been quite active! In October, Tearfund (UK), Food for the Hungry (US) and World Renew (Canada and US) carried out flood relief programming in the Northwest and North Central areas of the country.  Tearfund secured funding for their partner Lamb and for Food for the Hungry for emergency relief.  World Renew also secured funding for their partner Pari in Jamalpur and for Food for the Hungry in Bogra.  Food for the Hungry recently held a dissemination on relief activities in Bogra, and several in country Integral Members attended.

In the most recent meeting, we brainstormed concepts for funding proposals as requested by Paul Ippel, Integral’s Fundraising and Grants Manager.  The group would like to work together in more DRR programming, particularly along river areas.

What is your personal experience of the group?
It started as a really ‘refreshing’ thing and I was surprised how everyone involved were very interested in coming together. At the beginning we all got together very quickly because of a potential disaster – but that did not come about, so the question then was: so what are we going to do? We started by looking at what each organisation was doing. From there it evolved to inviting each other to workshops, sharing about sectors and where we were working geographically.

The meetings have been remarkable. We do devotions and pray for our work. I would say that there is real respect among us and I see that growing.

There are usually 2 or 3 people per organisation and it is very cross-cultural group round the table, and that makes it really interesting and often fun! Outside of the meetings, as well, different dialogues have come up, which is a very helpful by-product of building relationships.

Can you describe some advantages of being part of the group?
More recently we had some flooding and when we met together we saw that each organisation is linked in different ways – some to INGOs, or others to a particular health group. For example, recently the UN gave a call for organisations to get on their roster for doing disaster relief and we quickly sent that out and said that all of us should apply, which we did, greatly increasing our chances of representation at that level. So there is a strategic aspect. 

Another example is when the most recent disaster hit, as a group we looked at the parts of the country that were most affected and who was already working there. The upshot of quickly having this knowledge was that we were able to put together two proposals, both of which got funding (outlined above).  The proposals were definitely strengthened because of our shared knowledge.

We also share human resources – when Food for the Hungry’s health person came to the country, we all benefitted. We have also sent people for finance and other training with different of the Integral Members.

Can you sum up what you see the added value of the group?
We are all small NGOs and we all have different strengths and by working together we can be more effective. It is a sad fact that many Christian NGOs compete with each other within their operating countries; we want to model something different.

What are some of the challenges?
The main challenge for us is starting to get known as a group. Finding the time can be hard, but we are so far managing to do that. Keeping focus is also key. It is also important for us to keep up with what Integral is doing, and to learn from the experience of other Integral country groups. We are all obviously our own individual NGOs, so how can we maintain our own identity but work for the greater good is an on-going exploration.

Do you have a goal for 2015?
For the short term future, we are planning a meeting in February to do some planning, particularly regarding DRR.  Hopes for 2015 are to strengthen as an Integral Alliance group and enter in some joint work together around DRR.