LWF Training on Mainstreaming community based psychosocial support, January 2020
Questions to Shakeb Nabi, Forum Convenor, ICCO Cooperation Country Director
How often do you meet within the forum?
The ACT forum in Bangladesh is a robust and dynamic forum with very diverse sets of members. We have a combination of both the national and international organizations coming together for a common cause. Bangladesh is one of the countries highly prone to disasters because of the impact of climate change. In order to keep a watch on the situation and engage in joint planning and response we meet on a very regular basis. On an average it would be around once a month. The ACT partners also have various layers which interact with each other. The head of the organization would meet once in two months focusing mostly on strategic issues and also meet if there is some emergency. The operational team comprising of the project managers meet more often on the ground. Apart from that, the communications team of various ACT forum agencies also work closely with each other around knowledge management and joint branding and visibility.
Where is the focus of joint activities within the forum?
The forum is engaged collectively in various joint activities right from monitoring the situation on the ground in terms of any impending disaster. We also have a collective disaster response and management plan which focuses on the hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities of the ACT Alliance team members collectively. Apart from that, in the event of any disaster, we jointly do the needs assessment, design and program implementation.
As ACT Alliance, we are also engaged in joint advocacy at the national and international level. This is mostly around disaster risk reduction and climate change. Along with other faith-based agencies, we are as well engaged in promoting the role of faith actors in development. The joint activities moreover focus on knowledge co-creation and dissemination with joint branding and visibility.
Why do you think coordination or work together is important?
Coordination within ACT Alliance members and between ACT Alliance members and other development actors helps us to achieve the development outcome in an effective and efficient way. We coordinate to come to a common understanding on various issues. We coordinate to optimize the use of resources and we also coordinate to ensure that the civil society has a larger voice in various discourses, especially when it comes to advocating for the rights of the most marginalized and the vulnerable. Coordination and collective efforts also brings in larger visibility to the ACT Forum.
What is a project or programme that has benefitted from the Forum structure?
One of the projects, which was around COVID response focusing on safety and security of the community and their economic recovery, has been a great example for working together and learning from each other. The nature and the severity of the pandemic and to add to it, an unprecedented event in the last 100 years in our region posed a great challenge to all of us in terms of planning and ensuring that the project is implemented as per the plan. The crisis also demanded a large scale and urgent action. Since most of our team members are from Bangladesh, they had not witnessed or responded to this kind of a crisis in the past. The ACT forum brings in agencies from different parts of the world to respond to any crisis collectively. Our first agenda was to learn from people who have worked in a similar context in different parts of the world and responded to a health pandemic before. After few months, we feel that our humanitarian team has sufficient skills to respond to a large health crisis also. As ACT forum we continue to invest in the team so that our team if needed can also be used as a resource in different countries.
What is something that you are excited to see the Forum doing this year?
The ACT Alliance forum is always in a lookout for collective actions. Recently we organized a round table with other faith-based agencies on the contribution of faith agencies towards achieving SDGs and ways to strengthen it further. The members of the Alliance are fully committed to “The Charter for Change” and we are excited to be working further on that to ensure that the humanitarian assistance is as close as possible to the community. It would be very interesting to see how the Localization agenda brings the INGOs and local NGOs closer to each other and complement each other for effective and efficient humanitarian response. We are also together adapting to the New Normal by embracing various digital technologies for transformational change.
How do you collaborate with the National Council of Churches in your country?
The National Council of Churches is one of our key partners in the strategic planning processes. Their development wing “Shalom” is also one of our key partners implementing the program on the ground.
In what sense do you benefit from the collaboration as an organization or as an individual?
Coordination is a tool and a process for us to give larger impetus to an advocacy work by joining in forces with the like-minded agencies. We all benefit collectively as we present a larger voice to other development actors including the government. There have been instances, while organizing a lesson learnt event or an advocacy event wherein different ACT members have come together and contributed collectively to its success.
How do you communicate throughout the year?
The ACT forum members are closely connected with each other on a regular basis. Most of the communications on a regular basis is done online. There are various small teams within the ACT Alliance forum, on comprising of the head of the respective organization. Then we have a team comprising of the people working collectively on the ground. The team on the ground if they are working in the same geographical area meet very frequently to support each other at the operations level. There have also been instances when more than one ACT Forum partner has shared the office space. The head of the organization meets once in two months and as and when required.
What challenges have you encountered?
The ACT forum is being seen as a collective which is making significant changes in the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable and the marginalized communities. There has been a larger recognition of our efforts by various development actors including the government and the donors. We also see a willingness by non-ACT members to collaborate for a larger cause. In spite of its recognition as a key development partner, it has its own challenges. One of the challenges, linked to the global trend is around “Shrinking Space for the Civil Society”. Due to various factors like diminishing commitment of resources for the South and South Asia region, legislation of the government enforcing new regulatory framework with enhanced bureaucracy and the entrance of the private sector in the same space thus making the ecosystem less favorable to the civil societies.
Workshop on Food Security and Livelihood Support, November 2020
Juliate K. Malakar, Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB), Executive Director
Where do you see the benefits/added value of participating in the forum?
ACT Bangladesh Forum of Bangladesh is a very vibrant forum. All ACT members meet together on a regular basis, share contextual experiences and support each other to access resources, to build capacity and to implement emergency and recovery programs together. ACT Alliance members around the globe also are very cooperative and generous to support the work we do in this south as ACT Bangladesh Forum. Previously there have been several national forum members active. But the national forum members were unable to pay the subscription fees, as a result they were suspended as ACT forum members. Right at this moment, CCDB is the only national forum member active. The rest of the forum members are from International development agencies. Because of less participation of national form members, ACT forum Bangladesh has declined its strength from the perspective of localization. At the same time, it is necessary to mention that, the International Agency forum members are very cooperative and supportive towards all members at this forum. Indeed it would have been a better platform if ACT forum Bangladesh could bring back all ex-national forum members under Bangladesh ACT forum following the changed membership policy.
The benefits of participating the forum:
- Capacity building: As a member of ACT, a number of staff from ACT member organizations attended various trainings in-country or abroad. In this regard, ACT made a huge contribution to improve the capacity of ACT forum members.
- Emergency response: Efficient team to implement large magnitude of emergency response maintaining all the standards properly.
- Discussion on contemporary issues: Forum members discuss the contemporary issues which are most important in the development aspect and take appropriate decisions regarding the issue concerned.
- Shared values: The ACT forum provided the opportunity to come together and represent their respective organization which in turn enriched the value base of the organizations.
- Shared responsibilities: Act forum is an example of shared responsibility. Based on the capacity of the ACT forum members, responsibility has been shared among the members to make tasks easier.
- Collaborative approach : ACT forum Bangladesh moves together to respond to the need of the vulnerable people in the country.
What are the topics or issues which are most important for you within the forum?
- Issues related to ongoing program like emergency, recovery, etc.
- Planning of the forum and its implementation
- Issues related to the response to the global ACT requirements.
- Issues related to collaboration with churches around the world as well as the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh (NCCB).
- Capacity building initiatives, discussions and shared leadership in the forum.
EPRP orientation at Cox’s Bazar