Peter Willetts defines, "NGO is defined, as an independent voluntary association of people acting together on a continuous basis, for some common purpose, other than achieving government office, making money or illegal activities." Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Voluntary Organizations (VOs or VOLOGs), Voluntary Agencies (VAs or VOLAGs), Voluntary Development Organizations (VDOs), International NGOs (INGOs), etc are the different terms used by various organizations in the Voluntary Sector in India. They are registered under various Acts like, Societies Registration Act, 1860; the Indian Trust Act, 1882; the Charitable & Religious Trust Act, 1920, Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, and various state level legislation such as Rajasthan Societies Registration Act 1958, Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act 1975, etc.
Credibility Alliance aspires to be a nodal agency for good Governance practices in the Voluntary Sector. It is an initiative by a collective of Voluntary Organizations committed towards enhancing accountability and transparency in the Voluntary Sector through good Governance. CA was registered in May 2004 as an independent, not-for-profit organization after an extensive consultative process over a period of two years involving thousands of VOs all over India. As an organization, CA aspires to build trust among all the stakeholders through improving governance within the Voluntary Sector. CA is a professional body that set Norms or standards of Governance. These Norms operate on the principle of self-regulation that respects the autonomy and seeks to preserve the spirit of innovation in the Voluntary Sector. As an initiative whose hallmark has been the participatory approach, CA has developed suitable Norms through wide-ranging consultation with and participation of diverse organizations within the Sector. This is achieved by developing a large membership base. The members participate in the process of evolving suitable guidelines based on voluntary disclosure of information and adhere to them. This promotes the ideals of accountability and transparency within the Voluntary Sector. In addition, Credibility Alliance has developed an Accreditation System based on the Norms to strengthen and enhance the legitimacy and the credibility of the Sector. Capacity building initiatives required to equip VOs to meet the Norms are also promoted.
The concept of Credibility Alliance was introduced in December 2001 in a meeting on 'Need for an NGO Consultative Framework', co-hosted by Charities Aid Foundation and Childline India Foundation. The meeting witnessed the participation of a cross-section of Voluntary Organizations which decided to develop 'minimum' norms for Good Governance, Accountability and Transparency of the Voluntary Sector. A working group was formed and it was mutually agreed that the process of defining norms have to emerge through an inclusive/participatory method, along with sharing of leadership, financial, administrative and secretarial functions on a periodically rotating manner. At this stage, a need was felt to understand and bring together various parameters developed by Organizations such as Charities Aid Foundation, Childline India Foundation, IndianNGOs.com, Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC), Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI), Society for Service to Voluntary Agencies (SOSVA), MACS and MACRIL. Apart from this, processes and criteria of International Organizations from Philippines, USA etc. were also referred. Thereafter, Norms were discussed amongst the group and Sub-Committees were formed to develop guidelines on good practices. Set of Norms were developed for the Good Governance in the Voluntary Sector. In the beginning of 2002, as part of the Consensus building exercise, the norms were circulated to over 15,000 Partners, Members and Affiliates and feedback was solicited. More than 500 Organizations gave their feedback, with more than 94% of them agreeing on the need for Minimum Norms of Governance for the Voluntary Sector. In July 2002, 78 Organizations assembled at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to discuss the plan of action to disseminate the Norms to grassroot Organizations. As a part of this exercise, more than 20,000 copies of the booklet on Norms were distributed and circulated on internet. In addition to this, 75 Regional, State and District level meetings were held all over India and about 2,000 Organizations participated in the process. The feedback gave an overwhelming mandate for the Credibility Alliance initiative with 96% Organizations agreeing to the need for such norms and willingness to comply with and be a member of an Organization promoting such Norms. A National Workshop in New Delhi was held in November 2003 to give an independent institutional structure for Credibility Alliance with formal registration as an Organization for promoting the cause of Good Governance in the Voluntary Sector. Thus, Credibility Alliance was registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 on the May 28, 2004.
The Voluntary Sector is not organized and the regulatory mechanisms in place do not adequately provide us the opportunity to enhance our credibility. In contrast, the Government is accountable to people through the democratic process and the business sector is accountable to its stakeholders. In this context a self-regulatory framework, built by us from within the Sector, that allows for the establishment of Norms, their promotion and adoption, and ultimately certification that organizations meet these Norms, would strengthen and enhance the credibility of the Voluntary Sector. It would be a positive recognition of the ideal of good Governance, as it would also increase its transparency and accountability. In the long run, it would also preserve the autonomy of the Sector.
Credibility implies instilling confidence amongst the public and community to the effect that an organization is working efficiently towards its stated objectives. There are several ways to enhance the credibility of an organization. The initiative of Credibility Alliance aims to enhance the credibility of the Voluntary Sector through promoting Norms of Good Governance and by building capacities of organizations to comply. Compliance to the Norms is voluntary, because the underlying principle is one of self-regulation.
* The process of setting the Norms for enhancing credibility of the Voluntary Sector is being led by the Sector itself * The Norms are designed in such a way that organizations - small and large, local and international, working in India, are able to comply * Compliance to the Norms shall be voluntary, because the underlying principle is one of self-regulation. The Norms will not be imposed on any organization * The promotion and modification of the Norms will continue to evolve in a participatory manner * The Norms emphasize disclosure, in keeping with the principles of transparency and accountability, rather than for value judgement * By coming together in this way, the Voluntary Sector will be able to influence policy and decision-making at State, National and International levels, and with others outside the Voluntary Sector.
Today, there are many collectives of organizations most of which focus on a particular agenda such as health, human rights, etc. Existing networks have not been giving enough emphasis on issues of good Governance of the Voluntary Sector. It is also necessary to have a network that can promote issues of transparency and accountability across organizations with diverse agendas.
No. The driving force for this initiative has emerged from within the Sector itself, amongst grass root organizations and networks. The process is taking forward the mandate that Credibility Alliance has gained through extensive discussion among a large number of Voluntary Organizations all over the country. The refinement and development of multi-layered Norms is also based on discussion among Alliance members. Donors and Government grant making bodies are involved to the extent of endorsing the CA Norms for which CA is presently making efforts.
The emergence of Voluntary Sector as a major contributor in social development process, its rapid growth both in size and numbers and huge flow of money towards it from Government/private and international organizations has put a question mark on the credibility of Voluntary Sector itself. Also, the report of the steering committee on Voluntary Sector for The Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) recommends that: "Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) needs to be promoted. To attract corporate funding and partnership with private sector, accrediting or validation of VOs / NGOs and a methodology for that is required." Accreditation/certification of VOs would be useful for both public and private sector and also for international donor agencies to select credible organizations for funding. Accreditation of VOs provides access to various stakeholders, some mechanism to understand the VOs and strengthen the spirit of voluntarism and philanthropy. In addition, the mechanism preserves the autonomy of the Voluntary Sector even while establishing a robust mechanism for self-regulation.
The organization registered as a Trust/Society/Section 25 (not for profit) company and one has been functioning for minimum one year from the date of registration can apply for Accreditation.
Accreditation Certificate is valid for five years.
Ratings are grades issued, based on the level of compliance of VOs to certain indicators/criteria/norms developed in association with the help of experts in the Voluntary Sector. These are in the form of A+, A, B etc. In accreditation, certification is done through a YES / NO process based on compliance to the Minimum Norms orDesirable Norms set by CA. If they are unable to do the same then they are referred for capacity building.
CA is making efforts both with the Government and Donor agencies as well as with the Corporate sector to endorse the CA norms. For example, GIVE Foundation has already made it mandatory for its partner organizations to adhere to the Minimum and Desirable norms of CA. However, it should be noted that neither accreditation nor self-disclosure through Transparency Profile is a substitute for legally mandated reporting and does not override any local or national legislation.