This directory / database was initiated by the Uganda National NGO Forum in November 2009 to serve the entire NGO community in Uganda as well as partners in government, the private sector, researchers, journalists and international development partners.
A practical tool to enhance knowledge and understanding of the NGO sector, the directory also serves to increase NGO transparency through disclosure of detailed, credible information on the activities and funding of listed organisations. It is a ‘living’ directory, which will be extended and updated as often as resources allow.
This is neither an open-access platform, where NGOs may post whatever they wish, nor a listing with strict editorial control. Rather, all NGOs operating lawfully in Uganda are entitled—and encouraged—to write and submit their own short profiles; but they must agree to disclose the basic details that appear at the beginning of each entry. The site managers make every effort to ensure the reliability of the entries, but the NGOs are themselves the authors of this information and ultimately accountable for its accuracy.
All creatures great and small
This initiative respects the breadth and diversity of Uganda’s NGO sector. The sector includes big, well-known organisations that have several offices across the country, employ dozens of staff and, in some cases, are members of international NGO networks. But it also includes many community-based groups that work entirely on voluntary effort. Some groups specialise in research and advocacy, aiming to inform and influence public policy makers, whilst others are geared almost entirely to practical action and service for specific constituencies. Yet others hope to combine these activities. Some groups derive inspiration and vision from religious faith; others are entirely secular. Some set out to help others; some are mainly self-help in nature.
The directory makes no judgments about which are the ‘best’ kinds of organization or approach. Rather, it simply aims to represent the sector faithfully. Arguably, it is the very diversity of the NGO sector that makes it so important: much as the diversity of a tropical rain forest gives it enormous, ecological value.
However, small NGOs, especially those based in rural areas, typically find it hard both to access information and to make their existence and work known beyond their immediate communities.
For this reason, and recognising the important net contribution of small organisations, the NGO Forum began this project by reaching out to small, rural-based groups.
Regional ‘write-shops’ were held in western, northern and eastern Uganda, where scores of local NGOs came together to share ideas and experience and to write their profiles for the directory. Similar efforts will continue, as far as resources allow, to ensure the visibility of the grass roots.
In order to draw on the knowledge and experience of other important stakeholders in the NGO sector, a Reference Group was convened in the earliest stages of this communications project. This Group continues to meet regularly to offer advice, criticism, encouragement and much wisdom. It includes representatives of the following agencies:
Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda
DENIVA (Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations)
DFID (the UK’s Department for International Development)
Makerere University Faculty of Computing/Informatics
Ministry of Internal Affairs NGO Board
Network of Ugandan Researchers and Research Users
Office of the Prime Minister
Private Sector Foundation Uganda
Uganda Bureau of Statistics
Uganda Journalists’ Association
Uganda Women’s Network