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Facebook Wants to Help NGOs in India Fill Communication Gaps

NGOs must make the most of India going digital, writes Facebook India’s public policy director Ankhi Das.

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India holds the 130th position in the 2014 Human Development Index, ranking 110 in the Sustainable Development Goals Index 2016.

According to the India 2017 Philanthropy Report, India fares lower on both counts than its neighbours and countries with similar-sized population and economies. That the social development of India is integral is evident.

It’s not all dismal, though. What is encouraging is that total funds for the development sector have grown at a healthy rate of approximately 9 percent over the past five years. And while government funding and government organisations remain the cornerstone of social development, individual philanthropists and domestic companies contributed 44 percent and 11 percent of the funds raised for the social sector, respectively.

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But whether it be government organisations, private companies or individual donors, it is the non-governmental organisations that act as the buttress that the country’s development requires. NGOs can fill gaps left by government organisations, while also bolstering the efforts of public services.

Yet, experts and those working in the field have reported that owing to the lack of proper exchange of ideas and information, most NGOs work on assumptions rather than facts. NGOs are also constrained by the lack of tools available to them to implement their strategies.

Like any other industry, NGOs too need to rethink their strategy through research and rigor. This also involves communicating with others in the same area of expertise.

This is where Facebook has helped NGOs connect with each other and the people they aim to reach out to. With more than 201 million people on Facebook in India and 2 billion globally, Facebook has emerged an effective and safe place for NGOs to engage with their target audience, build their skills, and engage with each other.

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Many organisations have effectively used Facebook to reach out to a larger audience and make themselves more accessible to those who require assistance. As of today, more than 150 million people globally are connected to a cause-related page on Facebook.

Over 7,70,000 people used the Donate feature on Facebook to give more than $15 million to support International Medical Corps after the earthquakes in Nepal in April and May 2015, with Facebook contributing $2 million.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofits have been raised since November 2015 through fundraisers on Facebook.

In India, NGOs such as Centre for Social Research, Learning Links Foundation, Youth Ki Awaaz, Breakthrough, Akshay Patra, Pratham, Goonj, Sammaan and Charities Aid Foundation effectively use Facebook. These NGOs work on online safety initiatives, capacity building programs and CSR initiatives. Goonj alone, has already reached over 4,00,000 people online.

The World Food Program, the UNICEF and the Red Cross are creating Disaster Maps with Facebook data. The maps will help first responders fill critical data gaps within the first 72 hours of crisis.
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From providing financial inclusion training, through the SEWA and Sammaan Foundation, to NGOs such as ActionSprout providing nonprofits with the tools, strategies and training they need to succeed on Facebook – the aim is to build relationships with existing communities, and effect change on and off Facebook.

Owing to conversations on this platform, Digimpact has built a solution called Praggyan, which helps in data collection for social campaigns by non-profit organisations, or government agencies. They also help analyse the data for decision-making in the social sector.

Sharing of information on the platform has been effectively used internationally – providing learnings which can help tackle health challenges in India.

The UNICEF-ZIKA Campaign, which teamed up with Facebook, helped understand the public conversation about Zika in Brazil. UNICEF identified key insights and then tailored their campaign based on this information.

‘Lens on Ebola’, a collaboration among media, entertainment and public health stakeholders, helped prevent a full-scale Ebola pandemic in Nigeria by reaching millions of people with a series of videos, information and posts on Facebook.

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The Facebook groups feature has been used by the UCLA HIV Research Institute to help bring a community together to prevent HIV, by encouraging them to get tested. The study suggested that participants will use social media to learn about HIV prevention; and that those who talk about HIV prevention over social networking groups are not just talking about it, they will actually get an HIV test.

The World Health Organisation developed a year-long campaign to end the stigma around mental health and encouraged people to reach out to their loved ones for help. Eighteen million people were reached with their campaign.

These are campaigns that can be replicated in India, in order to change mentality when it comes to health. And it is campaigns such as these which highlight how seamlessly certain issues can be addressed through efficient online campaigns.

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At Facebook India's NGO Day, which was launched in Delhi on 1 August, the goal was to kick-start a dialogue with NGOs and help them leverage their presence on Facebook to champion their causes. There is a need to develop a strategy for communicating on Facebook – whether in providing information, answering questions, developing digital skills or asking for feedback.

We’ve seen the effective and successful use of the platform internationally, especially in dealing with health and disaster-relief issues on a large-scale and online safety at a more micro level.

NGO Day also allowed us to speak and learn from safety experts, academic researchers, NGOs, members of civil society and policymakers, as well as receive feedback from those using Facebook.

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An online platform has many advantages besides resource raising, information exchange and mobilisation. It also allows for anonymity, if desired, as seen in cases like the UCLA-HIV campaign, or in online safety, or Violence Against Women awareness campaigns.

It is also a financially affordable tool for NGOs to use – be it to share ideas, convey information or collate relevant data and to reach out to those they want to assist. And with more and more rural and urban Indians coming online, NGOs and foundations need to realise and make the most of the benefits of India going digital.

Also Read: Christian NGOs Receive Highest Foreign Funding in India

(The author is the Facebook Public Policy Director for India, South Asia and Central Asia.)

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