This is a continuation of a series of posts. Previously we explored the value provided by CVO as a network of NGO's operating in Haifa, Israel. Now, we will explore how CVO operates to provide this value.
Inclusion, Participation and Commitment
CVO recruits members to become part of CVO. There is a core of members that continue from year to year. There are other organizations that belong depending on their particular organizational needs or what their finances allow. CVO started with 32 organizations. Last year, there were 100 out of 300 organizations in Haifa that were members. An organization could be a member one year and not in another year. CVO thinks about other approaches to tie together these Haifa organizations including the use of technology. The result is that a single NGO can leverage the knowledge of many other NGO's in performing its work.
CVO recruits members by locating all the organizations that may be interested in a given subject and following up with them. CVO recruits actively by advertising in newspapers, using mailing lists, their own Internet site or by meeting with administrators of these organizations.
In the recruiting process, CVO will go to organizations to see what they do. This can lead to an invitation to the organization to participate in CVO.
Economic or political interests are not part of the CVO network. Yael Abada said, "we had a very big discussion on, should we add to the network businesses and political parties?" In the end, CVO "decided not to let political interests or economic interests be part of the network or the decision making process. This is in keeping with the idea of civil society as a space between the government and business sector.
Arab citizens are included in all of the activities of CVO. Yael stated, "We make efforts that in every cluster (working group of CVO) or course the Arab organizations will be part. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't." She continued, "Special needs organizations are involved, feminist Arab organizations, communications organizations are involved."
Organizations may want to participate in CVO in different ways. They might want to come to the General Assembly which is one of the major discussion and decision making forums of CVO. They might want to come to training or attend a course. They might want to be a board member.
What CVO expects from organization members according to Yael is "to pay member fees, to come to gatherings, to take part in a week of volunteerism, to come to courses, to use us if they want to send a message to other organizations, to use our data base."
Operating Model, Governance, Funding
CVO is an official entity according to Israeli law. CVO has a board that meets once a month and a chair of the board. The board has 14 members most of whom are representatives of other organizations. One creative tension in the board is between thinking about their own organization and CVO. Which organization do they want to promote more? It is helpful when the board members think more about CVO and work for the benefit of CVO. The assumption here is that when CVO as a whole benefits then all the individual NGO's that are a part of it benefit as well.
CVO has a director, Yael Abada, five staff plus part time jobs. There is a General Assembly which meets once a year, chooses the board and approves official documents. The General Assembly provides for general awareness of the members. The work of CVO is done in what are called clusters. CVO is funded mainly by the Haifa-Boston Connection, plus the Joint Distribution Committee. It is also funded by municipalities and provided with in-kind contributions by the University of Haifa. Members pay 200 sheckles a year. CVO also writes proposals to American foundations with representatives in Israel.
Members are convened via the General Assembly. Email lists and a Facebook page also serve as convening vehicles or at least communication vehicles. Courses offered by CVO also serve as forums in which members convene.
The main convening vehicle of CVO is the clusters. Clusters are groups of member organizations that are convened in order to do the work of CVO. Clusters are composed of representatives of member organizations who are interested in a particular area. For example, one such area is Employment. Member organizations are connected together while also maintaining their specialness.
Clusters and the sub-teams within them are the key vehicles for doing work in CVO. Sub-teams work on specific action areas within the main focus of the cluster. Organizational members bring in a lot of ideas. Clusters learn together, discuss issues and share knowledge. Small teams work on issues that the clusters want to work on. Teams are set up and people choose which the team they want to work on.
Members in the clusters choose how they want to be organized. In each cluster, CVO gives them time to define what they want to do and how they want to do it. The Special Needs cluster finished the whole process in two days, Each cluster has a facilitator to help them organize the cluster.