what does the European chair do these days?

The voluntary role of the PTPI European regional chair, looks quite different these days.  Now that there is no longer an operational office in Berlin, Germany, the European executive committee (EEC) team, take their guidance from the regional chair. This individual is also known as the president of the EEC.  To a certain extent there is no immediate pressure to deliver very much. The annual European conference is probably the biggest mandatory activity requiring attention.  Much of the effort for this event does fall to the hosting chapter. But there is still much to do centrally.  Developing webpages with all the necessary content, agreeing the agenda for the conference, confirming process for registration and money transfers, together with the event communications requires central leadership.

What I have noticed is that without a social entrepreneur driving things, it is all too easy for any region to aspire to achieving the bear minimum. The EEC must ensure that our accounts are in order, minutes from our meetings are circulated, our youth program is supported and that our communication channels show a sign-of-life.  To this end it is difficult to do the minimum because the chapters are in constant need of information. There is also some effort required in meeting World headquarters reporting needs.

It is down to us in the EEC to ensure that the European website is accurate and complete. The chapters require us to publish their news, both on our website and social media. Our weekly European newsletter must provide our chapters with a summary of what is taking place within the region. The newsletter is also the way in which we share information with our chapter presidents, and our nonmembers that may not know much about our projects and activities. We provide a process of continuous improvement, so that we are always learning. Feedback about our communications has been positive for the past three years.

Fund development is another aspect of our responsibility within the EEC.  This is a complex area because no one wants to give money away.  And yet everyone is happy to help in the delivery of great projects, that improve quality-of-life for as many people as possible. At People to People International we have always believed in replacing cultural barriers with cultural understanding.  We have also always been active in many communities through our humanitarian outreach.  We do need to improve transparency in everything that we do, so that potential donors will be more comfortable in supporting our projects.

The regional chair is instrumental in keeping the region on track.  That individual is also responsible for our legal representation in Belgium. There is never a dull moment in any day of the life of the regional chair.  Each day brings with it new challenges, new joys and an opportunity to add value to our people operations at PTPI Europe.

The road ahead requires a lot of collaboration, dialogue and negotiation.  The world is changing faster than any of us could ever have imagined. The issues posed by the migration of people no matter the reason, the constant speed at which technology is moving, and the demands placed on us via our 24-hour society will certainly keep us on our toes. Staying relevant to as many people as possible during these turbulent times, is by far the main thing that I must deal with as regional chair. Unless we remain relevant where ever we operate people will feel no need to pay for membership.  As chapters and members form the backbone of our organisation, it is important to ensure that we focus on what is important to them.

As a voluntary position the role of regional chair is quite challenging.  You can easily fill your whole week with projects and activities that would benefit many communities. So, you find you must balance the time that you have, with the other activities that occupy your life, such as family and probably work. Being a self-starter and entrepreneur, provides me with the understanding of the energy and motivation needed to be successful as an NGO. I’m looking forward to providing the opportunity for the younger PTPI members to take the leadership role.  It is important that we allow all kinds of minds, a wide range of skills and age groups to contribute to our NGO.

Chalks Corriette, PTPI Europe – EMIT sprl

Chalks –  is a social entrepreneur, European president of PTPI Europe and the managing director of EMIT (extraordinary moments in time).  His time is spent assisting businesses and communities to find common ground to work together. His collaborative and creative skills have proven an asset in making things happen. Chalks is particularly strong in marketing and communications, people operational matters and logistics.

where has all the funding gone?

Anyone involved in a local club, charity or trying to bring together friends to run the 20K, for a worthy cause, no doubt has come up against the fact that there really is not much money around these days. This may or may not be true – it is in fact quite difficult to tell. Many institutions claim that they have an abundance of funding that remains in their accounts. The issue here of course is the bureaucracy of forms and processes that one must navigate, to obtain the smallest amount of funding. These processes also tend to be lengthy, only for you to find out just before your project goes live, that you are without funding.

In the past few weeks I have attended a number of receptions, aimed at people working with Youth. We, the other participants and invited guests are advised about the many opportunities, and types of projects that are eagerly waiting to be supported financially. When I have spoken up to say that there is no shortage of knowledge and expertise, at a local level to work on the issues of youth, it is clear that our hosts are really only interested in the projects they want to offer, even if the local youth do not need, or want these projects. Institutional funding is truly becoming more difficult to get your hands on. They require a very narrow definition of a particular subject, and the post project reporting needs are often also steep. Therefore, the small high impact very local Youth projects stand little chance of benefiting.

This is probably why many small initiatives do what they can to raise money within their community. One big challenge here is that many of these community pools are just too small. Numerous events that I attend, and many of the calls for assistance that I receive, tend to involve the same group of enthusiastic wonderful people. These wonderful people only have pockets that are so deep. At some point they will run out of enthusiasm and potentially money, then what? It is extremely important that we as a modern society, think about how local grassroots activities can be better supported by the whole community.

If a company operates a CSR (corporate social responsibility) policy, this tends to focus on issues that are linked to core products and services. Unless a company’s CSR policy, has a strong local community element ensuring that they engage actively with the local community, sadly local projects received no support. Many CSR policies are geared towards offering the company’s core competence as a service to the community. The challenge here is that if you have no need for an engineer, printer cartridges or free transport for example, there is little you can gain from a company’s core competence.

What local grassroots initiatives need is hard cash. These days finding volunteers and offers of goods, is a little easier. However, it is important to be aware that there are somethings that no local initiative can do without. The costs of running a central administration system, insurance coverage and specific items that projects often need, that you just cannot get donated must be paid for. Equally for big projects skilled project managers are essential. Whilst many project managers will donate some of their time, there also comes a point when people must pay their living costs.
There are a few companies out there prepared to help. For example, the employees of Toyota Motor Europe, run several internal activities that generate cash directly from the employees. Employee lead yoga sessions, bake sales, family portrait photography opportunities, games, parties and tombola’s; have generated close
to €30,000 cash in just one year. To be clear this cash does not come from the company. This community engagement program, is complimentary to the companies CSR policy and activities.

So please spare a moment for those of us that operate, support, encourage and cheerlead for local grassroots Youth projects. Do consider our demands for cash donations as genuine and humble requests to support young people in need. Many of us have been in the game for a long time, and we are aware of the number of requests for your money. Small amounts donated regularly are a very good way to help us be sustainable. There is nothing worse than working with a local orphanage and finding that you cannot complete a project, because promised funding did not arrive or we were unable to connect to people with deeper pockets!

We the NGO leaders do understand that there is a role for us to play as well. The issues of transparency and understanding how money is used, will probably forever be front of mind for many people. I would never want to shy away from the fact that there has been some misuse of money, by a few organizations. And yet, by far the biggest majority of projects led by a committed group of young people, are successful and deliver amazing results.

So, the next time you see a “call to action” for a local charity and great course, spare a thought for the effort that these committed people put in week after week. Chasing after ever dwindling sources of funding is a thankless task. One day we may discover the rock under which all the funding is hidden. And that day cannot come soon enough.

Chalks Corriette, PTPI Europe – EMIT sprl

Chalks – is a social entrepreneur, European president of PTPI and the managing director of EMIT. His time is spent helping businesses and communities to find common ground to work together. His collaborative and creative skills have proven an asset in making things happen.