New website supports small-scale development aid

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Many Dutch people are involved in development aid. An estimated 8,000 small-scale projects are currently being run by private individuals in the Netherlands. A networking site called has been launched to support their efforts.

People often return home deeply impressed by the poverty and other misery they witnessed on their foreign travels. Once home, they start raising money for an aid project. However, zeal and good intentions alone won't get the job done, as good intentions don't automatically translate into good results.

Realism and common sense are at least as important as idealism. Adequate funding is also important, as is transparency. A failure to pay proper heed to these elements is bound to lead to deception, both for the charity workers concerned and those they are trying to support.

The new website is intended to warn these individuals and small groups of the pitfalls they may encounter. The internet platform is an initiative of major aid organisations and NCDO, the Dutch knowledge and advice centre for citizenship and international cooperation which is funded by the Foreign Ministry.

NCDO spokesperson Ernst Jan Stroes explains who the site is intended for:

“In general small charities with a turnover of less than 50,000 euros, and sometimes as little as 5,000 euros, which they acquire through fundraising. So, really small organisations, which use to make contact with bigger organisations, like Cordaid, Wilde Ganzen [Wild Geese] and other parties.”

The website is a ‘Facebook for private aid workers’, says NCDO. The large organisations use the platform to give advice to the small volunteer groups. These groups can also use the platform to exchange information and assist each other, or work in partnership: quite often they are unaware that they are working on similar projects.

The tenor of is sobering: amateurism, however well intentioned, doesn't achieve anything for anybody.

In addition to the website, NCDO also provides training courses that focus heavily on financial transparency. Donors want to know what is being done with their money. In the past few years, the Netherlands has seen widespread criticism of the major aid organisations: too much money is allegedly spent on overheads, or disappears into the pockets of managers.

The current Dutch cabinet has made substantial cuts to the development aid budget. However, the Dutch do attach great value to development aid, says Mr Stroes:

“Research shows that the average Dutch citizen still believes development aid is very important. The major development aid organisations raised more money last year than the year before. So the government may turn its back on development cooperation, but small development groups and also the bigger private organisations are still being appreciated by the Dutch citizen for the work that they are doing. So attention is not waning.”

Mr Stroes says will be a success if at least 2,000 to 3,000 of the small groups use it this year. Ernst Jan Stroes is optimistic about 2012:

“The outlook is definitely good. It will most likely become a little harder to raise funds, but people still want to be active in development cooperation. And people are working on all kinds of projects, so I don’t expect there will be a drop. And people still experience the Netherlands as a rich and prosperous country, and I think they're right.”