The proposal for funding OCCO was brought to us in 2013.
During the early evaluation of the proposal, there were some concerns around the sustainability of the project: its dependence on the founder/ Director who also owned the land and buildings in use as well as the recruitment and effectiveness of the tutors.
After considerable discussion we decided to proceed with partial funding of the proposal and signed a one year pilot agreement for $2,000 support.
Our Program Coordinator made two visits to OCCO, in 2014 and 2015. In the second, she met with tutors and confident children eager to practice some English and aspiring to careers as doctors and teachers. It was clear the children’s dreams and aspirations had grown and their selfbelief had consolidated since the previous visit, and, in many cases this was because of the inspiration provided by older children attending computer classes or attending university. Four of these students were recipients of bursaries funded by us.
Despite the many positive outcomes Cressida saw, the visit also raised some serious issues concerning governance, transparency, accountability and planning in OCCO, while highlighting the extent to which OCCO had depended on the previous Project Coordinator for planning and reporting. While there was no doubt about the Director’s commitment and dedication to her work, the Board had reservations about the ‘fit’ between OCCO and indigo foundation and whether OCCO was able to work with our principles of sustainability, transparency, equity and community ownership. Added to this, were constraints around communication and our own difficulties offering consistent support, limited as we were with human resources.
These reservations were not unanimous, however. A desk review was commissioned and undertaken by a member of our Development Advisory Group. Arguments for and against the renewal of a Commitment Agreement were put to the Board, resulting in the Board deciding to exit the project with a final grant of funding and a commitment to continue the bursary of the one remaining recipient until he graduates in 2018.
This decision was based on OCCO’s lack of transparency and accountability to us and to the OCCO community.
Making the decision to exit the OCCO partnership was a complex and difficult process. We have learned a lot from the experience. Some issues identified as risk factors in the initial assessment, for example the inherent weakness in partnering with an organisation that is dependent on one person, were borne out: in other ways, capacity – ours and OCCO’s – was built in unexpected ways.
OCCO currently maintains a partnership with Fundacion UNES and informal relationships with other foreign NGOs. We wish them well with their work in the future.