Barely more than a decade after its initial inception, OLIVE Organisational Development and Training (OD&T) has announced that it will cease operations at the end of August 2006. This news will come as a surprise to many people working in the local NGO and development sector, as there are very few local organisations that operate within the field of NGO capacity development.
Those that do are highly valued for the unique and indigenous understanding they bring to organisational development, specifically within the South African civil society sector.
Staff Without Jobs:
OLIVE OD&T have released a communiqué regarding the reasons for their closure, along with short profiles of the few remaining employees who will shortly be without work. These include the Organisation Manager, a Receptionist/Administrator, a Finance/Administrator, the Publications Administrator and an Office Assistant/Housekeeper as well as a Gardener/General Maintenance.
The fact that both of OLIVE's OD practitioners will be leaving to pursue other avenues of interest, along with the lack of a suitable candidate to assume the leadership role within the NGO are two of the key reasons given for OLIVE's closure.
However, this can only be one of many reasons, as OLIVE themselves note on their website that their "strategic focus is on strengthening organisations of the poor and those working in the interests of the poor and marginalised." As we all know, the needs of the poor have certainly not diminished in the past decade, nor have the requirements of those NGOs who are working to make a difference.
What Hope for the Future?
OLIVE's demise must allow us all a moment to pause and reflect on future contributions to prevailing discourse by and for the sector. For example, are there sufficient platforms for engagement around civil society strengthening within the local context? Does the local sector have an identified group of critical thinkers who can provide innovative and practical, alternative models for the local environment (and possibly for broader adoption) or are we all operating in silos, caught up in the immediacy of our jobs with little time to spare for contemplation about where it is we are actually headed?
Preserving Institutional Memory
In this regard, Olive's OD Debate journal will leave a significant gap in the NGO sector, as it provided an important space for deep contemplation. Furthermore, the OLIVE website has a wealth of resources gathered over the years. Maybe we should all spare some time revisiting the depth and nature of the work done in the past and make sure that we incorporate some of the lessons learnt into how we all work in the future?