Pullamma is a 49-year-old woman whose husband works as a daily wage laborer in Hyderabad. They live hand to mouth on the wages her husband earns. There were days when it was difficult to arrange two square meals. But now, Pullamma has less to worry. They have started saving some money by receiving free food from an NGO-Rozi Roti Foundation. This, in turn, helps them survive on days when her husband cannot to find work.
Social organizations such as Rozi Roti Foundation are playing a crucial role in the development space by providing social, economic and environmental services to the marginalized.
About Rozi Roti Foundation: Rozi Roti Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2017 with an aim to fight hunger and malnutrition. They provide free, clean, safe and nutritious food to the urban destitute via food vans in Hyderabad. As of March 31st, 2019, they have distributed 27,932 meals.
Not just serving the poor, Rozi Roti Foundation also promotes accountability within the organization. Every year, they prepare balance sheets and financial statements according to the Companies Act. External auditing is conducted annually. They also regularly report to the governing board over key financial decisions. They maintain all necessary donor details.
We got a chance to interact with Mr Denny George who is the Director at Rozi Roti Foundation. He gave us insightful inputs on how their organization promotes accountability. Below are the excerpts from the interview with Denny.
[Shweta Shekhar]- When was Rozi Roti founded? Why was it founded?
[Denny George]– Rozi Roti Foundation was founded on 26th October 2017 as a non-profit Company registered under Section 8 of Companies Act, 2013. The foundation was formed with an intent to cater to the basic necessities of life for a population that is excluded from those, with a particular focus on the urban poor.
[Shweta]- What is the mission of Rozi Roti Foundation?
[Denny]- We seek to enable access to basic necessities of life to those who need it the most.
[Shweta]- What are the core values that the founders espouse?
[Denny]- We haven’t yet formally decided on the values of the organization. However, we strongly believe in empathy towards the beneficiaries; transparency; and professionalism and as such we could consider them to be our core values.
[Shweta]- What is accountability for you/how do you define it?
[Denny]- Accountability is, for us being held to account for our actions and activities along with ensuring that we adhere to our mission and values and deliver what we promise to.
[Shweta]- Why do you think accountability is needed for Rozi Roti? Why is it important for you?
[Denny]- As an organization aspiring to create positive social change, we believe accountability is a cornerstone for us. We have to ensure that we are accountable to our stakeholders to ensure our sustainability and growth.
[Shweta]- What steps has Rozi Roti taken to ensure accountability?
[Denny]- The primary mode for us in ensuring accountability is to enable complete transparency.
All major decisions, including operational decisions, are taken in concurrence with the Board. We have developed a few policies including Code of Conduct and Behavior at Workplace; Conflict of Interest Policy; Whistle Blower Policy; Grievance Redressal and Disciplinary Policy; and Sexual Harassment Policy. These policies are available online for the public on-http://www.rozirotifoundation.com/about-us/
We track project progress and periodically update our donors of the same. Project progress is also available on the website.
Our financial statements and reports will be made available online as and when they are finalized. The promoters and the Board have ready access to all the operational reports and MIS. We do all required legal disclosures as per the extant regulations.
[Shweta]- Has Rozi Roti defined/identified who their stakeholders are? Does Rozi Roti look at accountability from all the stakeholders’ perspective? What has been done in this regard?
[Denny]- Our stakeholders include our beneficiaries; donors; promoters; board; the government and the public in general. We do look at accountability from the stakeholder perspective.
For beneficiaries: While we do not do any outcome tracking (our scale of operations is too low at present to do this), we ensure the quality of services we deliver. We have an agreement with Manna Trust, an NGO cooking school mid-day meals for several states including parts of Telangana. We also distribute food at areas where the urban poor congregates, ensuring that the food goes to the right beneficiary. We (informally) collect feedback from our beneficiaries and communicate to our food vendor to ensure that quality is maintained. We inform the beneficiaries in advance if due to any reason, we are unable to distribute food on any given day. I travel along with the vehicle at least twice a week to ensure that beneficiaries are receiving quality services from us.
For Donors: We provide periodic updates on project progress through social media handles, website and emails. We are yet to make it more scheduled though, which is being planned.
For Promoters and Board: All major decisions are discussed with the promoters and the Board, with whom we are in regular touch. Promoters also have access to operational reports.
The Government: We comply with all required legal compliances and reporting including those with the Income Tax Department and Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
The Public: Our policies are available for public consumption through our website. Our progress is updated through the website and social media handles.
[Shweta]- Given Rozi Roti is a new organization, it might be too soon to ask this but–have you seen any benefits due to accountability and transparency?
[Denny]- We are more than a year old. But we have successfully raised funds for the project and have a few regular donors. We attribute this at least partly to the fact that we are a very transparent organization.
[Shweta]- Have you faced any challenges till now to put in place/implement policies/ processes related to accountability? If yes, what are they? If no, do you foresee any challenges going forward?
[Denny]- At present we are quite small and nascent. So far we haven’t faced any challenges. However, as mentioned earlier we do not do any outcome tracking. This is due to our small scale and nascent stage of operations. We anticipate that once we are ready to do outcome tracking we will run into challenges with being able to design and implement appropriate measures, metrics and tools due to lack of expertise in M&E. Moreover, finding dedicated staff and ensuring funding for the same could also be an issue.
[Shweta]- Again, this might be too early to ask but what has Rozi Roti done towards addressing such challenges?
[Denny]- As on date, we are yet to do anything towards addressing these challenges.
[Shweta]- What is your message to other social-sector startups in the context of being accountable or putting in place proper systems and processes to ensure accountability and transparency?
[Denny]- To repeat a cliché, we are in the social sector since we aspire to make a difference. In my view, we would not be able to do so unless we are transparent and held accountable to our vision, mission, values, and ideals. Being accountable, and tracking adherence to our vision, mission, values and ideals is the only way we will be able to fulfil the reason for the existence of our organizations.
At a very practical level, being accountable and transparent also increases trust among stakeholders and will be of immeasurable benefit to enable sustainability and growth of our organizations.
We thank Denny and Rozi Roti Foundation for their time and insights.
Being one of the players in the social sector, we truly believe that practicing accountability is crucial for any social organization. It would not just improve fundraising options but can also increase the faith among the beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
If a young organization such as Rozi Roti can promote accountability, so can all the players in the social sector.
We hope that you can adopt a few tips from this blog to make your organization more accountable and credible.
Do you also belong to any social organization? How do you practice accountability? Please let us know in the comment section below.
By Shweta Shekhar, Associate at Ankuram Social Ventures