Organisational structure, decision making and work culture of Nijera Kori
The core value of Nijera Kori’s management structure and decision-making system is guided by the philosophy of ‘participatory democracy’. The overall governance of the organisation rests with the ‘General Body,’ which elects the ‘Governing Body’ for two years. General Body, made up 39 members, which is responsible for overall governance and elects a Governing Body, every two years. The role of the Governing Body who meet quarterly, is to ratify policies and programs proposed by Nijera Kori, to approve the audited account and budget for the coming year, as required by government legislation and to appoint the Co-ordinator who is responsible for coordinating the overall programmes and management of Nijera Kori on regular basis.
Nijera Kori’s organizational structure and culture demonstrate the basic organisational principles to which it is committed. Therefore, for linking the grassroots, on the other hand, each area office has 3-4 sub-centres, which are made up of female and male field staff. They, through living collectively in a centre in the field, manage the activities of Nijera Kori along with the landless people. The groups themselves have their own structure for group activities.
At present, Nijera Kori’s has 14 anchal (area) and 31 upa-kendra (sub-centre). In its headquarters, there is a central team which is made up of the coordinator, 3 central organisers and 3 central trainers. This team oversees organisation-wide co-ordination, administration overall programmes. The Dhaka office is also made up of the cultural team, accounts office, reporting and monitoring team, administrative and other support staff. Field level responsibility for these functions are decentralised to the divisional and anchal teams.
Programmatic decision-making, monitoring and reporting
Monitoring based on documentation, feedback and deliberation, is a central organisational principle of Nijera Kori. All officials with decision-making responsibilities, with the exception of the Coordinator, are elected from amongst the staff to the relevant levels and councils. For instance, each division elects a Divisional Coordinator who works with a Divisional Council to co-ordinate and provides overall supervision at divisional level. The Divisional Coordinator also represents the division in the central executive council which has strategic executive powers. There is provision for an additional woman member if no woman is on any of the elected committees, but this was never needed.
The entire staff at both field and central levels participate in strategic decision-making, both directly and through these elected representatives. Nijera Kori’s decision-making, reporting and evaluation processes are closely inter-twined. There is a great deal of emphasis on documenting these processes through written minutes, reports of visits and activity reports, all of which are then synthesised into the annual report. Decisions are made and modified, and progress evaluated through open and participatory processes on the basis of these vertical (mainly staff) and horizontal (amongst staff and groups) flows of information (Annex A). Importantly, staffs are informed by the self-reflection and learning process of groups. This is particularly important in the context of protests and struggles for physical occupation of Khas land, where decisions on how to act have to be made by groups themselves, and not staff.
A description of the processes by which different levels of Nijera Kori staff perform their duties, monitoring, share information, evaluate performance, take decisions and engage in forward planning will best help to illustrate how principles of democracy, accountability and transparency are built into its organisational culture. It will also help the readers to understand Nijera Kori’s organisational decision making, monitoring and reporting strategy.
Staff at the 31 different sub-centre meets on a weekly basis to reflect on their performance over the week, share problems they have encountered, evaluate each other and discuss plans for the coming period. These are minuted. Every staff has to maintain a separate file for each of the groups which she or he is overseeing so that continuity is maintained in relationships with groups even if the staff in question is changed.
2-3 days monthly area meetings are held each month at the 14 Area level. Individual staff in an areas submits a written activity report for the month and provides self-evaluation of their performance for comments and questions. Individual and area-level activities are decided at these meetings.
These meetings are minuted and a monthly report prepared. Administrative decisions regarding leave internal transfer are taken here. One day is kept aside for studying and learning, based on selected books and materials recommended by the central team.
2 days divisional council meetings are held by the divisional council every second month. The area coordinator and divisional team review the entire division’s performance against the objectives and targets of the annual plan, evaluate its activities and make adjustments where necessary. Administrative decisions for the divisional level are also taken here. Recommendations which have implications beyond the division are sent on to the central team which either makes a decision itself or takes it up at the staff executive council. Proceedings are minuted and sent to the areas and to the centre.
2-3 days quarterly meetings are held by the executive council. Four divisional coordinators and all central team members, including the coordinator, meet to review the entire program. The divisions give their reports, identify and discuss key issues and decide on new strategic directions. The entire administrative decisions for the organisation are taken here. Proceedings are minuted and circulated among the divisions and areas and read out at their respective meetings.
Annual 3-day conventions are held at the divisional level. All staff of the division, including divisional accountants, conduct a review of divisional and area performance, check achievements against targets and prepare a report on divisional activities for the entire year.
4 days central convention meets every second year. All Nijera Kori staff are present, including the accountants, administrative and support staff. During the convention, each division presents a report for the past year, reviews policies and guidelines in the light of any changed circumstances. An annual report, which synthesises the quarterly reports of each division and hence provides an overview of the organisation’s activities and achievements over the past year, is presented for discussion at this convention. Staff at the convention also elect representatives to different levels, either retaining or changing the previous representative on the basis of their performance over the past year. Thus, areas staff elects the area coordinator; divisional staff elects divisional coordinator, the divisional organiser and divisional trainer. The entire bodies of staff elect the central team organisers and the central team trainers. The only non-elected staff in the decision-making structure is the coordinator who is appointed by the Governing Body and has remained the same for the sake of continuity since 1980.
4 days council meetings are held every alternate year. Here, for every five Nijera Kori staff a councilor is elected to represent them. These councilors are separate from the elected representatives, all of whom also attend the council meetings as delegates. This is thus a smaller forum than the biennial convention and allows for more in-depth analysis and evaluation than is possible in the larger forum. The annual report for the year in question is presented at this meeting. Any changes to decisions or policies taken at these biennial council meetings have to be approved at the next convention.
Finally, if specific issues need discussion, this is done in the executive council or an extended staff representative meeting where all elected representatives is convened. This is to ensure that decisions taken on unanticipated issues or unplanned changes are also taken democratically and implemented at the relevant level. The outcomes of all meetings, at different levels, are transmitted back to sub-centre level and groups after each meeting.
Structure of landless group
The landless groups themselves have their own democratic structure for group activities. The groups have various committees which they form in the manner stated below. The group members by organising annual conference every year elect their representatives to the committees through evaluating their roles and responsibilities of the previous years. The relationship between each of the committees and also between the committees and group members is based on reciprocal accountability with regard to their overall activities.
The landless groups are formed on a preliminary basis with a minimum of 16 to maximum 30 members. For reasons pragmatic and practical, groups are separately formed with male and female members. Rooted in the patriarchal values and the consequent social and religious beliefs, women in traditional Bangladeshi society are kept separate from men. This is for this reasons that at the preliminary stage, women groups are formed exclusively. But when at a later stage after necessary capacity building, the group members start working on various activities at par with their male colleagues, when committees are formed both male and female members get integrated into different committees.
The Village Committee is made up of representatives of different groups in a village and is formed when at least two-thirds of the target population in the village have been organised. The groups meet at an annual conference to elect the committee which is made up of seven members including one president, one secretary, one treasurer, two male and two female group representatives. The village committee meets once a month.
The Union committee is formed when two-thirds of the villages (if not village committees, at least groups in the village must exist) are covered in the union. It is made up of thirteen members. The structure includes one president, one vice-president, one secretary, one joint secretary, one organising secretary, one finance secretary, one publicity secretary and three male and three female members.
The Upazila committee is formed when at least one third of the unions in a upazila have been covered. It is currently the highest federated committee in Nijera Kori. It is made up of twenty-one members including one president, one vice-president, one secretary, one joint secretary, one organising secretary, one joint organising secretary one finance secretary, one publicity secretary, one joint publicity secretary, one office secretary, one education and cultural secretary, one women affairs secretary, one production secretary and four representatives each of male and female groups respectively. An annual convention is held at the upazila level to evaluate the preceding years’ activities, discuss problems of a regional nature and elect representatives to Nijera Kori’s decision-making bodies.
The Area Committee is an interim committee which co-ordinates the activities of village committees in a specific area until the conditions for forming a union or upazila committee have been met or if there is a need for an interim committee because of the specific needs of an area. It is made up of eleven members: a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a joint secretary, an organising secretary, a finance secretary, a publicity secretary and representative of two male and two female groups. Its tasks include arranging meetings of representatives to organize campaigns on specific issues.
Common principles of committee structures
All committees share the following common principles:
- They are democratically elected for the period of one year at the annual conference of the group members.
- Gender equity in representation and participation.
- The committees give leadership in social movements and lead the action programmes at local level.
- The committees are important forums for taking decisions which are relevant for members within the committee’s jurisdiction.
- Learning and self-awareness through a process of review is used to inform decisions.
- Accountability among the committees is maintained through leadership structure, annual conference, and regular discussion.
- Committee’s responsibilities include solving internal problems of the organisation and co-ordination of Nijera Kori group activities
- They seek to liaise with other organisations in order to have a more powerful impact