IT WAS about an hour past noon on November 30 last year when my inbox alert came up on screen: ‘Official Registration of NGO for SCOT’. It made me sit up, not so much in the way I’d sit up if a great scoop falls on my lap, rather, in the way of surprise when you learn something about someone you thought you knew well. I didn’t know before then that the Society for Community Outreach and Training (SCOT) was not a registered organisation. I’d seen enough of their work and talked to enough volunteers to think they ran things in an organised manner the way formal organisations do. The way it partnered with The Brunei Times as its official media partner from the beginning to me was indicative of this. To me, when a society like SCOT, already able to operate the way they do, formalises itself with Brunei’s Registrar of Societies, it must signal some kind of change in the way they do things. Founder Anwar Mohammad says not really. “It’s just a way for us to diversify in terms of human resource capabilities… That helps in terms of innovation… not focusing on the same projects over and over again.” He goes on to tell me about looking into finding new geographical areas for development and how to make it look more interesting for people to participate through education. His idea is that if people understand more about how they benefit or even profit from SCOT’s programmes, there would be more buy-in.
Have three years of SCOT programmes brought about long-term impact?
“When you talk about impact, don’t expect to see 100 per cent change… we’re not miracle makers. What we want to see is even the slightest change of habits… attitude changes. It’s always the case that small steps are more impactful rather than unrealistic big targets,” he says. Anwar is guarded about SCOT projections for the new year, preferring to talk about achievements rather than plans: “We have several new projects lined up in 2014 but I’d rather talk about them once they’re successfully launched and completed.” He again highlights innovation as the main focus for SCOT projects, for example a fresh location for the sixth Green Exchange project that would open participation to all of Brunei (past incarnations have only been in Brunei-Muara). “We’re taking our own steps. We don’t want to be pressured by anyone… we’ll wait for the right time. If we feel we’re not ready, we won’t do it.” It’s all about the longer term He moves on to SCOT’s agriculture project, harking back to SCOT’s roots as an organisation tackling the issue of poverty. Up till 2013, the project ran as a series of trials with families identified as underprivileged, hoping to provide them with a self-sustainable means of income. According to him, the trials were positive and are expanding. He refers to a long-term fruit tree planting project that started only a month ago, focusing on several families with the help of partners from the private sector. “We’re not experts. Different families will have different stories and different cases… for example, agriculture-wise, land suitability and fertility have to be decided by experts with the right background, which we don’t have many of at the moment. That’s why we engaged a company doing landscaping who know better than us. They’re the ones organising the tree-planting, teaching the recipients on proper care of these,” he says.
SCOT as a CSR business model through PPP?
New plans require new money, so I inquire about their funding situation. “It’s too soon to tell. Funding-wise, 2013 was a good year. Most private companies have been very willing to sponsor us, so that shows us the worth and quality of our work. We’ve seen companies coming back year after year, not just for the same projects but looking to new projects. We hope for more stakeholders for 2014.” The government has been supporting SCOT for a while, with their education project in Cambodia receiving a high percentage of funding from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Anwar believes this support, including in logistics and security for SCOT volunteers, will continue. Nevertheless, SCOT will continue to rely on private sector support. “A company plans to invest in us for, for example, their corporate social responsibility (CSR). In terms of income generation on our own, we don’t see it as a primary concern. What we want is to engage public-private-partnerships (PPP). It’s one of our mission statements. In a way, SCOT can work as a CSR platform. That’s our vision for 2014 and going forward,” he explains.
Any regrets for SCOT?
“Why would you even ask that question?” Anwar retorts with a laugh. “I wouldn’t have done it in another way… I’m the type of person who sees opportunity and execution. If you see opportunity, seize it. Waiting for it would have been a regret.”
The Brunei Times
Source: The Brunei Times
Author: Daniel Wood
Published Date: 9 January 2014