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Significant reduction in funding available to social sector orgs during Covid: Study

A new study by Azim Premji University underlined that the social sector organisations (SSOs) which were able to support communities with provision of immediate humanitarian relief, healthcare support and creating awareness about the coronavirus and related aspects were affected by the sudden disruptions triggered by the pandemic.

“There was a significant reduction in funding available to SSOs, and the lockdown and social distancing protocols affected their own staff and programmes, forcing them to adopt newer ways of functioning,” the report said.

The study specifically focuses on the internal organisational changes of SSOs both in the short-term and medium-term. The researchers also highlighted how the SSOs are adapting their operations and resources to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the kind of changes they anticipate in the social sector in the next few years as they adjust to a world with Covid.

The situation assessment study was carried out over a five-month period during January-May 2021.

Of the 107 organisations that responded to the survey, 28 respondents for the qualitative interviews, covering small, medium and large organisations, operating in different states and domains such as livelihoods, health, education, human rights and gender were identified.

“92 percent of the SSOs surveyed were involved in various emergency and relief measures to vulnerable and marginalised communities during the height of covid-19 pandemic. Relief work included provision of cooked food, dry ration, distribution of hygiene kits, direct cash transfers, and helping migrants with travel facilities and shelter. Creating awareness about the virus and distribution of food and masks were the key activities that SSOs were involved in,” the report said.

The findings also reveal that several organisations (68 percent) reported that mobilising funds for continuing their existing programmes posed a significant challenge, followed by the restrictions imposed by physical distancing norms.

“Nearly 60 percent of the organisations reported that in the initial days of lockdown, it was difficult to obtain permission from local authorities to start field operations. 54 percent of organisations indicated that they had to stall some of their programmes and adapt the others to the crisis. 60 percent of the respondents started new programmes in the area of education, health and livelihoods in response to the unfolding situation on the ground,” the findings reveal.

72 percent of the respondents said their staff started working online. While 20 percent of respondents reduced staff salaries in 2020, 16 percent reported delays in payment of salaries by a few months and 11 percent had to retrench their staff due to insufficient funds.

The study also inferred the change in human resources in the next two to three years, saying “Hiring people with new skills, including experience in use of digital technology. Recruiting locally to reduce overhead costs and establish better connections with the communities. Increased reliance on technology for routine tasks, meetings and maintenance of records; Need for greater budget allocation for technology adoption.; Reskilling existing staff and hiring people with such skills.”

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