Thursday, August 28, 2008

INDICORPS - A Wounded Brand

By far, besides my loyal following, most of the traffic I have received on my blog is due to the Indicorps controversy.  To this day I still get letters asking my opinion, people who had the same doubts I did about the organization, about whether Indicorps is connected with the Hindu right wing.  

All I can say is that whether it is true or not matters less and less as these rumors and doubts continue.  After awhile, it is about what people perceive you to be, there has to be a serious effort to protect your brand.  

I wrote Indicorps and had an extensive dialogue to work hard to clear these myths.  At this point I suggest they either change their name, post a statement on their blog, or higher a PR firm to enhance their reputation.  I don't think it is possible to keep ignoring this issue. 

But why the lingering doubts?  It is not just cyber surfing, I receive emails from people who WORK with them and have a great time but then feel uncomfortable hearing things from respected leaders of other NGOs on the ground.  

There is no problem with any of Indicorps work, it is their supposed affiliations and their at times questionable neutrality.  

To give you a feel of the controversy and to sum simply the problem I am posting my standard reply to a whole host of queries.   

Dear X,

It is murky territory.  They do great work, are extremely professional, but are people who do not want to take a stance or rock the boat.  Personally they are secular and liberal in outlook, but they refuse to criticize and at times for practical reasons will work with and collaborate with known abusers of human rights (Narendra Modi).

They interpret non-political as apolitical, meaning they focus only on their projects and will work with any government to get that work done and also to ensure that they can continue to do the work.  

My biggest gripe was their acceptance of an award from Narendra Modi AFTER the gujarat riots and Sonal Shah's name on the VHP america website as "national coordinator", which is still there by the way

It is up to you.  Your volunteers will have no problem with them, that I can ensure you.  It is about the level of your principles.  

I really like their work and told them to make some clear statements of separation but they felt this would endanger their presence in India.  

That is the story.  How activist do you want your service organization to be?  Its a tough question.  But I suggest you engage them with any thoughts you have as they are very open about this issue.  Sometimes we need to make compromises and you need to decide if this is one of those times.  

with best,



Shival said...

fight the power, don't believe the hype

renu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
renu said...

I agree with what you say - that its a tough question when it comes to deciding how activist one wants one organization to be. For sure, being activist and challenging the establishment can endanger the work one wants to accomplish. But it seems that taking a neutral stance in order to accomplish something can legitimize what one has not spoken out against, and this can ultimately endanger the long-term goals of the work one is trying to accomplish (but maybe it won't - very gray...).

And what I don't get - and so I agree with your gripe - is how sonal shah's connections to the VHPA (as a national coordinator for some fund-raising campaign, even if it was for post-earthquake relief) can possibly be non-political or apoliticial???? That I simply cannot digest. Makes no sense. How can she claim to be non-political or apolitical??? So then I cannot see how an organization founded by her can claim neutrality - her actions sit very weirdly with INDICORPS wanting to "not rock the boat"!!