Not - for - what?!

Nine years ago, I had my own little tryst with destiny. Picking up the phone I heard the question that would change my life.

Would you like to work in the not-for-profit sector?

Wait… Not – for – what?

Looking back, I remember the series of my questions, ranging from absurd to embarrassing. The poor recipients of my curiosity never betrayed how outrageous they must’ve felt.

From realising that field visits had nothing to do with actual fields and that profit is a bad word in the not-for-profit sector, me-the-Alice was discovering Wonderland little by little everyday. Almost a decade into it now, the questions may have reduced while the wonder has only increased for the better.

Luckily most wonderful colleagues, NGO leaders, professionals took the questions and forgave my absurdity. Which brings me back to the reason I started my ramble today. I have two reservations to this sector being called Not-for-profit.

1.) Profit

2.) Not

What’s wrong with Profit?! Why is it so unpalatable that solutions for marginalized and poor people could in any way make profit! Return on effort can’t be that bad, in fact if planned well, can be such a positive motivation for all. Sewa and Mewa need not be meant for different groups, maybe the twain should meet! Our selective usools surprised me then, they exasperate me now.

Now let’s come to the Not.

Names give us an identity, they indicate who we are. It is completely baffling to me how something can be defined by what it’s not.

This beautiful world of social sector, community work, development, is full of compassion, innovation, collective solutioning.. It has its weaknesses that need a lot of attention and fixing, but look at the gaps that it fills. Look at it’s strengths! But what do we call it..?

A Not-for- Something! Or a Non-Government Organisation!

Beginning with the name, our lens is accustomed to look for what’s-not instead of what is. Can you imagine if we followed this principle in other cases?

Who are you ? Not a man

What are you studying to be? Not a doctor

Who would you like to marry? Not you

I will now end this not-such-a-nice ramble about this not-an-ordinary sector that I completely not-hate. I conclude my not-very-organized thoughts and let you go back to whatever you are not-doing anymore.

Have a not-bad day ahead…

naghma mulla

Owner of the loudest laugh in the room and a development sector professional by day, Naghma is a by-mistake CA, who writes what she feels and feels what she writes.