New Delhi (Caritas News) -- In his first interview after taking over the new Executive Director of Caritas India, Fr. Varghese Mattamana says as a ‘multi-sector-focus’ organization, the biggest challenge of Caritas is to emerge as a frontline leader in the Indian Development Community.
Following is the text of the interview of Ray Kancharla (RK) with Fr. Varghese Mattamana (Fr. V.M.)
RK: As you take over Caritas India as its 9th Executive Director, how do you see yourself in this role? Fr. V. M.: I see this as a role shift with greater responsibilities. In the last four years of my association with Caritas India, I had the unique opportunity of learning about the organization, its systems and functionality. Therefore, continuing the organizational functioning is certainly not difficult.
RK: This being a National office, the challenges are certainly highly demanding. Are you prepared for this, having comparatively less exposure to Northern India conditions? Fr. V. M. : My earlier associations with Shreyas in Sultan Bathery as its Executive Member for 10 years – Assistant Executive Director for four years and Executive Director for 4 years as well as the Regional Director of Kerala Social Services Forum were comparatively easier. Caritas India as a National Organisation is complex and wider in its reach and operations. The other vital element is the cultural mindsets and differences. RK: How do you visualize the future of Caritas India – now that you are at its steering wheel? Fr. V. M.: As on today, we are aware that there is no ideal organization. Realities are different. We certainly see a gap between an ideal and a reality that exists. My role and responsibility will be to bridge the gap that exists. Looking at the realities from another angle of view, we are a growing organization. In the last four years, I had the opportunity to be part of its struggle as well as its growth. Here I must state that we are not yet a FRONTLINE organization in the Indian Development Sector. This is true specially if we analyze the role we played in providing conceptual and ideological leadership. This is the reality. However, we have acquired a respectable position with the governments and people in the relief and rehabilitation areas. Our reach is wider in natural and human-made disasters. We have a proved efficiency in this area and we must optimize this strength. On the other hand, we have established ourselves as a lead organization in the Church sector. Essentially, we are multi-sector-focus organization. If we look at Non-Governmental Organizations such as AHRD (Academy for Human Resources Development), Public Affairs Centre, PRIA, ISA, Centre for Women Develoment Studies (CWDS) and even Governmental Organisations such as NIDM (National Institute for Disaster Management), we recognize and appreciate that they are in the frontline in their areas of focus, be it disaster management, research, advocacy, policy influencing and capacity enhancement of institutions and personnel. As a ‘multi-sector-focus’ organization, Caritas India has the biggest challenge to emerge to be a FRONTLINE leader in Indian Development Community. RK: As an organization working under the auspices of the Church, how do you see the relationship with the Government? Fr. V. M.: From the point of view of liaising with the government, we need to develop a strategy based on our previous involvements with the Central and State Governments, where we have attained due recognition. We need to emerge as a dialogue partner at the level of governments to advise on the issues of our key stakeholders, namely, poor and marginalized, whose restoration of human dignity is our mandate. RK: Organisations like Caritas India exist for the people. What role and future do you visualize for the key stakeholders of Caritas India as mentioned in the mission statement – ‘the poor and marginalized’? Fr. V. M.: With the regard to the people who are our key stakeholders I continue to be an optimist. I have the full hope that together with the people, we will achieve what we aspire to do. We will make every effort to facilitate the empowerment of the people through their own advocacy with the local governance and influencing policies at the wider levels. In this respect, as a National Organisation of the Church in India, we have to discover our role as ‘collaborator’ and facilitator in the Social Movements in the country. With genuinely likeminded organizations and movements, we will provide awaremess. backup and strive to create positive impact. In fact, internally displaced people are one of our critical constituency. I certainly visualize a positive change. Towards the above goal, we will need to make adequate structural arrangements in this fast changing environmental scenario. Internally, there is a need to review and add new dimensions to our own thinking process. We need to transform our structures to become apt and suitable to the present and developing social conditions. RK: How would you qualify your approach as the leader of the organization? Fr. V. M.: In all this, I do not know, if I can call myself a strategist or change manager or democratic leader or whatever else. I believe in one thing. I strive daily in and out to have a “thorough grasp of the realities” and respond. RK: From your interaction and knowledge of the ground realities prevalent today, do you have a special dream for Caritas and its future? Fr. V. M.: Yes ! I do! By now, I have visited and closely interacted with 130 dioceses in India, who are our natural partners. In the area of disaster management, I became intensely involved with the Gujarat Earthquake Operations and Orissa Super Cyclone rehabilitation programmes at critical junctures. With Tsunami and Kashmir earthquake response, I have been involved from the first days of the calamities. Further, I have in a way steered the Organisational Review and Strategic Planning in the last two years. All these are, in a sense, confidence building points for me. Hence, my dream is threefold: Make Caritas India as a FRONTLINE NGO in India so that in the eyes of the Governments as well as among the people, we are seen as an advocate of the issues related to the poor and marginalized. Intensify our involvement strategically in critically less developed areas such as Jharkhand – Chhattisgarh – Orissa – Bihar – Uttar Pradesh – Rajasthan – Madhya Pradesh – North Eastern states with well studied response mechanisms. Be a catalyst to strengthen the systems, structures and management capacity of natural partners to address the issues of the poor in their operational areas, for which adequate resources mobilization will continue to be the challenge of Caritas. A resource pool of persons will also be developed with regard to this. RK: Caritas India is largely dependent on others for its resources? Is there a new dimension you visualize in terms of partnership? Fr. V. M.: It is partly true that we are dependent on partners for our resources. However, I see Caritas India more as an interdependent organization. As such, partnership building will be a crucial area of focus. RK: Normally, development organisations distance themselves from media; but seek mileage for the good work they do. How do see Caritas India vis-à-vis media? Fr. V.M.: As of today, no development actor can function independent of the communication and media. But we are not looking at media merely to get mileage for the organization, but to contribute to the society. Electronic and print media have an inbuilt capacity to enhance this. Hence, disseminating the positive actions and highlighting the issues that people are experiencing will be a strategic point of focus for us. We have already decided to develop a Public Relations and Media strategy, which we wish to make it comprehensive and integral. We wish to see media as a dialogue partner in thinking and shaping the issues in favor of the poor and marginalized and strengthen advocacy and policy influencing dimensions. RK: What will be your leadership style? Fr. V.M.: My focus will be to “be a part and lead the team to enable Caritas India to translate its ideals and emerge as a model in the society”. I do not see myself as a leader for my own sake. In Caritas India, I wish to be an approachable team leader (ATL). I wish to ensure that the rest of the society feels that there is a good leadership in the organization. My mode will be ‘collective leadership and responsibility’ where there is a shared understanding – delegation in decision making and ensure that the process, progress and results are happening!