Supporting the Non-profit Sector and Vision 2030
The main paper was presented by Dr. Nouf Al-Ghamdi, commented on by Dr. Khaled Al-Rudyaan and Mr. Muhammad Al-Dandani, and the debate was moderated by Dr. Mohammad Al-Mulhim. The paper examined the concept of this sector, discussed the cooperatives sector, sustainable development, civil society institutions, social investment, the relationship between civil work and national development, and the relationship of the Ministry of Labor to social development. The paper also discussed some problems facing the non-profit sector, particularly the bureaucracy of social affairs. In addition, it reviewed some models of international organizations in the development of the non-profit sector, the importance of facilitating procedures, and proposing a set of development insights for the non-profit sector.
The paper argued that the non-profit sector is an integral part of the government sector, integrated with the private sector, and supervised by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. All these features are not sufficient to push it forward, as it needs a discrete activity that is separate from the Ministry. It also needs a public body to which it is linked, with regulations and legislations enacted that enable it to perform its functions, face challenges, and change the stereotypical idea about such institutions that they are just a provider of financial aid.
The paper called for raising the pace of interest and care in the non-profit sector through support for the technical environment, training, and bridging the gap with government institutions, especially endowments, identification with national plans, measurement, monitoring, creation of competencies, and integration of volunteerism. The paper demanded to activate this sector in the most important areas affecting education, health and housing, while investing in the Hajj season as a field of implementation seminal with opportunities.
The comments made on this paper stated that the experience of this sector is unsuccessful, although it is a very promising one, and an important factor in reducing the burden on the average-income citizen, who can contribute to it, and benefit from the goods and services which it provides at lower prices than the private sector. Not only that, but cooperatives can create a large number of jobs for Saudis.
Likewise, government bureaucracy, management corruption in some cooperatives, and protecting the interests of some groups – restricted this sector and rendered it useless. This is evidenced by the existence of Saudi cooperative societies that are over fifty years old. These cooperatives are still faltering, have little impact, and have not expanded their activities.
In addition, governance is not very reliable in its structure, but rather in application. Also, labeling the sector with aid and donation only is unfair, and it is necessary to amend the stereotypical concept of the non-profit sector, with focus on awareness of this sector, working to develop it, and applying the employment system instead of volunteering, increasing its resources, coordinating among the projects, and establishing a union of associations. In addition to benefiting from the international experience, there shall be promotion for this field outside the Kingdom as an opportunity for international reputation.
Remarks made on the topic were made by some commentators on the necessity of caring for the cooperative sector, as it is an accumulation of the efforts of the people in creative economic activities, and a key factor in providing goods and services of various kinds, given that profit is not the basis in the cooperative.
The idea of social investment was put forward because it reduces social and administrative risks, and the State should encourage and support investment based on social impact in order to confront negative societal phenomena.
Some argued that the non-profit sector should be made independent from the Ministry of Labor, which will contribute to the flexibility and speed of its development. There is also a need for specialized work of charitable institutions as is the case in the U.S. charities. There are many areas which these institutions are interested in, such as education, culture, and health, humanitarian relief, civil rights, religion etc.
Different opinions expressed about the benefit of international organizations in building research and development centers. There are those who believe that these organizations target the needy countries, because they are international organizations. Therefore, their role in local development may be limited.
Among the most important recommendations were the following:
- Paving the way for the establishment of cooperatives, and ease the conditions for their establishment.
- Expanding consumer cooperatives in residential neighborhoods so that neighborhood residents can contribute to their establishment.
- Emphasizing the importance of separating social development from the Ministry of Labor, or establishing an independent body for social development, while simplifying procedures for establishing civil society institutions.
- Establishing a system of civil work that defines this work, its governance, and the mechanisms for achieving the flexibility needed to liberate it from bureaucracy.
- Conducting studies and providing information on global models for the work of civil work institutions.
- Conducting awareness-raising programs to introduce civil work, its components and its importance, and stimulate volunteer work.
- Interest in lifting restrictions on investments in some civil society and non-profit institutions to cover their costs so that they do not need state support.