Inclusive, Enabling Communities

Inclusive, Enabling Communities
Learning Brief

Neighbourhood Old Age Homes - STTOP

STTOP: The challenge of membership participation

Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | Older persons | 1 March, 2013 - 19:17


STTOP is an organisation comprising an active membership body of organisations serving older persons in South Africa.

As documented by research, the Older Persons’ Sector in South Africa is financially neglected.  Corporates, foundations, trusts and the Government have historically favoured other initiatives such as early childhood, youth development and broad based economic development programmes, ignoring the invisible ageing population and its needs.  As a consequence, organisations working with older persons are resource strapped, while at the same time having to address the significant socio-economic needs of older persons.    

STTOP’s learning has been that the success and the momentum of the organisation are largely dependent on its member organisations. STTOP member organisations are represented by senior staff members including directors and managers who as such, hold large and demanding portfolios within their organisations already. All members have recognised the value of STTOP and the access it has given them in changing policy and practice at Provincial Government level.  However, their participation is at times limited as they are facing a number of organisational and funding challenges within their organisations and so have little time and energy to “invest” in collective action.

In addition, the collective action prioritised by STTOP does not always have an immediate or direct benefit to these organisations. Progress with the Provincial government can be slow and cumbersome and intense advocacy work is required. This, at times, renders the work of STTOP immobile, as focus group work is placed on hold. The impact of the above two factors has influenced participation of certain organisations. It has meant that some organisations have become inactive members of STTOP for an extended period of time.

In essence because the STTOP Office has no financial ‘say’ in any of the partner organisations, participation in STTOP activities is thus entirely voluntary and based on good will of the partner organisations. This in turn has an effect on the capacity of STTOP to achieve desired objectives.

What are the implications for STTOP?

The STTOP Office needs to plan accordingly so that strategic objectives take into account that there might be limited participation from membership to achieve these objectives. More reliance needs to be placed on the STTOP part-time staff to record input from members at bi-monthly meetings and implement and execute, rather than relying on members to implement plans.

What are the implications for other organisations?

Unless the co-ordinating body is able to fund the collaborative work undertaken by its partner organisations it is totally dependent on the goodwill and voluntary commitment of its partner organisations. This has led STTOP to the conclusion that it needs to “buy-out” or contract the services of its member body with the payment of a fair hourly rate. This will mean that the member organisations would be more willing to allow the represented staff member to participate more fully in the work of STTOP as part of their salaries will be funded.          

How does STTOP’s plan for the future considering this learning?

We plan to work towards generating income that can then be used to ‘buy out’ the time and expertise of partner organisations to work on STTOP initiatives.      

19 Regent Road, Woodstock, Cape Town

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In Short

STTOP is an organisation comprising an active membership body of organisations serving older persons in South Africa.  In this learning brief STOPP discusses the challenges of relying on membership participation in order to achieve its advocacy goals for the older persons' sector. 

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