Admittedly, development workers are probably one of those in the economic sectors that faced the constant challenge of a financial crunch. One of the major reason of this is the project based nature of the job. But there are also other reasons that contribute to this situation: diminishing resources of the organization and changing priorities of donor countries.
When I started in development work in the late 80's, my region was considered to be one of the poorest regions in the country. This trademark while not something to be proud about has made my region the recipient of much external development assistance.
The NGO sector in my province has been robust. In fact we have yearly NGO sports fest in my province where NGO workers try to compete will all sorts of sports and games complete with cheering squads.
But that came to an end when in the early 90's, development funds were beginning to be plowed to conflict affected areas in the Philippines. The salaries were high compared to my region because of the so called hazard pay but we didn't go where the money went because the territory was alien to me and beside I didn't have a background on conflict.
I am not familiar with conflict although we also have our own brand of armed struggle. But probably it was minuscule compared to the decades long struggle in the northern part of the country. Some of my colleagues and people I have known in the industry went to look for more stable jobs. I stayed put in my province and was still able to find jobs that still trickled in.
The national network of NGOs where I was in during that time also has begun discussing among its members on how to be sustainable. These were long talks and we later realized that those organizations that have resources were the most viable such as land where they can earn from or a specific competence which they can do for a fee, part of the fee went to the operations or savings of the organization or a building to rent out, part of the income to finance core staff. The operational term then to set up 'a lean and mean' organization which was low on cost but still can operate efficiently.
Eventually, due in part with having my own family to raise aside from the scarcity of development work in my province, I have taken to the academe and did part time teaching and full time research work and writing with an INGO on the sides.
Our own natural disaster in 2006, a super typhoon, has enabled the return of most of these development work. So I was back again in the mainstream development work helping disaster affected communities recover.
Now in my current organization, we are talking again of diminishing resources and getting back to its core staff. Am I to be concerned? Of course I am because that means that I won't see myself working for my beloved NGO for that long. Apart from this, I have come to accept it as a natural course of event.
Firstly because my contract is actually ending and secondly, I have seen this tableau before. What to do but polish your CV again and start looking for your next project again. It's tiring as it may sound but only those who found this type of work exciting and meaningful would rise up again and send out applications and pray that you are able to get into a project, role and organization that you will be happy being with and which you will learn something from.