Thanks for your interest and for reaching out to us at The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG Bahamas). Please see our location and contact information below:
P.O. Box SP 64331
Bay Street Business Center, Bethell Estates
East Bay Street (at Deveaux St.)
Email: [email protected]
RBC Transit and Account #05565 1403989
Beneficiary: ORG Bahamas
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Freedom of Information, the people’s right to know the factors affecting the decisions and processes of government, is a subset of freedom of speech – a fundamental right. Recognizing that transparency in governance begins with this right, The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) collaborated other civil society and private industry groups to advocate for a true, fair Freedom of Information Act. This advocacy resulted in a more open consultation process, the amendment of seven articles within the proposed bill, and ultimately the passage of the bill through both Houses of Parliament.
The Freedom of Information Bill, 2016, tabled in Parliament on 14th December 2016 is the culmination of review and public consultation on its predecessor the draft Freedom of Information Bill 2015 which was released to the public for comment and feedback on 18th May 2015 with the intention of improving upon and replacing the Freedom of Information Act 2012, passed but never enacted in the previous administration.
Since April 2016 ORG and our partners have pressed amendments for the bill to ensure it is a strong, fair bill for the people. With help from members, ORG was a part of a collective effort that saw 22 diverse civil society groups representing more than 100,000 residents come together to act. Through our engagement arm The Campaign For The Bahamas, ORG encouraged over 2,000 citizens to send letters to their MPs and sign our petition and thousands more raised their voices, asked questions, and stood up for the people’s right to know.
ORG compiled and prioritized civil society’s suggestions and lobbied with sympathetic members of parliament to ensure they were debated and considered by The House. Of the over thirty suggestions four priorities emerged to create a bill that gives power to the people and keeps our government honest:
- The selection process for the Information Commissioner in the Bill should be selected through a Selection Committee involving government, opposition, and members of civil society to maintain independence and avoid bias.
- The Bill should provide access to information about all entities that receive substantial public funding. We recommend that the definition of “Public Authorities” which are subject to the Bill be expanded to include all bodies “owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Government from public funds”.
- Time limits outlined in the Bill favor the government and can act as deterrents for those seeking information. We recommend that wait time for responses and the 30-year period for information to be declassified be shortened.
- Opinions, advice or recommendations Ministers of Cabinet or Committees therein use to make decisions should be fully disclosed. The people have a right to know the data and information ministers use to make choices that affect us all.
Our partner, Citizens for a Better Bahamas (CBB) created a detailed assessment document bench-marking these recommended amendments in other Westminster systems. Ultimately all of the priority points were debated and considered. However, when the bill was passed in Parliament and later in Senate in February 2017 the priority amendments were not included, though seven other civil society’s amendments were included in the final bill.
ORG and our 21 partners now lead the collective call for the timely enactment and enforcement of the bill. Once the bill becomes an Act, ORG’s work continues in renewing the push for the inclusion of the four priority amendments during the Act’s 18 month review phase and beginning a public education campaign to ensure that persons of all walks of life are made aware of their right to public information and taught how to access and use this tool to better their lives and the country.
Who better to tell us what new schools need than the communities and the students they serve?
ORG is committed to creating learning environments that are as inclusive as they are innovative. Check out two of our programs aimed at getting feedback from those that will be most affected by our programs!
Let's Talk Learning
This program aims to gain a deeper understanding of the perceptions that parents and community members have of the national education system, the role that community plays in education, and the symbiotic relationship between the two in order to foster relationship building and dialogue.
LTL will help ORG to learn from the community and subsequently design initiatives and programs which are responsive to community needs.
We are asking government school students from Grade 6 to recent graduates to let us know what their dream school would like. In a Shark Tank-style competition, students will get a chance to have their voices heard on what we need most in our education system and possibly have some of their ideas come to fruition in the government school system! Find out how to participate at the link below.
Given the existing challenges in the Bahamas public education system, ORG sees a need to create alternative learning environments that can facilitate innovation and learning.
These can take the form of Partnership schools. Partnership Schools are similar to charter schools in the US, free schools in the UK, and partnership schools in NZ), using both public and private funding , will be free from current systems and regulations and will serve as settings to pilot proven innovative and modern education approaches that can be tested in a Bahamian Context and with students that are in need. ORG envisions 10- 15 Partnership Schools across The Bahamas.
To determine how such schools could be best established in The Bahamas, ORG commissioned Scott Hamilton, an internationally recognized Educational expert and leader to research the topic and generate a report.
In taking from international best practices toward the creation and operations of independent public schools, and in applying these to the politics, government, and geography/population distribution of The Bahamas, Mr. Hamilton recommends the following 11 key ingredients for successful independent public schools:
Allowance for the creation of 15 independent public schools, called Partnership Schools. (This would be just less than 10% of the public schools across The Bahamas, and it would likely result in 8-10 Partnership Schools in Nassau and 5-7 schools total across Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera, and Exuma.)
Provision of a per-pupil funding amount equal to the average annual operating and capital expenditure per pupil determined simply by a clear formula (e.g. the annual Ministry of Education budget for pre-school, primary, and secondary education divided by the number of public school pupils enrolled). This year that amount is approximately $4,800.
Creation of an Independent Partnership School Board to grant and oversee contracts to founding groups seeking to sponsor a new independent public school. This seven-person board would have a modest budget, a staff of 1-2 people, and would be comprised of 3 members appointed by the University of The Bahamas and 2 members appointed by The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and 2 members appointed by Civil Society.
Requirement that students in Partnership Schools take the same tests annually required of all Bahamian public school students.
Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment and Expulsion Procedures, which must be followed by all Partnership Schools.
The contract term of Partnership Schools will be 7 years, with conditions stipulated for the non-renewal of a contract at the end of each term.
Provision that the Government (not strictly the Ministry of Education) make excess publically owned and controlled space available for use by Partnership Schools for their facilities.
Exemptions from most Bahamian Education laws, except for those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information requirements, and generally accepted accounting principles.
Exemption from collective bargaining, whereby Partnership Schools are exempt from any outside collective bargaining agreements, while not interfering with laws and other applicable rules protecting the rights of employees to organize and be free from discrimination.
Allowance for the private school and religious entities to operate Partnership Schools as state schools but be allowed to retain their special characteristics and programming.
Allowance for educational service providers (non-profit and for-profit school operating entities), provided there is a clear performance contract between the Partnership School board of trustees and the service provider, and there are no conflicts of interest between the two entities.
Recognizing the significant lack of value held for the teaching profession in The Bahamas, ORG will research and create a new recruitment program called Teach for Bahamas, designed to attract a higher caliber of teachers and school leaders to Bahamian education. This system will be modeled after the success of Teach for America and Teach for Haiti to draw local talent from non-traditional backgrounds and experience toward teaching in the public education system as a profession.
The state of the Bahamian economy is a topic of increasing concern for the people and businesses of The Bahamas and the institutions that study and evaluate our economic activity. International credit rating agencies have continuously expressed concern with a lack of action to address systemic economic issues and as a result, in August 2016 Moody’s Investor Services downgraded the Bahamian Government’s credit rating to Baa2 – “junk status” – due to the country’s “low growth prospects”. The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG), as a non-profit, nonpartisan, civic foundation committed to improving the core socio-economic drivers of The Bahamas, believes that a major step toward strengthening the economy lies in broadening the economic portfolio, education reform and improving government accountability, transparency and efficiency.
Economic markers show that the global recession of 2009 took a sizable toll on the Bahamian economy, and recovery has been slower than in comparable economies. According to the Word Bank, The Bahamas’ GDP per capita (PPP) has steadily dropped since 2008, largely driven by losses in the country’s two main sectors: Tourism and Financial Services. Today, real GDP per capita is lower than it was in 2000. Without impactful economic development reforms, improvements in the education of the workforce and government accountability significant improvement in the Bahamian economy through 2020 are increasingly difficult to forecast. ORG believes that efforts to reverse this downward trajectory must be prioritized.
ORG believes that achieving sustainable economic development is one of the central priorities to creating prosperity and opportunity for all within the Bahamian economic environment. There are important links between economic diversity and sustainable development. Increasing the number of viable opportunities across many sectors insulates the Bahamas from shocks in any single industry, creating a more stable economic environment. This economic stability fosters innovation, improves business and consumer confidence and encourages sustainable growth.
Seeking to address the Bahamas’ heavy dependence on large-scale tourism and financial services, The Organization for Responsible Government, has commissioned internationally reputed economic research firm Oxford Economics to study possible opportunities and identify achievable strategies for growth in three key sectors:
Agriculture and Light Manufacturing – selected based on the inherent potential as primary economic sectors that can engage and empower local entrepreneurs
Logistics – chosen due to Bahamas’ strategic location and already strong, if small, footprint in the global industry
Boutique and vacation home rental tourism – chosen due to a recognized opportunity with the increasing popularity of short-term rental platforms such as Air B’n’B, VRBO and others.
The Oxford Economics report presents a series of recommendations collected through a combination of economic research and the input of diverse Bahamian business leaders and stakeholders in the identified industries. The researchers promote that the adoption and implementation of strategies, suggested in or adapted from this report, could go a long way to improving investor, business and consumer confidence in The Bahamas and creating an environment where prosperity and opportunity are attainable for all. ORG intends that these recommendations be a starting point to adapt policies and practices that begin to address the economic stagnancy that the country has seen over the past decade.
The Organization for Responsible Governance is committed to working toward this end and welcomes the collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders who seek a Bahamas that fosters productivity for all. We encourage you to be a part of the collective voice for a brighter Bahamas.
Recognizing the significant need for civic engagement and education as a measure to increase public participation in governance of The Bahamas, Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) is launching Freedom Schools. These mobile Grassroots educational sessions, in the tradition of the freedom schools of the Civil Rights movement and the philosophy of Paolo Friere’s Critical Pedagogy are aimed at connecting to Bahamians in their neighborhoods to increase their knowledge and role in the governance and direction of the country. The format of the Freedom Schools will be community-based drop-in events where ORG and partner organizations can host inclusive discussions designed to empower and build the civic involvement of the participants. Held in churches, malls and other local community meeting places, each Freedom School session will offer multiple workshops on topics of civic participation to local community members. In the workshops, participants will receive critical information and resources on topic areas such as Freedom of Information, the Constitution, the importance of civic participation and voting, how to effectively communicate with their representatives and the importance of good governance. At the events, participants will be offered opportunities take direct civic action by signing petitions, sending letters to their representatives and getting information about the candidates in their constituency and learning how to register and where to vote. The information presented in the Freedom Schools will be tailored to be functional and meaningful to community members of all ages.
ORG invites all stakeholders to participate in Freedom Schools. The information on civic participation is relevant for everyone who lives and works in The Bahamas. Government representative and those seeking political office are invited to participate as well. ORG has a goal of reaching 1000 participants in the first year.
Through collaboration with civil society, private industry, educational and religious organizations, ORG aims to bring Freedom Schools to all the islands and communities in The Bahamas. Initial sessions in April will target churches and community settings in Nassau such as Carmichael, Yamacraw, The Mall at Marathon, Arawak Cay, Coral Harbour and Freeport. Eleuthera and Abaco sessions will happen in May. A plan to reach all Islands on the archipelago will be developed.
In the face of successive downgrades of The Bahamas' international credit ratings and the overall increase in the national debt, Civil society and The Private Sector are calling for greater transparency in government expenditures and reporting. There is a need for a demonstration of expenditure control, tax compliance and accountability from the Government. Accordingly, the following commitments are necessary to stem the continued decline in economic development:
The implementation of a Fiscal Responsibility Act that among other things provides limits to capital and recurrent expenditure relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), requires comprehensive reporting of projected costs and benefits of planned programs as a condition precedent, requires a balanced budget and mandates reductions in the national debt and the building of national reserves.
The implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, with accompanying legislation to protect whistle blowers.
Improved compliance rates regarding existing taxes; while this is a longer term initiative, there must be demonstrable efforts to modernise the processes and imbed greater accountability for a failure to achieve increased compliance and greater penalties imposed on those businesses and individuals found to be evading taxes.
Energy reform must be prioritised, with the appointment of a representative from the Private Sector to the committee charged with selecting an appropriate entity with which to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and devising the structure of the PPA.
With seven in ten graduating high school students unprepared for the next step in life, The Bahamas’ under-educated populace is wreaking havoc on the country’s socioeconomic development and its future. Poor education effects everything; high unemployment rates, soaring crime rates, and economic stagnation can all find some part of their root cause in our failing education system. The status quo must change or at the current rate the Bahamas will become a failed state in less than 10 years.
A successful Education System - one which fosters the development of a dynamic and capable work force and thoughtful, active citizens is vitally necessary to bring about this change. However, there is a notable gap in coordinated efforts to address this critical need. As such, ORG has identified Education Reform as a priority area of focus and is committed to bringing together vested stakeholders to foster policies and programs that will bring sustainable change for our children and our future.
ORG addresses this core issue head on with innovative policies and programs generated through research and cross-sector collaboration. ORG has formed a Volunteer-based Education Reform Sub-Committee, a think tank comprised of leaders and experts from Education, Private Industry and Civil Society from across The Bahamas. This Sub-Committee has identified several priorities within
Creating environments that facilitate innovation and learning is a first step to achieving higher quality education for Bahamian students. Drawing on the input of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) - a world leader in private education management - along with everyday people living in underserved Bahamian communities, ORG is researching and developing legislation and models for Partnership Schools. These public-private partnerships will provide independent, tuition-free settings where innovative and effective practices can be incubated and then applied in the Public Education System.
Drawing from the internationally renowned Swiss apprenticeship model in tandem with consultation from successful U.S. programs and input from local educators, ORG's senior high school apprenticeship program leverages private industry partnerships to develop self-efficacy, enhance vocational skills, and address academic gaps for students within Bahamian Public High schools. The program is designed to ensure a future workforce with the most in-demand skills needed for the country’s growing industries.
The success of students depends on the quality of teachers and administration we are able to attract and retain within the education system. ORG has engaged internationally recognized education expert Scott Hamilton to research and develop a model for recruiting internationally educated Bahamian and non-Bahamian teaching talent, similar to the successful Teach for America and Anseye Pou Ayiti programs
Teaching students critical social competencies necessary for academic and life success can be pivotal in improving academic performance, preparing students for the workforce and even reducing involvement in criminal and violent activity. Led by Education Reform Sub-Committee member Dr. Michelle Major, ORG is researching and identifying appropriate socio-emotional curricula which can be implemented across all age groups within the public schools in The Bahamas.
Learn more about ORG’s position and goals for Education Reform
Responsible, accountable, and transparent governance is a central challenge for societies seeking to provide equal opportunity and socioeconomic stability for their citizens. International organizations such as the United Nations, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, The International Monetary Fund and The World Bank all stress the importance of good governance as the underpinning for broad prosperity and sustainable development.
Governance is the process of decision-making in a society and how those decisions are implemented. In a liberal democracy as The Bahamas aspires to be, Good Governance encompasses key values such as transparency, accountability, rule of law, respect for human rights, efficiency, equality and participation.
Ideally, these processes originate and operate in three arms of society: government, the private sector and civil society. Partnership and collaboration between these sectors is critical to ensure the proper integration and management of a modern society, from top to bottom.
The benefits of accountable governance are clear. Countries that observe better governance see better economic performance, espouse greater confidence and trust from the populace, engender greater equality, experience less corruption and better achieve short and long term national goals.
By contrast, the core problems facing the Bahamas - crime, poor education, unemployment, and a flagging economy amongst others - stem from a systemic breakdown in governance in the country.
The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) empowers civil society and introduces key policy and legislation to ensure the actions of the country’s leadership are subject to oversight and serve the best interests of the Bahamian people. Through our Accountable Governance sub-committee – a topical think tank with members from civil society, the private sector, academia, and political leadership - we work to create inter-sector dialogue on courses of action to promote better governance. Through public education we drive participation from all levels of society in the decision-making process to create positive change that is in the public interest.
With input from the Accountable Governance sub-committee ORG identified several policy and programming objectives crucial to achieving better governance: enacting a Freedom of Information Act, Introducing Whistleblower and Ombudsman Legislation, enforcing the Public Disclosures Act, establishing a public consultation process for legislation, and creating a candidate questionnaire to encourage informed voting.
The cornerstone of a free, fair, and functioning democracy rests on a well-informed electorate. It is key that voters make educated choices bolstered by a clear understanding of candidates’ views on issues affecting the nation. To assist voters in their assessment of candidates ORG developed a candidate questionnaire, a platform where aspiring representatives’ views and policies can be easily and accurately communicated. Candidate’s answers are tabulated by constituency to aid in comparison.
The candidates’ answers also serve as a platform. In the event of their election, ORG will monitor how well representatives meet their promises and voters can easily refer back to their policies for the duration of their term and hold them accountable.
Freedom of Information
Freedom of Information, the people’s right to know the factors affecting the decisions and processes of government, is subset of freedom of speech – a fundamental right. Recognizing that transparency in governance begins with this right, The Organization for Responsible Governance collaborated with a group of 21 other civil society and private industry groups to advocate for a true, fair Freedom of Information Act. This advocacy resulted in a more open consultation process, the amendment of seven articles within the proposed bill, and ultimately the passage of the bill through both Houses of Parliament. ORG continues to advocate for enactment and enforcement of Freedom of Information and public education on the bill.
Through involvement in advocacy for Freedom of Information and the call for the halt of the Interception of Communication bill, it became clear to ORG and it’s partners that there is a significant opportunity to strengthen the democracy of The Bahamas and improve effectiveness of policy-making by adopting a standardized open process of public consultation.
Public consultation is recognized as an important part of the policy-making process and used to provide private industry, civil society and the people a chance to provide input in the work of government. Engaging the citizenry in consultation on legislation has been shown to increase accountability, create better policy and reduce the cost of implementation by developing buy-in.
However legislation and policy-making in Bahamas continue to be a largely unilateral process. ORG, with the support of 15 civil society partners has developed a proposal for a standardized public consultation process and is working with the Office of the Attorney General to bring it into protocol.
Whistleblower and Ombudsman Acts
The Bahamas is notoriously lacking legislation to effectively counteract corruption and malfeasance within the leadership and administration of the country. A Whistleblowers Act and Ombudsman Act are two crucial steps to introduce anti-corruption infrastructure to Bahamian Governance. A Whistleblowers Act would protect individuals who chose to report misconduct within the ranks of government and its institutions. An Ombudsman would provide an independent, impartial authority to investigate complaints and enforce anti-corruption laws. ORG believes that with the implementation and enforcement of these two acts Bahamas can make a significant start in fighting over 40 years of entrenched cronyism and other systemically corrupt practices.
The Bahamian Economy Now
The Bahamian economy is in a precarious position with four consecutive credit downgrades, consistently high fiscal deficits, GDP growth at near naught, unemployment at a soaring high and 1 in 10 Bahamians living in poverty. If Bahamas is to reduce poverty, create job and business opportunities, raise standards of living and address social ills such as crime, it must start with the foundation of a strong economy.
Plotting a Path to Economic Prosperity
Economic development is a dynamic and multi-faceted occurrence that is highly dependent on a myriad of factors including but not limited to: fiscal stability, foreign trade, labor force productivity, wealth distribution, foreign and local direct investment, monetary policy, energy policy and prices, rule of law and ease of doing business.
Good governance requires dynamic planning that considers these economic factors and their applications. Without decent fiscal and economic policy and practices coupled with the ability to monitor and adapt, a nation’s economy will suffer, as will the opportunity available to its people. If left unchecked the symptoms are much like those we see in Bahamas today: increased crime, high unemployment, low wages, poor consumer and business confidence, less foreign direct investment, and poor morale.
The Bahamas needs a new culture of governance that is forward-looking and committed to collaboration and leveraging the economic expertise of the private and non-profit sectors for the betterment of the nation. This new regime must stimulate economic growth through thoughtfully researched, sustainable action.
The ORG Strategy
ORG intends to initiate this paradigm shift serving as a civil society bridge, where stakeholders can come together for thoughtful discourse on the economy. Our Economic Development Subcommittee brings together industry leaders, civil servants, political leaders and international and local scholars to develop realistic, sustainable solutions and plot a path to greater prosperity for all.
Under the direction of this subcommittee, ORG addresses the core economic problems of the nation by conducting research, developing national action plans and educating citizens. Through empowering the people with knowledge and acting as a watchdog ORG will hold governments and political parties accountable to higher standards and to greater levels of performance.
In tandem with our subcommittee ORG has identified three priority action items for economic development: the creation of a Fiscal Responsibility Act, diversifying the nation’s economic portfolio, and increasing workforce productivity.
Fiscal responsibility is essential to creating a better, stronger, more prosperous nation for the next generation. Reducing the nation’s deficits, ensuring prudent management of our nation’s capital and resources, and creating greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations will help put the nation on a path to lasting prosperity and a rising standard of living.
Learn more about ORG's recommendations for Fiscal Responsibility (view here)
The Bahamas’ heavy dependence on large-scale tourism and financial services is limiting the country’s opportunities for economic growth. There are important links between economic diversity and sustainable development. Increasing the number of viable opportunities across many sectors insulates the Bahamas from shocks in any single industry, creates a more stable economic environment, fosters innovation, improves business and consumer confidence and encourages growth.
The Organization for Responsible Government commissioned internationally reputed economic research firm Oxford Economics to study opportunities and identify achievable strategies for growth in key alternate sectors.
Learn more on ORG's research on industries of promise. (view here)
Work Force Productivity
A highly skilled, well-trained workforce is at the heart of a more productive labor force, a factor which can elevate GDP, contribute to sustainable and reduce unemployment. ORG believes that a more competitive workforce must begin at the high school level and a joint goal between our education reform and economic development subcommittees is the enhancement of the young workforce through workplace learning and apprenticeship programs.
In an ORG-commissioned report on solutions for improved education, expert Scott Hamilton outlines suggestions for apprenticeships and other workforce development programs designed to prepare students for employment success and diminish the gap between high school graduates’ vocational skills and the skills employers are looking for.
Learn more about ORG's recommendations on workforce (view here)
For More information on ORG’s stance on Economic Development see our Position Paper.
The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) serves as a bridge uniting stakeholders from a diverse cross-section of society in pursuit of a common vision: a thriving Bahamas where accountable and transparent governance allows each individual, business and group a say in decisions that affect our future and equal access to opportunity. We believe that responsible governance can only be achieved if all sectors of society: the people, private industry, civil society and government all have a seat at the table in deciding the future of the country.
ORG seeks to empower civil society and the people to take a greater stake in the governance of the country through generating dialogue and education. In tandem with partners like Citizens for a Better Bahamas, The Nassau Institute, and Citizens for a Better Bahamas, ORG galvanizes civil society groups around issues of mutual interest, fosters collective action, and encourages capacity-building and development in advocacy groups.
Through programs such as The Campaign for the Bahamas, ORG’s education and engagement arm, and our Freedom Schools, we seek to create a more knowledgeable populace and empower the people with tools to advocate for issues that matter to them.
Our topical Sub-Committees bring together experts of diverse backgrounds to address issues and find solutions in our three areas of focus: Accountable Governance, Economic Development, and Education Reform. Part think-tank, part vetting station these sub-committees commission research, generate ideas and bring a wealth of knowledge to ORG’s programs and positions in our three areas of focus.
Areas of Focus
Responsible, accountable, and transparent governance is a central challenge for societies seeking to provide equal opportunity and socioeconomic stability for their citizens. ORG empowers civil society and introduces key policy and legislation to ensure the actions of the country’s leadership are subject to oversight and serve the best interests of the Bahamian people.
With seven in ten graduating high school students unprepared for the next step in life, The Bahamas’ undereducated populace is wreaking havoc on the country’s socioeconomic development and its future. ORG addresses this core issue head on with innovative policies and programs generated through research and collaborative think tanks.
The Bahamian economy is in a precarious position with four consecutive credit downgrades, consistently high fiscal deficits, and unemployment at a soaring high. Economic growth is a dynamic and multi-faceted occurrence that is highly dependent on a myriad of factors. ORG brings together industry leaders and international and local scholars to develop solutions and plot a path to greater prosperity for all.