Most of us have come across the work of a programme officer - perhaps without realising it. This includes 'flag-selling' activities where passers-by are asked to donate money, students' visits to an elderly home or a sheltered workshop, and protests staged outside government offices to highlight contentious issues.
'Programme officers assist in the planning, implementation and evaluation of programmes and activities of an NGO [non-governmental organisation],' says Joseph Wong, business director for Hong Kong Council of Social Service, an umbrella group for non-profit groups.
Depending on the nature of the NGO and the strategy that it has adopted to further its cause, a programme officer is involved in meeting the needs of individuals who use the NGO's services, organising community education programmes and carrying out fundraising, publicity and research initiatives, among others.
Wong says formulating a feasible action plan and setting a realistic schedule are a few of the challenges encountered in planning an activity. 'As you implement a project, you have to set priorities, monitor the progress with continuous adjustments and manage the resources that are available. Challenges of effective evaluation include planning and building in an evaluation methodology at an early stage, and collecting [useful] data throughout the programme.'
Comparing programme officers working for NGOs of different sizes, Wong says those employed by smaller groups may need to take up administrative duties. Programme officers who have worked in one field, such as environmental protection, should not find it difficult to move to another area, as the competencies required can be applied to different service settings, he adds.
Monthly salaries of a programme officer ranged from HK$8,000 to HK$11,000 last year. The median was HK$9,000.
An outgoing personality is an essential trait for programme officers, as they need to take initiatives to approach and liaise with various parties to accomplish their tasks.
The ability to work effectively in a team is also important. Programme officers often team up with other NGO staff and volunteers in handling a project, and therefore will need to be able to perform their assigned role accordingly.
Programme officers need to be organised, detail-oriented and be able to work on tight schedules.
Programme officers should have a diploma or a degree.
Depending on the nature of the NGO, there is usually no specific academic discipline.
While fresh graduates will be considered for the position, working experience gives applicants an edge.