CIDT and Forus undertake study of Civil society in Africa

24 August 2020
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CIDT has conducted a pilot study of civil society in Africa for the global civil society alliance Forus; aiming to enrich engagement with their membership and inform a new strategy for 2021-2025.

The study is focused at two levels – national and regional – and explores the identities of the national members and regional coalitions, the realities in which they operate and how this environment affects them and their relationships. The study was conducted in a participatory manner, through six country visits to: Zambia and Botswana from southern Africa; Gambia and Chad from central Africa; and the Republic of Congo and Benin from West Africa. Interactive in-country workshops and face-to-face interviews were conducted with national platform members and coordinators and other relevant stakeholders. In addition virtual interviews were conducted with national platforms in other countries, and an online survey was implemented with platform members and other relevant stakeholders, including donors.

In July 2020, Forus and CIDT held two webinars, in English and French, to discuss and validate the preliminary results and findings with Forus’ anglophone and francophone African members.

Some of the main findings discussed in the webinars included :

  • The proliferation of civil society platforms and networks in Africa, and the emergence of new forms of civil society, such as movements;
  • The struggle of networks to balance inclusion and efficiency ;
  • The challenge of striking the optimum balance between technical service provider to  members and being a powerful advocacy platform representing a strong voice for civil society in a complex political environment;
  • How to create a shared advocacy agenda at the regional level, without over-looking unique  national contexts;
  • How to build stronger internal governance and processes for leadership renewal;
  • How to develop innovative methods to guarantee gender mainstreaming and empowerment of women in the civil society sector.

The study also raised the issue of financial sustainability and resource mobilisation as the central challenge facing civil society platforms in Africa and identified further contentious issues such as:

  • how to support diversity management and manage tensions between different member organisations (for example, faith-based organisations and LGBTQ movements);
  • the role of national governments and major international donors;
  • facilitating exchange and peer-to-peer learning across civil society platforms from other regions of the world.

For more information about this work you can read this article on the Forus website.