Finding Legitimacy and Funding

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Nov 05, 2013
by Louise Hallman
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Finding Legitimacy and Funding

Grassroots support and evidence-based research can help convince donors to invest Fellows Elie Abouaoun, Ahmed Gebreel and Shereen El-Taraboulsi share their thoughts on how best to get funding

Since their revolutions, the four focus countries have seen a boom in civil society groups – but how can so many groups find sources of funding to sustain the changes they want to bring about?

This was the key question for the Fellows in the last panel-led discussion of the session, 'Getting Transition Right: A Rights-Based Approach Towards Diversity and Inclusivity'.

Despite the ill-feeling directed towards the state that led to the revolutions in the first place, civil society groups are still not widely viewed by ordinary citizens in the region as more reliable than government or public institutions.

Key to changing this is sustainable funding that enables civil society groups to actually deliver on their promises.

That funding might come from international or local donors, but both options have thir positives and negatives.

Too often, international funding comes with its own agenda and favors short-term projects that can show quick results, rather than investing in the long-term, generational change that is needed to build diverse and inclusive societies.

But many civil society NGOs in the region are self- or privately funded; with their limited funds they are unable to hire the expertise they need to deliver.

There is also a prevailing sense that there are bigger problems to deal with than diversity management, such as security.

Civil society actors focused on diversity and inclusion need to convince donors of the-chicken-and-the-egg relation between diversity management and security; more inclusive societies are more stable and thus more safe and secure.

Stability and awareness raising must happen at the same time. Civil society organizations not only need to present clear and focused plans, they also need to garner grassroots support in order to gain a greater sense of credibility and legitimacy for their cause.

Evidence-based research can also help convince donors to invest in NGOs’ programs. Such research should be participatory and inclusive to ensure that it truly reflects the complexity on the ground.

Other potential partners and donors such as government and the media shouldn’t be dismissed. Civil society groups should consider building alliances with the “good guys” in these sectors.

As with the policy building session on Saturday, one key observation to come out of this discussion was the capacity building that needs to be done so that civil society groups can adequately request funding.

In addition to greater funding, new laws, especially in countries such as Libya where civil society was virtually non-existent prior to the revolution but where now there exist over 1000 such organizations, need to be enacted, protecting NGOs, especially as they start to grow in to the role of lobbying politicians for policy changes, rather than just focusing on delivering their own programs.