Innovative support to the civil society

Updated: 23 July 2014

To achieve further progress in supporting civil society Sweden and Sida has initiated cooperation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on the Civil Society Innovation Initiative (CSİI).

Civil society organizations are facing increasing difficulties in operating freely in many countries around the world. To support and facilitate their work, Sida has together with USAID, Aga Khan Foundation and Open Society Foundations designed the Civil Society Innovation Initiative (CSİI). The program has been designed with the active participation of nearly 50 civil society organizations from all parts of the world in November 2014. The aim is to contribute to poverty reduction and working for democratic development. CSİI is a part of the broader Science, Technology, Innovation and Partnership (STIP) agreement between Sida and USAID, which will create conditions for cooperation within a number of capacities to identify and support re-thinking and innovations within development cooperation.

– During recent years more governments have introduced laws and regulations that limit and supress civil society. Sida has entered into a partnership to reverse this negative trend and enable civil society to work more innovatively, says Charlotta Norrby, Head of Sida’s Civil Society Unit.

The joint initiative aims to establish regional platforms where organizations can exchange ideas and experiences but also carry out joint efforts. The platforms will function as meeting places for local civil society organizations but also function as a place where the organizations can explore new avenues of cooperation with partners within the private sector or the academia. The work is coordinated by the two partner organizations CIVICUS and Counterpart International. Niklas Hansson, Program Manager at Sida emphasizes the importance of broad participation and transparency in the initiative:

– The uniqueness with the program is that civil society organizations and donors together co-create the regional civil society platforms. By encouraging platforms which facilitate the emergence of new partnerships, new and innovative methods and tools can be developed, that in its turn strengthen the civil society’s voice, says Niklas.

CSİI is a global initiative focusing on regional and local actors. The work of hubs can therefore be of interest for the Swedish civil society organizations’ partners in developing countries. Six regional platforms, so called CSİI hubs, will be developed in Latin America and the Caribbean, East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, Central and South Asia, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Northern Africa. In 2015 workshops are held in each region, where local civil society organizations together with the donors develop a general framework of how the hubs will be designed and operationalized. The first workshop took place in Panama the 13th-15th of April. One of the participating civil society representatives shares their experience from the workshop:

– It is an incredible possibility to be part of and design an initiative that at a regional level supports civil society organizations to influence Latin America to become a more democratic, inclusive and prosperous region. It was amazing to feel the enormous energy, enthusiasm and commitment from the other participants.

One participant from the workshop in Tanzania gives their perspective on the initiative:

– The thought that donors and the civil society meet in a joint effort to create, design and hopefully also implement ideas to expand and defend the continuously shrinking space for the civil society was really exciting for me. It’s also the reason why I joined the initiative.

Page owner: Civil Society Unit

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