Civil Society Sustainability


The issue of sustainability of civil society in West Africa is becoming increasingly important with the gradual but significant decline of funding from donors over the years. Civil society faces huge challenges due to constant political and economic shifts. There are changing dynamics in the development sector and the current interest of donor countries is to redirect their funds to addressing their internal issues.

For civil society to be effective and achieve real social change, it needs to be sustainable. The sustainability of CSOs is affected by factors within a country, but also by the regional and the global factors. These vary within countries and across regions in the world. Consequently, civil society has started discussions on the implications of these varying factors on their status and functioning in subsequent years.

Sustainability is a broad and holistic concept. It goes beyond just survival towards thriving, resilience, autonomy, independence and continuous functioning. Civil society sustainability thus goes beyond just availability of funds.

Sustainability is about the ability of a given organisation to reduce its dependency and to improve its significance in the market while maintaining its social mission. It can also be approached as the strong ability and capacity to maintain independence, continually generate expected funds to pursue planned operations, command strong recognition and legitimacy, and wield influential power in its mission and the sector in which it operates. In other words, a sustainable CSO is one that can continue to fulfil its mission overtime and in so doing meets the needs of its key stakeholders – particularly its beneficiaries and supporters. As such sustainability should be seen as an ongoing process rather than an end in itself. It is a process that involves the interaction between different strategic, organisational, programmatic, social, and financial elements.

Sustainability stems from civil society having legitimacy in their communities, a clear purpose and change-oriented goals, good progressive leadership, strong relationships with relevant stakeholders (across civil society, communities, government), accountability to those stakeholders, and resources (including financial and structural capacity as well as necessary skills).

WACSI is dedicated to promoting the sustainability discourse and to partnering with other organisations to make civil society sustainable in West Africa. It is in the same vein that WACSI with seed-funding from STAR-Ghana commissioned a research on “The State of Civil Society Organisations’ Sustainability in Ghana” in November 2014. This research was part of a regional effort to develop a comprehensive programme on sustainability in West Africa aiming at strengthening the capacity of the civil society sector to sustain dialogue and provide a common voice and actionable strategies.

WACSI is also implementing a 5-year programme intended to raise awareness, disseminate knowledge, build capacity and advocate for issues pertinent to the sustainability of the civil society sector and its constituents in 5 target countries within the region namely; Ghana (pilot country), Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Senegal.