Adapting to COVID-19 For CSOs’ Long Term Impact and Viability

Adapting to COVID-19 For CSOs’ Long Term Impact and Viability

The past decade has seen considerable changes in civil society dynamics in Africa, with reductions in traditional forms of funding. In the middle-income countries shrinking space for civil society has been witnessed in many contexts and hence eliciting questions around the legitimacy and accountability of organisations dependent on aid investment.

These changes create multiple challenges for civil societies. For many organisations, movements and activists in Africa, the future is unclear.  This uncertainty has even been worsened as the world battles with the Coronavirus pandemic posing challenges on running programmes, coordinating staff, financial systems, planning, security, and communication. Yet CSOs are critical to humanitarian assistance in these times. However, as CSOs we are challenged today, probably more than ever, to remain able to deliver across communities. Therefore, organisations are being challenged to innovate to ensure that interventions are executed effectively and timely in the face of unprecedented disruption.

At WACSI, we recognise the urgent need for civil society to review their structures, roles and responsibilities with communities, governments and international and domestic funders to ensure their long-term sustainability. This will help civil society entities especially community-based organisations, grassroots associations and less-resourced CSOs to carry out such crucial activities as supporting the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalised, enabling collective action and holding decision-makers and the private sector to account.

The institute envisages that the potential operational challenges that CSOs will face due to the coronavirus include:

  1. The strain on the traditional ways of working and programme delivery;
  2. Disruption to resource streams, financial systems and planning;
  3. Health and availability of staff;
  4. Communication and workflow challenges between staff members who are now all working remotely;
  5. Challenges with implementing programmes in communities in an environment of physical distancing particularly organisations which work in health, education and social protection.

It is essential that during these times, CSOs take practical steps to operate and respond to their constituencies. These are some proposed measures that can be taken to navigate this unprecedented experience.

Short-term (1-3 months, March-May, 2020)

Officially informing donor partners about disruption and obtaining consent to reschedule activities or revise aspects of project delivery

It would be advisable for organisations to send formal notices to various donor partners supporting various projects to ask for activities to be rescheduled and also continue to implement activities that do not require face to face engagements. In some cases, organisations could propose new delivery modalities including virtual and digital platforms. Donor partners have to show leadership by being supportive of CSOs on extraordinary measures to manage the complex situation. Also, CSOs ought to facilitate the ability for staff members to continue working remotely on activities that do not require face to face engagements.

Medium-Term (4-6 months, June-August, 2020)

Implement projects in alignment with rescheduled timelines or continue to engage with partners virtually/ digitally or through telephony, if the COVID19 situation persists

WACSI is anticipating that the situation may be under control within three months based on projections from various governments and scientific bodies across the world.

If this scenario plays out as projected, the institute advises that organisations should plan face to face engagements with their partners based on rescheduled timelines. However, if the Coronavirus situation persists, organisations ought to continue using virtual platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram to deliver support to their partners and maintain engagement. Also, find innovative ways of undertaking sensitisation campaigns, training and follow-up support for their partners. For grassroots organisations, WhatsApp notes are an effective communication tool to keep a respectable level of engagement with community members.

Long-term (6-10 months, September-December, 2020)

If the pandemic persists into August 2020, CSOs need to review their operating models, partnerships and engagement mechanisms

CSOs will have to look at their governance structure, staff requirements and their potential financial sources. CSOs will have to consider organising more virtual engagements with board members and may consider reinforcing them with additional experts to respond to this challenge. CSOs may have to consider revising their organograms and streamlining staff numbers and responsibilities to adapt to the current challenges. Strategic partnerships are also key to a CSO’s survival. More CSOs may need to consider non-traditional partners from the private sector and government agencies.

However, the biggest challenge CSOs will face is financial sustainability. Most CSOs in Africa are excessively dependent on external donor funding, countries which have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Most CSOs in Africa have an inadequate capacity in mobilising resources from their communities. This means this is the time to consider alternative financing models. WACSI in partnership with innovation for change developed an alternative funding models guidebook. There is no better time to utilise this resource than NOW! Organisations should consider utilising this resource effectively. Download here:  Additionally, Change the Game Academy’s innovative course on Local Fundraising, which is accessible online for free, is integral for CSOs looking to advance their knowledge and skills to overcome the shortages in funding that may arise due to the current situation.


CSOs must take deliberate actions to continue to pursue their strategies amid the COVID-19 pandemic challenge.  In these unprecedented times when COVID-19 continues to spread and to impact almost every individual and organisation across Africa directly or indirectly, an organisation’s operations will have to be revised to continue to support the sector in a robust and effective manner. At WACSI, we realise that preparedness and adaptation are key. Therefore, through virtual means, organisations are now more than ever challenged to continue to advance their work and actively engage with their constituencies.

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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 10 years progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa. She joined WACSI in November 2009 as an Advocacy Consultant. And later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer in 2010 and Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit in 2015. As head, she offers strategic direction to the institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organized and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality.

Previously, Omolara served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria. She also served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa where she teamed up to design and implement two programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.