The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has created a global health crisis that significantly affects citizen’s habits across the world. In the quest to stop its spread, governments across West Africa have enforced measures to reduce gatherings of large crowds, encourage the practice of social distancing and implement partial or total lockdown in the most affected cities. These measures significantly affect civil society’s operations in the region. In these critical days, more than ever, civil society’s efforts to support vulnerable communities, track and monitor government’s actions, protect citizens’ rights, are indispensable.
Civil society’s sustainability is a top priority on WACSI’s agenda, and now, more than ever, this sustainability is at risk. As an Institute aiming at strengthening civil society in West Africa, we remain committed to supporting civil society in these difficult times.
Combined with our efforts to leverage technology for the development of the region, we have been able to develop and make available the following unique set of programmes for civil society organisations (CSOs) including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in West Africa to continuously enhance their resilience in this time of crisis.
1- Technology Donation Programme (Access it for free at westafrica.techsoup.global)
The global pandemic has forced numerous organisations in the region to adopt a work from home policy. Even though some organisations (especially international non-governmental organisations) have had the infrastructure and policy needed for remote working, many smaller NGOs are struggling in this transition. The struggle originates partly from the lack of adequate practical knowledge in terms of the most suitable tools to adopt in these times. Also, there is a skills deficit on how to use the suite of tools in cases where some of these NGOs have access to these technological tools. However, a more critical challenge is evident as several NGOs in the region cannot afford available technological resources that can aide their work, especially amidst COVID-19.
To support CSOs in this domain, WACSI operates a technology donation program in partnership with TechSoup, which focuses on providing technology-related assistance to CSOs in West Africa. By registering on westafrica.techsoup.global, CSOs can access a wide range of technology donations as well as benefit from our expertise to be equipped to set up and use these products as applicable.
Given the complex and rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, CSOs need to speedily embrace an organisational transition in terms of adopting technology as part of their operations. This transition involves developing a culture within the organisation which maximises the benefits of technology while reducing its potential negative consequences.
Therefore, organisations need a culture shift and this shift needs to be implemented in a gradual manner. Through our capacity development interventions, we provide CSOs support on their journey to change. In addition to providing technology tools at an affordable price and assistance on the deployment of these tools, we provide organisational support to CSOs to support them through an efficient adoption of technology.
Organisations that have benefitted from technology enhancement support from WACSI are enjoying the fruits today; working seamlessly to achieve their organisational goals despite the devastating effects of COVID-19 on CSOs.
In October 2018, after benefitting from a project aiming supporting human rights organisation in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to adopt technology, Doudou Lou Goore Corinne, Project Officer at RAIDH said, “We look at our organisation, and we’re dumbfounded by how much we have metamorphosed. We can attest to an increase in knowledge about the latest technological tools, and an expansion in our reach and audience. We can only attribute it to the training and support we received from the WACSI-OSIWA technology project.’’ The project was supported by OSIWA and the Open society Foundations.
2- Change the Game Academy Programme (Access it for free at changethegameacademy.org)
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, resource mobilisation appeared as a serious challenge for CSOs in the region. This has become more evident in the heart of the crisis. With some donors suspending their programmes, small and community-based organisations are seeing their existence threatened.
In this regard, as part of the Change the Game Academy Programme, WACSI has been supporting CSOs in West Africa to conduct local fundraising activities as part of their resource mobilisation drive. The course gives a broad introduction to all key aspects of local fundraising and provides a solid basis to develop a local fundraising plan. This course is available for free on the Change the Game Academy Online Platform (changethegameacademy.org). In addition to the fundraising course, CSOs can benefit from an online course on mobilising support as well as numerous supplementary toolkits and templates. This course seeks to give a broad understanding of all key aspects of grassroots lobbying and advocacy. The high likelihood of an economic downturn post-COVID-19 and its possible effect on CSOs’ direct beneficiaries suggest a need for organisations to strengthen their ability to mobilise support toward their causes.
After taking part in the Mobilising support introductory course (November 2019) and the perfection course in Ghana (February 2020), Amadu Mohammed, Executive Director of Achievers Ghana, shares how his organisation is making use of the skills acquired.
“The mobilising support training has been of great support for my organisation, especially during these abnormal times. Thanks to the skills acquired, we were able to effectively sensitise our communities on the urgency of the situation and convinced them about the need to practice social distancing. Besides, we embarked on an emergency food relief program in the lockdown area of East and North Ayawaso (Accra Municipality). This programme consists in distributing food items to the needy and most vulnerable.
Thanks to the local fundraising course, we took for free on the online platform, we were able to identify and successfully engage key stakeholders to solicit for funds and in-kind donations. Up to 70 needy, old and aged people benefitted from the relief program. Food items such as rice, yams, cooking oil, tomatoes-paste and other ingredients, as well as Veronica buckets, liquid soaps, hand sanitizers, were distributed. Furthermore, a crucial tool we have been able to implement and utilise is our periodic newsletter. Thanks to the online course, we understood the importance of developing and sharing consistently updates on our work with carefully selected stakeholders via regular newsletters.”
3- Alternative Funding Models Guidebook for CSOs (Access it for free at bit.ly/AFMGEng)
In addition to fundraising activities, this crisis emphasises the need for CSOs to explore alternative funding models as a means to strengthen their financial sustainability. As a result of a partnership with Innovation for Change (I4C) – Africa Hub, WACSI developed a guidebook outlining 12 models CSOs can adopt to diversify their funding base.
The guidebook, available in French and English languages, aims to raise awareness, broaden the understanding of financial sustainability, promulgate best practices for the civil society sector in Africa and improve the practice of sustainability of CSOs.
CSOs can access it for free online and explore the existing models that are being used, understand them and know how to implement a given model that aligns with the mandate of their organisation. An organisation may consider organising internal learning sessions based on specific model and strategies on how to implement them during and after the crisis.
4- West Africa CSO E-Directory (Access it for free at csowestafrica.org)
Solidarity, partnership and unity among sectors and among civil society actors will be key in our ability to tackle the adverse consequences of the pandemic. The West Africa CSO E-Directory is one of the key platforms that facilitate collaboration among actors in the region.
It serves as a one-stop-shop for CSOs in West Africa. Also, active CSOs on the platform benefit from regular free online training in critical areas to enhance their organisational effectiveness. A dedicated newsletter of opportunities is also shared on a monthly basis. In addition, most active organisations benefit from a set of rewards which tremendously enhance their visibility. The platform is accessible for free and is available in French and English.
In a nutshell, civil society in West Africa as a sector, in the way it operates, will observe significant change as a result of this pandemic. Now more than ever, we need to, in a proactive manner, take measures to adapt our current modus operandi to the realities we will be facing. Such adaptation process involves continuously developing our capacities.
The current set of programmes offered by WACSI can be the first step in this journey to evolve.