Domestic Resource Mobilisation: Pathway to Civil Society Sustainability in Ghana
On 1 November 2018, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) convened a consultative forum on Domestic Resource Mobilisation for Civil Society. In the meeting, over 25 civil society actors explored how social enterprise (SE) can serve as an avenue for domestic resource mobilisation in Ghana. Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director of WACSI reiterated the plight of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ghana. She said CSOs largely depend on external donors for funding. She expressed the need for CSOs to find creative and innovative strategies to increase domestic financing for their activities; one of which is a social enterprise.
According to Tsonam Cleanse Akpeloo, Accra chapter Chairman of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), “innovation and impact are two keys factors that determine the sustainability of any social enterprise”. Beyond the burning passion that characterises many young social entrepreneurs, there is a need to understand the realities of the social enterprise sector before engaging. He urged CSOs to be well prepared before engaging in SE ventures.
Many social entrepreneurs deal with the chronic stress of maintaining and growing their organisations. As highlighted by Kristine Pearson and Kyle Zimmer:
“nearly 50% of the social entrepreneurs attending the World Economic Forums Annual Meeting 2018 reported struggling with burnout and depression, a figure that is both alarming, especially considering these are the “most successful” and scaled social entrepreneurs“.
This may be a different experience from that of a typical entrepreneur, who might not be emotionally bonded with those they exist to serve.
The need for CSOs to diversify their programmes to generate revenue that can cover some operational costs and boost their sustainability was also discussed. Through the case of the Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), Alhassan Awal, Executive Director of the organisation presented the “opportunities, challenges and priorities for civil society in adopting the social enterprise model.”
NORSAAC is operating a social enterprise that has successfully mobilised resources and become financially sustainable. With a seed funding of ten thousand Ghana Cedis (GHS 10,000) invested by the organisation, it has been able to generate eighty-nine thousand Ghana Cedis (GHS89,000) over a period of three years. This is a situation that many Ghanaians CSOs will like to attain.
Even though financial sustainability is important, it’s not enough or effective without a conducive legal framework. For instance, “why is the Ghanaian law not allowing a company limited by guarantee to change its status to become a company limited by shares? While the opposite is actually possible”. This was raised by Teiko Sabah, Head of Programmes at STAR-Ghana. . According to her, there should be clear legal regulation to allow NGOs to develop profit-generating activities.
In Ghana, there are legislations covering the registration of businesses and NGOs and cooperative societies, but with no specific legal form for social enterprises.
Some factors that can promote CSOs’ successful adoption of social enterprise approaches include:
Digital technology: social entrepreneurs should strategically use digital media to create visibility for their business, attracting new clients, investors and partners.
Promote collaboration: There is a need to build collaboration, opportunities and trust among social enterprise and other private or public entities. It has been observed that partnership is the least common legal form of social enterprise in Ghana, according to the British Council’s report on Social Enterprise in Ghana.
Existing enabling environment for SE: The government of Ghana is ready for the conversation around social enterprise. CSOs should work with the government to develop a legal and policy environment favourable to CSOs to engage in SE. Thus, the necessity for CSOs to have a clear understanding of their role in the agenda that strives for a “Ghana Beyond Aid”.
Take advantage of opportunities: Another interesting opportunity for social entrepreneurs is the fact that there are enough problems in society to be solved and many are related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Social entrepreneurs should leverage on existing platforms such as the Social Enterprise Network in Ghana, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Centre for Impact Investment; the British Council; Global Social Entrepreneurship Network etc., to curate and share knowledge, network and learn new ways of creating and or scaling their impact.
This forum has fostered discussions around the social enterprise policy and its prospects for driving an enabling environment for domestic resource mobilisation for CSOs in Ghana. It has effectively increased participants’ knowledge of the opportunities and challenges of social enterprise in Ghana.
Roseline Lodonu, Project Coordinator at Hope for Future Generations (HFFG), who participated in the convening said that “this was also an eye-opener because it has given me an opportunity to think about what my organisation can do to sustain our activities. The first thing I learned was that it wasn’t just enough to identify problems but getting resources to solve these problems. The issue must be relevant for the people and the organisation in order to sell and to sustain it. And, it should have a great social impact”.
The discussion is ongoing. this convening was the first of a series that WACSI will organise with civil society actors, the government and the private sector. We are looking forward to the next convening with development partners.
 Kyle Zimmer and Kristine Pearson, ‘Social Entrepreneurs Can Change the World – but These 6 Things Are Holding Us Back’, World Economic Forum [accessed 2 November 2018].
 British Council, The State of Social Enterprise in Ghana, 2015 [accessed 11 January 2018].
 The British Council in Ghana is creating a platform for capacity-building in social entrepreneurship, addressing issues relating to policy, ecosystem building and research.
 A network of organisations supporting early-stage social entrepreneurs. It is partnering with Reach for Change (based in Ghana and in six other African countries) to up-skill and connect supporters across Africa.
NOTE: Opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the West Africa Civil Society Institute.