New Imperatives for Sustainability

New Imperatives for Sustainability

The 2008 global financial crisis brought about cuts in international development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. There may yet be further cuts as donor countries struggle with slow economic recovery.  Private philanthropies have not been spared; some were forced to adjust their funding commitments after losing sizeable revenues to the crisis.  These readjustments may have slowed the expansion of civil society activities in Nigeria, but they also expose intrinsic challenges to the sector’s sustainability that mainstream funders overlook, namely the institutional character of the country’s civil society organisations (CSOs), the sustainability of current funding patterns and the tendency to funnel donor support to some segments of the sector at the expense of strengthening sector-wide institutional capacity and encouraging grantees to grow social capital.  This paper probes these challenges.

Drawing on the author’s experience in CSO management, it argues that development assistance by mainstream donors encourages CSOs to be donor-dependent.  Although some of the latter can boast of organisational efficiencies and experience, their social capital credentials are often short, leaving their self-sustainability prospects weak in the long term.  One potential panacea is the emergence of private philanthropies in Nigeria whose interventions in the sector may be altering the grant-making landscape in the country. This paper argues that these philanthropies can help to enhance CSOs’ value and viability by directing their energies into mobilising resources for greater investments in institutional capacity development for CSOs that demonstrate strong community linkages and provide direct services.


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