Promoting Collaboration Among Civil Society Actors for Greater Impact

Promoting Collaboration Among Civil Society Actors for Greater Impact

In the context of increasing threats to democracy and the shrinking of the civic space, it is crucial for civil society organisations (CSOs) to sustain their role as key actors in driving development. Collaboration is essential in that regard. 

That was the main focus of the last panel discussion during the maiden West Africa Civil Society Week  that took place on the 31st of August 2023, in Lagos, Nigeria.  

Spanning three days, the event gathered multiple civil society leaders from a wide range of countries, and working on a variety of issues pertaining to development. 

It was a wonderful opportunity to engage in important and thought-provoking conversations around the third sector’s evolving role in a context marked by regional political instability, threats to democracy and rising restrictions of the civic space. Alongside these discussions, the participants were also invited to help chart a way forward for a more robust civil society sector. 

This last panel was specifically dedicated to a reflection on the progress made by the Civic Space Resource Hub project, regarding its main mission of strengthening the operational capacities of CSOs and their institutional resilience, as well as exploring practical steps and strategies for greater reach and impact. 

The discussion was led by Charles Vandyck, with participants such as Ms. Tsema Ede, Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh, Ms. Diana Amabelle Nwakanma, Ms. Omolara Balogun, and Mr. Jerry Sam. 

First of all, the importance of strengthening partnerships between CSOs has been largely stressed and emphasised by all the panelists.  

This implies the promotion of a culture of knowledge sharing between CSOs of different kinds, whether it’d be generational, or thematic-based. In fact, engaging in technical exchanges of capacities and skills should form a core aspect of CSOs ways of working, as they are not lacking in resources and expertise. Actually, leveraging on these diverse strengths through sharing knowledge will only prove to be more beneficial to the sector as a whole.  

This idea also came into play as the panelists discussed the CSR Hub’s reach and impact. Obviously, it cannot reach every single CSO as it is tailored to civic space protection, governance and regulatory compliance, digital security and protection, and resource mobilisation. Nevertheless, peer learning is a great way and an opportunity for CSOs who have received training for example, to share their learnings with others, who may not have benefitted from it. 

Another thing to note is the importance of developing and building relationships with CSOs across borders and countries, given the ever-growing interconnectedness of the main challenges plaguing the region. As Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh, the executive director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, so eloquently said,  

 “Increasingly, our problems are not local. Even the ones that are local or national are replicated country to country. (…) So there’s a great deal of opportunity there, and as the recent developments in the region have shown, our problems are very regional. So we can think locally, but we should be thinking about acting regionally.” 

Fortunately, this increased collaboration is made possible by technology.  

Indeed, harnessing the power of technology is another way to strengthen the civil society sector. 

Given the ubiquitous nature of technology tools today, its importance in the sector cannot be overstated. That is why one of the CSR-Hub’s core missions is to help CSOs improve their digital resilience. 

Undoubtedly, technology has an immense transformative power, in shaping civic engagement and democratic consolidation. Over the recent years, we have observed the rise of advocacy initiatives on social media platforms, through the use and spread of hashtags to raise awareness on issues, such as the end sars and fix the country campaigns in Nigeria and Ghana. 

However, it is key that we adapt it to our context, so that it can adequately address our needs, whilst also making sure we maximise its potential in helping us to safely navigate government surveillance, embrace open source solutions, and prioritise digital security, for greater effectiveness. 

Finally, a thread that has been recurrent all throughout the conversations during this week is the importance of grassroots communities and their involvement in development initiatives. 

Since the communities at the grassroots level are at the forefronts, they should be heard and included in the process of curating solutions to the challenges they are facing. According to Ms. Diana Amabelle Nwakanma, the director of programmes at Leap Africa, “It is about being intentional about going to where they are and including them in your designing and your planning, your projects, your interventions, your initiatives. You should take into account the people that are most in need of what you’re trying to offer. How you ensure that they’re included and you’re reaching them is really using the inputs, the perspectives, the feedback that youre getting at that level, to inform your work. And it should always be a participatory process. 

All in all, the West Africa Civil Society Week offered a platform for civic space actors to reflect and explore solutions to the many challenges it is facing. It is now more than ever necessary for all CSOs across the region to prioritise collaboration and knowledge sharing, following a “shared north star”. 

To learn more about the CSR-Hub, click here.

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FIIFI BOATENG

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 KANKAM KUSI

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 ADWOA ANIMA

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 ODEI

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

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

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

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

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

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

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

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

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

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

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

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 ASANTE

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

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.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

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

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 CHANASE

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

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

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

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 A. SOMBO

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 T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised 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, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also 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.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.

KWABENA KRODUAH

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 KOJO VANDYCK

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 ASANTEWA AFADZINU

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.