Rethinking CSOS’ Sustainability

Rethinking CSOS’ Sustainability

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Sustainability is probably the biggest threat facing civil society organisations (CSOs) today. In a recent report on CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) argues that addressing CSO sustainability will require fundamental changes to the way CSOs identify and manage their staff and organisations.

The data is recent, but the underlying conclusion has been echoed for over a decade. According to the International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRAC), the new power dynamic that CSOs have to engage with, interaction with multiple stakeholders. INTRAC also states that the need to balance sustainability with the expectation of results affect the central role that civil society – in formal and informal forms – is expected to play effectively and independently in the achievement of development, stability and peace.

CSO’s survival and the survival of their beneficiaries depends on a significant systemic change. “Sustainability is a relatively new organisational principle in global policy. It is new partly because CSOs have long been largely hostile to the very idea. Postwar neoclassical growth theories for example on human capital and economic growth especially in Sub-Saharan Africa including in Sierra Leone deliberately ignored the relationship between sustainability and economic growth of institutions.

A timely training

Recently, from 14 to 18 November 2019, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), a leading capacity building organisation in West Africa, with financial support from the Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR) completed a 5 days capacity building training for four CSOs in Sierra Leone. The organisations that participated in the training include Defence for Children International Sierra Leone (DCI-SL), Action for Community Task (ACT), Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES) and Women’s Action for Human Dignity (WAHD).

The training responded to the capacity gaps identified during a capacity assessment conducted for selected organisations in Sierra Leone. At the end of the training, the four organisation were enlightened on organisational governance, leadership, talent management, resource mobilisation, and communicating impacts.

This year, Defence for Children International Sierra Leone (DCI-SL) – a leading advocacy organisation in the country that works to strengthen the national child protection and welfare system, celebrates 20 years of existence in Sierra Leone. The needs assessment and this training were significant milestones for the organisation in the year.

The training re-energised DCI-SL to continue working towards achieving its main thrust to respond to the specific needs of children, particularly those in vulnerable situations. It reinforced DCI’s capacity to excel in its efforts to strengthen the national child protection and welfare system in Sierra Leone.

Enhancing leadership skills: the gateway to DCI’s sustainability

Without effective leadership, a field officer, project officer or project manager simply cannot be effective or efficient. It will also be difficult to transform potential into reality inspired by shared vision and aspirations by both the leader and the followers.

The session on leadership and talent management unpacked basic principles of leadership along with other styles of leadership. These are relevant to the continued sustainability of DCI – Sierra Leone for at least three reasons;

First, leadership training has increased the capacity of DCI – SL to be more successful with its interventions in communities in Sierra Leone. Four DCI staff acquired skills to positively influence team members to perform assigned tasks willingly, efficiently and competently.

Second, leadership training has helped representatives from DCI-SL to identify and be able to address three practical challenges. The first challenge is to provide a shared vision of where the organisation is heading to and what its purpose is (the mission). The second challenge is to convert the strategic vision and directional course into specific performance outcomes for each key area which the team deems important for success. The third challenge is to generate and develop a strategy that will determine how the organisation will achieve its objectives. Strategic direction is imperative in identifying a systematic intervention that will provide the most leverage to the organisation, because, an organisation cannot focus on everything all of the time.

Finally, DCI-SL staff are the most vital resource of the organisation. The training has equipped the team with robust leadership skills to serve the organisation as better leaders. This is crucial in ensuring the continuity and sustainability of DCI – SL. It will also enable the organisation to offer top-notch products and services to its constituents.

Poised to excel

For Issa Bangura, a participant, from DCI – Sierra Leone, “The greatest contribution that I can make to my organisation is to use my knowledge and skills that I have developed in the leadership training, to help DCI – Sierra Leone to move towards prosperity. I will do this by contributing towards rethinking the sustainability of DCI – Sierra Leone through the creation of organisational leadership culture, identifying young leaders and support the development of a sustainable and inclusive organisational succession plan for DCI Sierra Leone.

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.


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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 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 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.