Civil Society Capacity Building: Why?

logoMy favorite kind of professional work is building the capacities of civil society organizations, especially in transitional and developing countries, to communicate, to change minds and to engage a variety of people and communities, through communications, dialogue and volunteering. But the term civil society isn’t used in USA as commonly as it is elsewhere, and many don’t understand exactly what I mean when I talk about my favorite type of work.

Civil society is a term commonly heard outside the USA when discussing community development. Civil society is a term for the assortment of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), nonprofit organizations, activist groups and institutions that, together, demonstrate the interests and will of residents of a particular area. Note, however, that these interests do not have to be the will of a majority of residents.

Civil society organizations include:

  • academia
  • activist groups
  • charities
  • clubs (sports, social, etc.)
  • community foundations
  • community organizations
  • consumer organizations
  • cooperatives / co-ops
  • foundations
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • non-profit organizations (NPOs)
  • political parties
  • professional associations
  • religious groups
  • social enterprises (an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being)
  • support groups
  • trade unions
  • voluntary associations
  • foundations, government funders and international agencies have been supporting civil society for many years in developing countries. The goals with such support is to:
  • foster social equality (access to civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights, health, economic prosperity, education, social engagement, etc.)
  • foster civic engagement, including volunteerism
  • create a greater sense of ownership of what happens within a community by those that live there
  • create greater participation in addressing critical community and environmental needs
  • ensure a diversity of voices are represented in community decision-making
  • act as a counter to negative forces such as corruption, extremism, anarchy, etc.
  • ensure that civil society can work within the range of actors required for a country’s development.

This new resource explores why is it important for a country to have a robust, sustainable civil society, what is meant by the phrase civil society capacity building, and how capacities of civil society are strengthened.

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