Increasing the Value of Civil Society
International nonprofits and civil society organizations across the globe are under heavy pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic. If there has ever been a time in recent decades where we must raise our consciousness of the value of these institutions, it is now.
Civil society refers not only to domestic and social life but also to all the civil infrastructure that allows family and communal life to thrive in a nation. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a long-term strain on all these cultural structures through the need for social distancing.
This has strained and fractured communities, loosening their ability to bond and thrive over the last two years. Especially in economically uncertain and conflict-ridden countries, Covid has increased dangerous tensions dramatically and further divided countries looking for answers to their ailments.
Haiti is one country in dire need of further assistance from its civil society organizations and better infrastructure. Grassroots and local organizations have been leading the way to a better Haiti but need more aid to implement their plans better.
But there is good news. Foreign aid organizations such as UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have made substantial headway during the pandemic.
They’ve quickly moved their events and conferences online and increased their offerings, even broadening who can attend so that more inclusive voices can speak. During the pandemic, many organizations have seen the need to increase their inclusiveness and accessibility, as the most marginalized need support.
Unfortunately, global relief budgets are dwindling with fears of a global recession. If 2009 is any indication, more than two-thirds of nonprofits will face cuts if another recession should happen.
That is why it’s essential that civil society institutions lead with abundance in mind. Suppose everyone is under the belief that scarcity is about to hit. In that case, it will only lead to further difficulties down the line when organizations can’t get the funds to build the proper systems and infrastructure they need now.
Sharing research, knowledge, and best practices is crucial. The improved value of civil society starts with listening, connecting networks of people so that they have forums to engage with one another’s thoughts and emotions.
Organizations will need to become even more adaptive during these times. What worked pre-pandemic may not work now. Grassroots organizations can help to give the people’s voice to the establishment. Innovation can come from any angle, so openness and inclusivity go hand-in-hand with an organization’s agility.
This inclusivity needs to open up even further. Many organizations only allow their members to speak at their conferences, leading to insular plans. Independent, outside advice is vital to keeping your finger on the pulse. Bringing in community leaders, authors, scientists, and analysts can all help to give your organization a fresh perspective.
USAID and UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) have researched and established guidelines of what can help increase the value of civil society.
UNESCO has its four principles of providing education to developing nations, which it considers of primary importance. But these principles also apply to further contexts of family life, the workplace, and community life.
- Availability. Good education needs to be available and a decent level of quality, including things like clean drinking water, books, and qualified teachers.
- Accessibility. The schools must be accessible both in an economic sense and in a physical sense.
- Acceptability. This refers to the appropriateness of the curriculum, which must be culturally sound of educationally valuable.
- Adaptability. Finally, the schools must be adapted to the specific needs of their context and community.
USAID has its own guidelines, including promoting an approach driven by local stakeholders’ grassroots efforts, especially those generally excluded from policymaking. This includes women, youth, queer and disabled persons.
They also stress the importance of combating governmental constraints and corruption when they fly in the face of universal human rights and democracy.
Any uncertainty about the importance of civil society can be put to rest with these devastating times. Now, more than ever, we need communities of strength and cohesion to pull off keeping communities happy and healthy.