Building from the base

The ‘Building Bridges’ project has reached a crucial phase – we have engaged with key organisations in all the target countries and we have successfully delivered the first round of training.

The team is now working to bring together 30 civil society organisations in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia to improve their skills and ability to influence decision makers. But mainly we want to make sure the groups remain connected and work together in each country to give civil society a strong voice.

Volatile political environments and the crucial role of civil society

During the first year of the project we worked with partners to assess the needs of civil society in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. We’ve been working in challenging and unstable conditions. Following the withdrawal of the dictatorships, the three countries have experienced political instability, divisions, conflicts and it’s very difficult to predict what the future holds.

We had to adapt to different places and unpredictable contexts, but doing this has reinforced our belief in the importance of a solid and cohesive civil society; civil society can provide the main catalyst of positive change. With its core role of promoting rights, equalities and freedoms, it can be the guarantor of a democratic transition in each country.

CSOs – our target groups

Above all, during these months we got to know a group of about 30 organisations in each country. We have shared our views and experiences with them, we learned from them, were inspired by their enthusiasm. We went back to our desks challenged, thinking of ways we could really boost and promote a positive change in civil society effectiveness – how can we support an active and motivated civil society and enhance its ability to impact decision-makers effectively in their countries?

Civil Society Networking

Having spoken to the CSOs and understood the context we are operating in, the promotion of networking at the national level remains my main priority. To enhance the connection within the targeted group, as well as to address the needs expressed by the organisations we have already delivered training in:

  • NGO management
  • strategic planning and good governance.

The groups agreed on the importance of remaining connected ­– in Tunisia a Facebook group has been created – and work together on a common cause.

Campaigning and the importance of a “common cause”

The team has expanded; three experienced local trainers joined the project and are delivering capacity building in the countries, as well as giving key feedback for the planning of future activities.

In Beirut, in January I met with trainers and partners to agree on the next steps. We are now preparing the delivery of training on:

As I realised earlier in the project and as mentioned in my previous post, enhancing networking requires flexibility; it would be counterproductive to try imposing structures. NGOs don’t work together because they are part of a structure, but because of their will and their focus on common objectives. Many networks in the region and elsewhere started from a coalition created to campaign on a specific issue.

We’ll carry on delivering the much needed training in campaigning and networking, but we will also identify a crucial civil society priority in each country; the common cause, its main concern and work with CSOs on a specific campaign.

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Chiara Butti was international officer at NCVO. She coordinated the north Africa based civil-society-support project, Building Bridges.

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