Great work but what’s holding them back?

So, as you have heard about some of the fantastic work which has already been carried out in North America and the way that civil society organisations have been engaging with a range of policy makers. However, civil society groups often face a number of challenges in the participation. This can vary depending on the institution, the process and who they are engaging with as we have to remember that for most civil society groups the engagement cycle is two way of them engaging with decision makers but also engaging with their supporters who can act as a driver or apply pressure for the cause or agenda. 


With these areas being noted a few areas which for some will be easy to see where as others maybe less so. So the challenges which have come up in conversation so far include:

  • Lack of Funding – Now for anyone that has worked in the charity sector in the UK will fully understand that the level of funding out there is reducing quite a lot. While the amount is reducing this has meant that the competition for the remaining funding has intensified and has become ever more focused on the work they will fund. 
  • Politician of Civil Society Space – When you talk to the majority of those involved in civil society engagement at the international level they will explain to you that the space is reducing due to the issue of civil society being seen as a western idea so those states which do not support certain western states disagree with its use. Which shows how the topic has become a foreign policy tool. 
  • Changing Domestic landscape – The ever increasing authoritarian regime formation in some sates has lead to the clamping down of civil society actors within them as they do not appreciate them holding the government to account or showing violations. The changing domestic political landscape has also lead to other challenges such as sustainability across administrations which provides challenges in its own ways as a group can be working to solve an issue and be moving forward with it but when the administration changes they come with new policy positions which means many organisations have to start their work again.
  • Citizen Distrust/ Disengagement with organisations – This challenge is the idea that many of these organisations rely on pubic support to be able to engage in their work or to push an agenda forward so in some cases they find it difficult to ‘recruit’ members or in other cases the public might believe that there is other motives at play so do not support these organisations. 
  • Journalism and the Media – Due to the changing domestic landscape of some states, this has lead to attacks on the media and their reporting styles of stories, which some organisations I met with explained how this has led to a distrust within their reporting which causes the organisations difficultly when then they are trying to get their message or agenda heard by the public as there is not that trust. Also many of these organisations in their words have difficulty in getting their message out in some media outlets due to the monopolisation of their ownership which means that agendas are that can be heard are reducing. 
  • Getting Attention! – With there now being so many different civil society groups each campaigning on many different issues it is now even more difficult for them to be able to be heard or have any attention focused to them. This means that many of the grains at ions need to work to find the opportunities where their work fits and then exploit them to get their agenda heard by the key actors. 

These are only a few of the challenges which have been discussed so far! The greater impact of these challenges will be discussed within the fellowship report which will be released later on this year including some ideas how UK based organisations can try and relieve some of the challenges and help others. Tomorrow or within this week will discuss or focus on youth engagement and some great organisations and projects in Toronto, Canada.

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