Innovating to Survive, Takeaways from the Endurance Test

Civil society organizations have had to innovate to survive in sometimes really adverse environments, reports the 2016 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI). Not have civil society organizations had to adapt quickly, but  “2016 [was]  a tumultuous year” stated Mariam Afrasiabi, Senior Civil Society Advisor at USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance.

Afrasiabi gave the introductory remarks during an event called “Endurance Test: Civil Society Adaptation in Uncertain Environments,” held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC on December 14, 2017. While civil society has suffered great threats from state and non-state actors, Afrasiabi stated they also “responded with innovative solutions in partnership with other sectors.” Other speakers at the event included:

Orysia Lutsevych, Manager, Ukraine Forum at Chatham House; Alex Sardar, Chief Innovation Officer, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; and Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director for Research, POMED.

Alex Sardar,  who is conceived as one of the main conceptualists of Innovation for Change (I4C) – a global network of people and organisations who want to connect, partner and learn together to defend and strengthen civic space and overcome restrictions to our basic freedoms of assembly, association and speech – warned that the civic space is narrowing every day worldwide.  and gave some examples of how civil society is innovating to become more resilient that have surged from the initiative such as the Sharing Economy Platform ComuniDAS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

More about the report and its importance

The 2016 CSOSI findings focused on the Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Middle East and North Africa regions and showed that activists and CSOs are learning to adapt to some of the most hostile environments in the world and continue to do their vital work of mobilizing citizens and advocating for vital causes.

Additionally, the report highlighted that even though CSOs are struggling to ensure their financial sustainability, many of them have been able to diversify their funding streams through innovative practices such as crowdfunding or sharing of resources.

In conclusion, CSOs are being more creative than ever in order to survive to constricting civic space, which demonstrates that they still have the courage to continue working to protect the most basic freedoms of the citizens of the world.

To watch the complete video of the event and a more detailed summary please visit the following: