The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) participated at the recent Ford Foundation’s Weaving Resilience Initiative (WRI) network summit held in Cape Town, South Africa from February 27 to March 2, 2023. The summit brought together representatives from various civil society organizations across Africa, Asia, and South America. With the participation of about 80 individuals from over 30 organizations, including the Ford Foundation, the meeting aimed to foster collaboration, deepen understanding of WRI’s principles, and develop a collective vision for the network’s future as far as the ability of civil society to respond to civic space restrictions and weakening democracy is concerned.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to engage WRI hub members, all grantees of Ford Foundation, to strengthen connections and explore collaborations between hubs, a network of nine hubs, globally. The meeting allowed Ford Foundation grantees under the WRI to delve deeper into the network’s priority core capacities to increase the resilience of southern-based organizations – strategic relevance, institutional resilience, and wellness and safety, while also exploring how hubs embody the principles of anti-racism, anti-patriarchy, anti-ableism, and anti-colonialism. Additionally, participants sought to create a collective vision and establish a roadmap for realizing the WRI network’s goals.
Meeting and connecting hubs
The three-day meeting comprised interactive and engaging sessions designed to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration. Participants engaged in team-building exercises, sharing insights about our respective organizations and hubs, and discussed common challenges and implementation models.
During the period, participants delved deeper into understanding each other’s organizations and hubs, sharing information about our work, implementation models, and stages of implementation. We also discussed how hubs embody the WRI principles and explored challenges related to strategic relevance, institutional resilience, wellness, and safety. The discussions highlighted among others the need for stronger safety and protection mechanisms, enhanced digital security capabilities, and the integration of well-being into organizational cultures and civil society at large.
Participants did not leave the summit without collectively envisioning the WRI network and future, sharing our aspirations for the network in the next five years, the least. We envisioned a vibrant, empowered civil society in the global south, a responsive and coordinated donor community, and an operating environment that supports civil society’s work. Ford Foundation re-echoed its commitments to the network and organisations also volunteered to support various aspects of the network setup, including technical secretariat functions, convening thematic areas, and funding and collaboration working groups.
The meeting facilitated a broader understanding of the WRI network and provided participants with an opportunity to learn about the work of other organizations and hubs. Ford Foundation expressed its commitment to support networking activities, learning exchanges, and the provision of consulting support to address implementation challenges. The meeting also initiated discussions on network structure, communication channels, and the need for ongoing facilitation and coordination.
Moving forward in collective effort
The WRI summit provided the opportunity to further explore opportunities for collaborating
with – and learning from – partner organizations, as well as explore with Ford Foundation avenues for sustainable funding. The summit ended on such a good note that participating organizations suggested continuing the WRI meetings, as well as establishing an interactive online platform for information sharing and resource access, and maintain constant support for the growth of the network.
With the demand for services and the challenging civic space environment that does not seem to abate, calling for continuous innovation, resilience-building, and strategic partnerships with southern CSOs is ever crucial. Which is why the WRI and a summit like this provides a valuable platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange, and collective visioning in response to the extant challenges. By embracing the principles of WRI and building resilient networks, we expressed our commitment to driving social change and advancing human rights agendas worldwide. And the support Ford Foundation and other funding partners offers promising opportunities for sustained progress and the empowerment of civil society organizations as they contribute towards open environments, social justice, and the strengthening of democracy.