– Two new funds strengthen civil society’s social and political impacts in West africa
Equipop believes in its civil society partners’ collective power to accelerate social and political change in West Africa, so it recently developed two new flexible and innovative financing mechanisms: the Innovation Fund and the Organizational Development Fund.
These two complementary funds allow local organizations to increase their imple–mentation capacities for relevant and innovative collective actions that can cre–ate social and political change; funding also serves to strengthen the organizations, improving the quality of their actions and their national and regional reputations. Equi–pop closely links the funds’ financial support with constant technical support. For exam–ple, collective projects financed through the Innovation Fund are incubated in an Equipop Lab. Groups funded by the Organizational Development Fund have gone through a quality-assurance and organizational self-assessment exercise, using SCAN, a qual-ity-assessment tool adapted and developed by Equipop using the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) benchmark.
The Innovation Fund
The Innovation Fund gives Equipop partner organizations the flexibility and time needed to create a collective project by exchanging knowledge and having multi-stakeholder dis–cussions. Funding lets organizations design projects and action plans according to a country’s specific challenges; it also promotes a sense of ownership and facilitates imple–mentation. The Innovation Fund currently finances six projects as part of Equipop’s Change Lab Project; all six aim to use social and politi–cal mobilization to improve young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). With an €840,000 budget, the fund is currently financing collective projects in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Senegal for about 18 months, from 2019 to 2021. Each country project is supported by a consortium of national organizations. Following a call for applications in each eli–gible country, participating consortia were selected by a committee made up the SRHR specialists Alliance Droits et Santé, together with Equipop and members of youth and women’s movements.
Upstream administrative and financial support for projects via an audit that verifies CSO funding eligibility before the organization provides finalized financial statements. Technical support for CSO consortia that promote sexual, reproductive, youth, and women’s rights so they can draft social and political SRHR/AY advocacy projects. Technical support during the project to facilitate monitoring and to capitalize on lessons learned.
The organizational development fund
The Organizational Development Fund (ODF) supports Equipop partner initiatives to structure, professionalize, and continuously improve their organizations. ODF govern–ance is participatory; local CSOs and groups actively help determine which projects receive funding. The first award committee allocated more than €88,000 to 13 priority improvement projects. A second award com–mittee will be organized in 2019. Several types of projects received funding, including one to design a development plan, another to execute an outreach strategy, and another to support fund-raising efforts. Other funded projects will establish a human-resources management policy, develop an advocacy strategy, capitalize on lessons learned from activities, strengthen monitor–ing and evaluation systems, and purchase accounting software. All these actions are crucial for properly operating and developing an organization, but many CSOs cannot take on such improvements because they lack specific funding and enough time. By deviating from the traditional CSO financ–ing schemes used in West Africa, the ODF promotes and build stronger civil society organizations whose voices and actions can accelerate social and political change.