The private sector, through companies and NGOs, does some of the most important work in community development in South Africa. Civil society feeds hungry children, shelters and supports vulnerable women, looks after the elderly, cares for the sick, trains the unemployed and nurtures entrepreneurship through a variety of initiatives.
However, Covid-19 has hugely ramped up the financial needs of NGOs and NPOs doing crucial work in our communities. Funds that many expected and which would have supported their valuable work in communities were diverted to meet the needs of the crisis, leaving many organisations bereft. The work they do depends on reliable funding – as do the salaries of the 1.5 million people who work in the NGO sector.
NGOs are extremely dependent on government, philanthropic donors and corporates. However, even at the best of times, the relationship between donors and civil society is fragile and fragmented. Funding opportunities are often disconnected from the civil society value chain, and offer limited opportunities for real growth and development in the sector.
Many NGOs say that they simply won’t survive the Covid-19 pandemic, a view supported by Craig Kensley, head of The Coalition of the Committed. This coalition is a unit within Community Chest, established as a forward-looking movement aimed at strategically rebuilding South Africa.
‘In many ways, the current global crisis has brought longstanding issues to the fore and has forced us to address certain problems head on, as a matter of urgency,’ says Kensley. ‘The Community Chest’s Coalition of the Committed presents a comprehensive and targeted plan to plot an immediate and sustainable recovery trajectory for the civil society sector as a whole.’
Not only do they aim to address the immediate challenges brought on by Covid-19, but to boost civil society organisations over the long term, strengthening their position so that they are able to withstand future crises.
‘Our vision is to establish the Coalition of the Committed as a progressive convenor of a socially conscious citizenry,’ says Kensley. ‘This is supported through our mission: To forge a resourced coalition of active citizens delivering social justice, human rights and development systems that support hyperlocal service delivery excellence.’
The Coalition of the Committed recently completed a systemic assessment of the elements required for a resilient recovery plan for civil society.
‘Our recovery plan is underpinned by a theory of change which refers to “5 Horizons” –Resolve, Resilience, Return, Re-imagine and Reform. These 5 Horizons provide both a framework and details for an appropriate response across the short, medium and long term,’ explains Kensley.
The horizon metaphor creates different vantage points, lenses or points of departure through which to view our response to crisis. The mapped horizons do not represent sequential action but a coordinated, collective response to recovery, relevant for all NGOs Each horizon requires a different focus, management, tools, and goals to enable NGOs to remain relevant over the long term.
Kensley describes the 5 Horizons as a blueprint for The Coalition of the Committed to appropriately position NGOs in partnership with communities to drive sustainable, fundable and ‘hyperlocal’ service delivery systems at scale.
Each of the horizons consists of three phases, which together outline a set of activities to be undertaken in order to achieve the goal of the specific horizon.
Each horizon has been mapped across and directly linked to several global and local development matrices, in order to realise and articulate geographic shifts in development work over time.
The Coalition of the Committed, a division of the Community Chest, proposes a framework for the recovery of the NGO sector after the devastations of the last six months.
‘This national disaster has highlighted the extraordinary collective efforts of South Africans across the country to keep our people safe and healthy. The Coalition of the Committed commends the efforts made by all sectors towards supporting those who are most vulnerable,’ says Kensley.
There is, however, a huge amount of work to be done in keeping NGOs running and working effectively. The Coalition of the Committed calls on all South Africans, as well as the global development community, to join the movement and actively contribute building a more resilient and robust civil society sector.