advocacy activities ] capacity building activities ] networking activities ]
The traditional definition of civil society is that it comprises all organisations and institutions upwards of the family and up to the state (national, provincial and local). Institutions of civil society are therefore varied and perform a myriad of roles in society. They range from the local football club or a stokvel. It is estimated that there are between 55,000 and 100,000 organisations active within civil society that employ up to 500,000 workers. The bulk of these organisations are welfare oriented and are more prevalent in the poorer urban areas.
Many of the pre-94 organisations have gravitated to a development orientation with two main focus i.e. those that are product and service oriented; and those that undertake lobbying and advocacy functions. However the voluntary sector in South Africa is still understood to be very 'thin and frail yet very much alive in present day South Africa.
Since 1994, NGOs have had to cope with new challenges. Key amongst these are:
- The advent of a democratic and legitimate state, which freed those who were unwilling to be associated with the apartheid state to now work in the new state. Indeed it was the patriotic duty of politically conscious individuals with the opposite skills to enter the new state and assist in its transformation. Inevitably many of the comrades did choose this route and rapidly forgot their origins. NGO, CBO and trade union capacity became depleted and this in some way contributes to the belief that the current crop of progressive organs of civil society is weaker; and
- The service providers within the progressive civil society sector have historically been and for the foreseeable future will be dependent on donors for their funding. In the post-94 period many donors stopped seeing South African NGOs as a deserving recipient for funds. Many donors chose to establish bilateral links with government. This contributed to NGOs experiencing difficulties in continuing their operations. In the context of financial uncertainty even more of the NGO corps deserted for greater security within the public sector.
The strategic focus of the NGOs became confused and diffused. Prior to 1994 the focus of the NGOs was to organise and support resistance to the apartheid state. Many NGOs became rudderless when a democratic dispensation came into being. Instead of focusing on what the democratic government was unable or unwilling to do they attempted to continue with their old tasks, often duplicating the functions of, especially, the local state.
The clients or target group of the NGOs also faced the challenges of working in a new environment and in the case of the civic organisations; they entered into a sometimes conflicting relationship with the local ANC branches and also became weak. The civics that formed South African National Civic Organisations were the most devastatingly affected. However, the civics also played a role to unlock local development processes. The trend has been a decline to civil society in the period 1994 to1995 and an increase in bilateral funding to the government. In the period 1995 to 1999 the civil society sector's share reached the 1994 levels without an adjustment for inflation i.e. it dropped in real terms. It must also be borne in mind that some of the aid funds that go to government reach the civil society sector through government allocations to individual line departments and to the National Development Agency and that sometimes advocacy organisations such as SAYVON are seen as not deserving of government funding. It is possible to sometimes hear utterance such as "You can't bite the hand that feeds you" Meaning government can't support organisations that will expose its weaknesses and as such funding becomes complicated. SAYVON through its 2007/11 has define itself as a membership organisations that is organised, can sometimes perform its function, challenge assumptions in respect of delivery, have a definable product. This strategic move has meant sometimes be seen as being "antirevolutionary". The most notable organisations today are those that advocate for service within communities, hence service delivery protests.
The current development environment calls for a new development vehicle and local communities are indeed critical to ensure that local development programmes are undertaken. Local councils are also legally obliged to consult with communities and it is in their interests to ensure that local development forums exist with sufficient understanding of development issues. SAYVON will continue to use the current strategy as it believes that South African youth needs to become active and enjoy the fruits of democracy.
SAYVON understands advocacy as strategies that are in placed to give a voice to a foundation; active verbal support to a position, giving marginalised groups a voice; support for people who are likely to be disregarded or have difficulty in gaining attention, to ensure that their opinions are listened to and their needs are recognised.
SAYVON uses such strategies to ensure that the needs of young people are taken into account.
SAYVON understands Capacity Building as strategies that focus on a variety of aspects of human and organisational development, but exceeding the limitation of a mere competence and training. Capacity Building is much more than training and includes the following:
- Human resource development, the process of equipping individuals with the understanding, skills and access to information, knowledge and training that enables them to perform effectively.
- Organizational development, the elaboration of management structures, processes and procedures, not only within organizations but also the management of relationships between the different organizations and sectors (public, private and community).
- Institutional and legal framework development, making legal and regulatory changes to enable organizations, institutions and agencies at all levels and in all sectors to enhance their capacities.
Why is Capacity Building Needed?
- The issue of capacity is critical and the scale of need is enormous, but appreciation of the problem is low. The link between needs and supply is weak.
- There is a lack of realistic funding.
- There is need for support for change.
- Training institutions are isolated - communications are poor.
- Development of teaching materials is inefficient.
- Alternative ways of capacity building are not adequately recognized
The strategy is to ensure that networking members are in a position to advocate for change. The main capacity building activities are:
- Conducting internal evaluation
- Documenting different experiences by our members
- Conducting sustainability assessments
- Conduct board meeting
- Project visits
- Recruiting new members
- Design a long term organisational structure
- Recruit other members to the network
SAYVON has been founded on the ideal of networking and therefore understands networking as a process by which two or more organisations co-operate to achieve common goals. We also understand networking as semi formal groupings in which each member organisation remains autonomous in its activities, but where enough common ground exists to establish a common agenda.
SAYVON uses the networking strategy to mobile community based organisations, civil society organisations and people in power to enhance youth participation locally and internationally.
Research is a process of investigation. An examination of a subject from different points of view, it's not just a trip to the library to pick up a stack of materials, or picking the first five hits from a computer search. Research is a hunt for the truth. It is getting to know a subject by reading up on it, reflecting, playing with the ideas, choosing the areas that interest you and following up on them. Research is the way you educate yourself. Research is a process through which we attempt to achieve systematically and with the support of data the answer to a question, the resolution of a problem, or a greater understanding of a phenomenon.
SAYVON use the research strategy to increase its understanding of youth development issues and use the understanding to inform and assist in policy development in the country.