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Improving the Power of CSOs

Chayanika Sonnadara

Chayanika Sonnadara

Written by Chayanika Sonnadara
Intern with Pinelands Creative Workshop in Barbados
IBA in Political Science and French
York University, Toronto Canada
August 4, 2015

My previous article discussed civilians as the power behind CSOs, however before being able to harness civil support CSOs need to have the appropriate organizational infrasturcture themselves.

What does that mean? Before CSOs can represent their communities they need to have created the networks, the tools and the knowledge to be competent ambassadors for their communities. As CSOs function as ambassadors between the government, private sector and civilians they have several roles, and in order to best deliver on all fronts there needs to be improvement in their power and capability.

Five key goals seem to stand out in the effort to increase the power of CSOs:

• Greater cohesion between CSOs nationally and regionally
• More representation of CSOs on a national level
• Inclusion of CSOs in government and intergovernmental projects
• Recognition of CSOs as major players in the social and cultural sphere
• Greater representation and awareness regarding local issues and interests

What is necessary to achieve these goals?

• Communication
• Accountability
• Transparency
• Education (both within and amongst CSOs and outside in local communities)
• Efficiency
• Better utilization of media and outreach tools

If we look at these goals as stepping stones to the development and future success of CSOs we can identify the key areas above that need to be addressed. Communication within the broader CSO community is a vital part of building greater cohesion within civil society.
Civil societies need to start by supporting each other, and then encouraging their local communities to support endeavors as well. Individual organizations and individual people working towards goals need more support.

CSOs in Barbados currently operate with a very individualistic mindset, striving for personal achievements over the opportunity to make a larger impact together. While individual projects do hold merit, they cannot induce major policy changes, impact national issues, or represent local issues to any great extent if operating by themselves.

CSOs that communicate, support and work towards common goals have a much greater impact. Accountability to each other and civilians makes CSOs more open and approachable to the public, it also sets a precedent to hold government agencies and private enterprises accountable for their policies and practices.

Transparency in organization functionality creates confidence in the legitimacy of a CSO and encourages support both financially and resource based. On-going education within CSOs is essential to remain a relevant resource, and also because local communities rely on CSOs to distribute accurate up-to-date information.

Access to information that is understandable and relatable to local communities is vital in the effort to create greater political engagement and activism. CSOs are in the best position to relay information to local communities in a format that is best suited to engage the interest of the individuals residing in those communities. Better organization and more efficient use of resources will go a long way in improving the functionality of CSOs. This speaks to both financial and human resources; often the aspect of volunteers and community non-profit partners is overlooked, but in civil society they play a large role as contributors.

Finally, in today’s social environment social media and outreach tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and in more professional circles LinkedIn are incredibly versatile tools to connect with communities, organizations, professionals and individuals of all ages. As we have seen globally, social media provides a new age platform for advocacy. Learning to utilize these tools to further the causes of CSOs is cost-effective and reaches a multitude of audiences.

By focusing on these key areas of improvement CSOs in Barbados can achieve much, and play a more powerful role in society. Which in turn creates a more balanced and progressive society in which the citizens ultimately prosper.

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