Creating capacities and building capabilities for the civil society sector in South Africa
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Civil society organisations (CSOs) of diverse types play an important role in the social, political and economic development of the country - and especially in poverty alleviation. This Policy Paper reviews existing literature and findings from a series of interviews conducted during 2020 to ascertain the most critical capacity needs of CSOs, and how best to enhance and create capacities and build capabilities for the civil society sector. Underpinning this Policy Paper's recommendations is the need for organs of state and the private sector to actively engage with CSOs around capacity building needs, such as via existing CSO forums, in order to enable more CSO-led processes for driving capacity building which actively involve smaller, community-based organisations. An important input for these engagements and decision-making would be a clearly articulated typology and mapping of CSOs as well as their requirements related to critical skills and services to inform the broad types of support that could be provided. In addition, this Policy Paper recommends - amongst others - developing and expanding CSO-tailored training for leaders and financial managers; increasing support for peer-learning and mentoring; and exploring independent structures and possible regulatory instruments for monitoring and handling or mediating of complaints. Whilst a broader decline in funding to the CSO sector has affected resources available for capacity building, consideration should be given to increasing the amount or proportion of support for sustaining 'core' CSO capabilities such as for retaining financial managers and leaders. Moreover, the processes by which CSOs apply for government funding and associated reporting can be simplified to reduce administrative capacity demands; additional awareness raising is needed to increase the public's understanding of the critical role that CSOs play within communities; and, finally, new approaches to funding and capacity building partnerships with government and the private sector should be explored.