CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation launched its new civil society self-assessment tool, the Civil Society Index Rapid Assessment (CSI-RA) at the Africa Forum on Civil Society and Governance Assessments, 10 to 12 November 2011. The forum, held in Dakar, Senegal and co-convened by UNDP, CIVICUS, Trust Africa and other civil society partners brought together over 150 participants from all over Africa to discuss new trends in and opportunities for civil society’s role on civil society assessments and governance assessments.The forum grew out of an understanding that in order to have greater impact, civil society must improve its interaction with, and effect on, public institutions, actors and policies, and help citizens to do so. Civil society therefore has a greater role to play in assessing the quality of governance, and in helping citizens to hold governments to account, for instance over the delivery of public services. As part of this, civil society needs to be provided opportunities to reflect on its own health and context, and generate its own evidence. However, there is growing acknowledgement that in current times of fast and dramatic change, many of the existing tools to help assess the state of civil society lack flexibility and are insufficiently able to reflect local nuances. The Dakar Forum drew attention to this issue, stating, “In contexts where it is not possible, due to reasons of resources, time, conflict or dramatic political change, to undertake a comprehensive assessment, there is a need for rapid civil society assessments that are cheaper, faster and highly adaptable to local contexts,” going on to call for the piloting of such assessments.
To meet this rising demand, CIVICUS, building on its landmark Civil Society Index project, designed the CSI-RA as a flexible, faster and cheaper civil society self-assessment tool, offering a new methodology to help civil society better assess its own strengths, challenges, potentials and needs in a range of different situations and contexts. Each CSI-RA assessment will be customised around the desired outcomes in each context, to ensure that the assessment generates useful and actionable data. Once customised, CSI-RA projects will be easily repeatable, offering the opportunity to identify trends over time.
Lead by and for civil society, the CSI-RA has already generated considerable interest from participants at the forum, and CIVICUS aims to build on this by rolling out the first phase of the CSI-RA in North, West and Central Africa in early 2012.
The forum also concluded that there is a need to develop enhanced early warning systems to alert to deteriorating conditions for civil society and use these to support preventative diplomacy to reverse restrictions on civil society, and to better integrate new technologies in governance assessments.
CIVICUS is currently inviting expressions of interest from potential partners interested in piloting the CSI-RA in 2012 – view the call for expressions of interest.