The role of Civil Society has never been more powerful throughout the world. It has a strong and successful history in Western democracies and nation states in transition. For those still striving to open their societies, the creation and growth of civil society is often a leading indicator of longer term citizen engagement and change.

Integrity, credibility, transparency, sustainability and leadership are key in starting and growing successful not for profits throughout the civil society sector. How are those traits nurtured, developed and leveraged?

Whether your organisation is a small philanthropic or a large professional society, advocacy organisation or trade association, the skills required for your success as a leader and the organisation’s success are knowable. They can be taught and learned.

There is art and science to not for profit management which is also grounded in the specific cultural, legal and financial framework of each country. The principles may be the same but their practice must of necessity vary. There is much we can learn from each other with the cultural perspectives that bring different knowledge and application of that knowledge.

South Africa’s vibrant civil society sector can inspire and teach others throughout the African continent. Strong organisations can build bridges across and between continents and people. Strong organisations create and cultivate thought leadership in their respective fields. Africa’s thought leadership has already inspired the globe. How can that best be further leveraged?

With all of that said, we still face challenges that are probably very similar, including:

A lack of board focus on the strategic direction and goals of the organisation;

A lack of clear understanding of the roles of volunteer leaders vs. staff;

A growing issue with “time poverty” of volunteers and members;

The competition represented by the web or other providers for information and training for our members;

Technology: when is it all just “too much”? Yes, it can help us engage with our members and stakeholders, but at what cost and what is the trade off?;

Non dues revenue – how do we get more?

Does any of this sound familiar? I think I have some answers but I would like to hear yours.


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