Access to civil society resources in Latin America: obstacles and costs; inequities and inefficiencies

Access to civil society resources in Latin America: obstacles and costs; inequities and inefficiencies is an investigation, carried out by CIVICUS, that highlights the barriers experienced by civil society organizations in Latin America when seeking funding through calls for proposals and the considerable transaction costs incurred by these organizations and donors during the resource allocation process. In addition, the report highlights the impact this has on the ecosystem and highlights some inefficiencies and inequities that are frequently manifested.

One of CIVICUS’ main commitments is to broaden understanding of the resource challenges and opportunities facing civil society worldwide and to advocate for changes in the international funding and support system that underpins its projects and research. The goal is to help foster conditions that enable and promote the work of activists, groups and communities, particularly those at the grassroots level.

The CIVICUS solidarity fund (CSF) is a membership-driven and funded fund, created in 2019 to provide flexible funding and support to CIVICUS members based on their needs. Its commitment relates to constantly improving and better serving the CIVICUS membership community. Therefore, in 2021, the focus was on understanding the costs and barriers faced when applying for our grants to try to make the fund more accessible.

Also, in the words of CIVICUS (2022), the aforementioned fund is a mechanism to promote diversity and resilience in civil society, making resources and support available to CIVICUS members around the world through flexible grants. It is focused on supporting small and even informal civil society groups on the front lines of change whose mission is critical to their communities. The fund is managed and financed by the CIVICUS membership and supports about 10 individual activists, movements, organizations or groups per year.

As a solidarity mechanism, which follows a participatory grantmaking approach, the CSF has a Membership Advisory Group (MAG), composed of 10 CIVICUS members selected through an open call process. They are responsible for selecting CSF member grantees and play a key role in the consolidation of the fund by providing advice and strategic guidance on priorities and next steps to ensure a transparent, participatory and inclusive process.

“Working closely with these organizations was a transformative journey. We built truly meaningful relationships between all the people, which made us redefine the meaning of success: relationships can mean more success than any other outcome of our work” (CIVICUS, 2022).

In addition to the above, the fund also seeks to inspire other donors and civil society advocates who are willing to challenge and change the mindset and dynamics of funding. In this way, the proposal is that they invent more equitable and decentralized, trust-based, accountable and creative ways of standing in solidarity with these groups and activists.

The three main findings of the research are presented below:

  • Grassroots activists, small, less formal organizations, groups and movements need flexible, core and sustained funding; in this way, they can focus their work on the communities they serve.
  • “Beyond providing flexible funding, donors must change their thinking and their perception of time, accountability and decision-making. This change must be reflected in the solicitation, selection, reporting, and monitoring processes” (CIVICUS, 2022).
  • Donors should invest in what cannot be photographed or measured in written reports, as this can lead them to build more trust and meaningful relationships with grantees and between them and their peers and communities.