Transforming From Within the Civil Society: CSO Strategies to Incide in Public Policies in the Southern Cone

The regional center of Latin America and the Caribbean, Innovation for Change, published a study whose objective is to clarify the general view on the strategies of civil society organizations (CSOs) to influence public policies in Latin America and specifically in the Southern Cone. The publication was made under the supervision of the Faro Group and its authors are Leandro Echt and María Mérola.

The study presents a Latin American context in which CSOs have an increasingly leading role, especially in the Southern Cone region – Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – on which the article focuses. Through an extensive literature review and the conduct of a series of interviews and surveys, the authors review the main challenges, opportunities and recommendations in the process of generating incidence from CSOs.

In a scenario in which political culture usually considers the State as protagonist and organizer of public life, the national context has a direct impact on the relationship between it and civil society. Along these lines, several common challenges are generated within the subregion, such as dependence on public financing, the difficulty in generating virtuous dialogues with representatives of the State in institutionalized spaces, as well as government transitions that lead to the loss of some key leadership in the sector.

Faced with such problems, CSOs in the Southern Cone respond to this type of situations through the increasing professionalization of their activities and the use of new strategies with the objective of increasing their impact on public policies. Some of these new tools are the intensive and increasingly creative use of new technologies and, concomitantly, the emphasis placed on communication strategies. However, these tools do not replace traditional methods, such as lobbying practices or public demonstrations, but complement them.

A new generation of CSOs is crossed by new technologies as well as cross-cutting agendas, linked to the inclusion of rights, multiactoral work networks – which include social movements and private actors – that strengthen the capacity to influence. In relation to the last point, tendency in the Southern Cone is to begin to rethink the relationship with private actors, seeking to go beyond the financing role scheme and approach the private sector, incorporating it as a relevant actor in its work agenda, that is, as a sector that works in conjunction and complementarity with civil society.

Finally, the authors reflect on the future of organizations in relation to their advocacy capabilities, which will depend on the continuous efforts of organizations, as well as the exchange of knowledge. In this way, the study proposes categories for incidence strategies with the objective of crystallizing and documenting experiences. Finally, the authors highlight the importance of continuing to explore new incidence strategies that allow updating categories and that consider new contexts and technologies.

For further information, you can access the full publication by clicking here.