Solidarity? From mutual support to working as a collective

By Marina Cherbonnier, CIVICUS membership engagement specialist

CIVICUS Board and Staff annual meetings were held recently. It was a crucial moment to re-assert CIVICUS as an alliance. One of the key achievements from the meetings was the adoption of the new membership policy. A big change it brings is that voting membership isn’t closely tied to one’s ability to contribute financially anymore. Indeed, membership fees will be voluntary for any organisation whose annual income is less than 80 000 USD. We feel this best reflects the true principle of inclusion and “people power” that is at the heart of CIVICUS.

What being a member-based organisation meansWorking Together

It was refreshing to hear the CIVICUS board - all elected by CIVICUS voting members - re-emphasize the importance of listening to what all members want and need. Annual surveys and post-event surveys were recently revisited towards this purpose.

They particularly raised the question of how, as members themselves, do they make sure that they represent members and - through the Board’s representation - ensure that CIVICUS is a member-based organization.

Another point raised was how we  remain accountable to our primary constituents and show impact by defining the best metrics to assess the solidarity we aim to build through the alliance. Some thorough work with the Impact and Accountability cluster on monitoring, evaluating, learning and adapting the work from there, is being done to respond to this.

Showing how a global alliance makes a difference

How to better show the added value of being part of the CIVICUS Alliance was also discussed. Several board and staff members as well as members of the community emphasize that there is an incredible power in being part of a global network: by joining the alliance you enable yourself to tackle issues collectively.

 Members are the best at talking about their experience: what it means to unite in solidarity and how it impacts them positively individually and collectively. They are increasingly invited to share their insights online, through the CIVICUS Blog and social media. There is also a big demand from members to take part in promoting the work of CIVICUS as a global alliance and joining the movement, at local and national level.

We are undertaking some massive work to refine the Alliance’s messages and the engagement spectrum, as well as communications materials, to develop the processes and materials to shape a stronger community and communicate better about what we do and achieve together.

Strengthening collective action

It was made clear that the main “offer” of CIVICUS is NOT through transactional relationships but through its solidarity mechanism, where members help each other mutually and even more so through union.

We currently do not have the capacity within the secretariat to support all 4000+ CIVICUS members at an individual level. Instead, helping members to build their own capacity is the way to go. It means mobilizing CIVICUS networks, working with partners and members, towards connecting people, building capacity development opportunities and exchanging expertise and time.

A big upcoming project at CIVICUS is the implementation of a solidarity fund. In practice, it means that all members contributions would be directed by default to this fund and allocated to member-driven projects. It is important to express that this fund will be one mechanism in a bigger umbrella of community support. Money isn’t at the centre of solidarity.

Ultimately, the goal of CIVICUS is to be a platform of co-creation for CIVICUS members: they connect with others, exchange information and key learning and unite through co-designed, member-led and collective action throughout CIVICUS activities. It was exciting to hear the board express that building horizontal communication and trust was a pre-requisite for this. The CIVICUS spectrum of membership engagement is currently being reviewed with all staff to map out where members can take part more meaningfully, lead, drive and co-create activities while CIVICUS Staff facilitates and helps to strengthen actions.

We will share the results of the annual survey, membership policy and more, in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Image: Lumaxart