Enabling Members to Truly Drive the CIVICUS Alliance

By Belen Giaquinta and Merle Rutz

As a World Alliance, CIVICUS holds, in its essence and identity, the principles of “people power” and democratic values. There would be no CIVICUS without its members and partners – their presence, needs, voices and collective action. CIVICUS also thrives to live this principle within its Secretariat – by fully engaging staff members in co-defining and designing strategic decisions and actions that relate directly to their missions. But how do we increasingly strengthen CIVICUS’ different constituents’ leadership?

Using a Primary Constituency Accountability approach

In the past two years, the CIVICUS Secretariat has tested an approach and methodology called Primary Constituent Accountability (PCA) – please, excuse the jargon! –  that places primary constituents, i.e. YOU, CIVICUS’ members, at the heart of the alliance’s governance and decision-making structures. This means that CIVICUS’ members’ experiences and needs are central to deciding a course of action or evaluating CIVICUS’ performance. In practice, this requires continuous, active interaction with primary constituents, often consulting, discussing and communicating all aspects of CIVICUS’ work and ensuring that the feedback loop is always closed


How will CIVICUS’ members engage in the Alliance’s strategic review in the coming months?

The CIVICUS Secretariat has been striving to build a true member-led organisational culture across staff and the alliance – and we are currently seeking your input and engagement in the following ways: 

  • Throughout August, various CIVICUS teams reached out to members, partners, and supporters to hear from you what you think CIVICUS’ most significant achievements and shortcomings were in 2018-2019 – and why these matter to you. Your insights are also informing the mid-term review of CIVICUS’ 2017-2022 Strategy, which we are conducting now until the upcoming AGM in November. 
  • A wider number of voices from the alliance will engage via focus group discussions, interviews, and the Annual Constituency Survey (see the 2018 survey and results here and stay tuned for the results from the 2019 survey soon). 

In addition, look out for more two-way Secretariat-to-members communications, and also member-to-member communications in form of an online member platform, which will be key to building a member-led alliance in the upcoming year. Stay tuned for when we close the feedback loop of the mid-term strategy review process in December and share with you the changes and commitments we will make to improve the CIVICUS Alliance. 

And we are also engaging with some member sub-groups on PCA: Within the Resilient Roots initiative, we are specifically testing PCA with 14 organisations from around the world and whether being more accountable to primary constituents makes them also more resilient in the face of threats related to civic space – i.e. their freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Ensuring that CIVICUS walks the talk on this issue, the Secretariat has been implementing more and more PCA approaches over the last 18 months, as also outlined in the organisational-wide Accountability Framework and further down in this blog.

How does CIVICUS walk the talk within the Secretariat itself?

Member_Blog.2png.pngThe CIVICUS Alliance’s main stakeholders are its members, and staff are the primary constituents of the CIVICUS Secretariat. The Secretariat thus needs to ensure that all staff (and not only senior managers) are meaningfully involved in setting organisational-wide priorities to inform annual work plans. Consequently, a substantive online discussion took place in March 2019 (including open conversations in the organisational intranet, webinars etc.), as well as intense collaboration on planning documents. All staff were invited to share their diverse viewpoints and bring up new ideas, which ensured better alignment between teams’ activities. 

Based on this PCA process, unheard voices within the CIVICUS Secretariat felt empowered to provide comments and thus influence the Alliance’s 2019-2020 planning, a great outcome for us! Involving staff directly also allowed us to surface members’ feedback, collected through post-event surveys, Net Promoter Score results, or the online feedback and complaints submission form, and bring those experiences into the annual planning, too. Have a look at the combined Secretariat’s Annual Plan narrative for 2019-2020!

Beyond this annual planning process, all CIVICUS staff are required to reflect upon their work every six months as part of an organisational learning process called impact reflections. Here, the Secretariat collectively reflects upon the last period’s major achievements, blockages and lessons learnt for the future (see more details here on pages 79/80). As of early 2019, these reflections also include collecting evidence to facilitate data-driven decision-making. For example, staff learned that CIVICUS members are very interested in calls for funding and engagement opportunities, but often find themselves confronted with language barriers. This made us shift to accepting applications in all languages, for example, and the Secretariat continues to find ways to engage members’ voices more directly into the priority-setting and reflection processes. 

Please send any comments about CIVICUS’ annual plans, priorities for the new year and reflections of the work so far to .

Copyrights of comics / graphics: Accountable Now, 2016.