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The old song of sustainability, maybe with a new tone

Civil society actors gathered to Oxford on the 25th and 26th of November for a workshop organised by Intrac. The gathering focused on the sustainability of civil society, the title capturing two long standing favorite words of the NGO development industry.
Kaisu Österinen
28.11.2014

In the opening session John Hailey, founding member of Intrac, gave two definitions of sustainability. The first one is from the Oxford dictionary: “able to be maintained at certain rate or level”. The other one was from the definition of sustainable development by famous Brundtland report from 1987. According to it the sustainable development is “Development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

These definitions were not new to anybody, neither were the different dimensions of sustainability that NGOs are referring to. Anyhow resent analysis and research have spotted three additional factors contributing greatly especially to the sustainability of organisations:

  • the ability to anticipate and manage change 
  • to have systems to build profile and reputation as well as to develop lasting relations and networks 
  • the role of personal relations in the organisation between the key personalities that promote internal cohesion, dialogue and trust

Many questions were thrown into the air, but very few were answered. Some of the most challenging and inspiring ones were the following:

Why NGOs that are there to do particular task are so worried about their sustainability? When they have done their task there is no point to exist anymore. What is behind this worry of sustainability?

Is  civil society  an indicator of a healthy democracy or is it there because of an unhealthy democracy?

How to support civil society as such and not only civil society organisations? Beyond the sustainability of organisations, there is the value aspect of civil society per se.

How can the outsiders support local civil society without messing up the legitimacy and accountability of the local organisations?

To learn more about the outcomes of the workshop sign up for the free webinar taking place on the 4.12. There are limited amount of spaces, so reserve yours through slewis@intrac.org

Also take a look at Intrac blogs about sustainability.