The “CSO DePo: CSO Development Program” fosters sustainable civil society development through strengthening the capacity of CSOs as critical actors to advance and oversee reform, improve services and contribute to the development of more effective governance in the economic, democratic, and social spheres.
EPF, in a Consortium with Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), Media Initiatives Center (MIC), Goris Press Club (GPC), Support for Noyemberyan NGO (SN), and Martuni Women Community Council (MWCC), is implementing the “CSO DePo: CSO Development Program” (hereinafter, the Program) under USAID’s Development Grants Program (DGP). The Program started in June 2014, and it will be implemented through May 2019.
The goal of the Program is to expand the pool of strong local CSOs by delivering capacity strengthening services so they may become a) successful actors in building a ‘more engaged, prosperous and well-governed Armenian society’ and b) successful potential partners for USAID/Armenia. The objectives are: a) to make CSOs more sustainable; and b) to increase the involved CSOs’ capacities to better deliver services and advocate and monitor reforms in governance, economy, and public health. As a result, the direct participants will become business-oriented and sustainable intermediary providers and capacity developers, at least 70% of beneficiaries will show steady improvement in organizational capacity and sustainable development, at least two models for CSO sustainability will prove successful, and civil society support actors will be ready and able to support CSOs.
The Program consists of several stages. First, the Consortium will develop a special Armenia-tailored CSO Capacity Measurement Tool. The Consortium will then proceed with building its own capacities and conducting a CSO Comprehensive Market Assessment, which will result in the elaboration of several CSO sustainability models to be offered to beneficiary CSOs. At the next stages, the Consortium will establish a CSO Management School that will become a hub of support to civil society. The School will offer trainings on project management, organizational development, business planning, advocacy, gender mainstreaming, service provision, and other needed skills. The School will be strengthened by a Civil Society Portal (CSO Portal) that will offer up-to-date tools and information on CSO development and funding opportunities. In parallel to the CSO Portal, the School will establish a CSO Multimedia Solutions facility to facilitate effective communication among CSOs and between CSOs and other stakeholders. The Consortium expects that over the five years, up to 160 CSOs will undergo training, either in-person or on-line. At the next stage, trainings for trainers will take place, and new generations of trainers will graduate. The most advanced CSOs will be invited to bid for accompanied grants to support their capacity development.
The Tool helps CSOs (including NGOs, Foundations, etc.) to identify the needs and benchmarks for strengthening their governance, leadership, strategic planning, management (people and project management), internal procedures, including financial procedures, fundraising, communication, and marketing capacities, as well as their needs for skills in network building, local and international network participation, and negotiation and advocacy skills with the government and/or local government. The Tool also measures the relations of a CSO with its legal environment: to what extent the CSO is familiar with the laws that govern the CSO operation; whether the CSO team thinks these laws should change; what other laws are needed; etc.
The Tool measures the organizational capacity on two levels: a) the organizational capacity in terms of the existing policies and procedures; and b) the perception of the team regarding their organizational systems, leadership, the strategy, etc.
The overall ‘evaluation’ process with the Tool usually takes about 4 hours: this is a joint meeting/interview of EPF’s consultants with as many as possible staff members of your organization. The consultants then produce a brief analytical report with recommendations. CSOs decide if they want to use EPF’s consultancy in developing an action plan based on the recommendations of the consultants.
To contribute to program objectives, EPF organizes CSO Management schools for CSOs. The training offered in the CSO Management School is just one of the opportunities in the chain of resources offered for CSOs.
The CSO Management School is usually a 3-day long intensive and interactive training for 10-15 CSOs, with up to three team members from each CSO. It is usually organized either in EPF premises or through partner organizations in the regions of Armenia.
The themes covered at the School sessions are informed by the results of the Market Research and have included so far Organizational systems and structures; Sustainability and Social Enterprise; Financial management of CSOs; Program Management cycle and approaches; Communications and Strategic Fundraising. Based on the ever-changing need, next sessions may also address other issues, such as Leadership; Team-Building; Network-building; Consortium Management; and more in-depth studies in the various aspects of fundraising, project management, financing, and resource management.
The CSO DePo offers a set of unique methodologies and tools, among them the CSO Portal, to develop the institutional capacities of CSOs. The Portal will offer an up-to-date information flow on opportunities for CSOs, such as donor announcements, educational and legal resources, templates of policies and procedures, contacts of CSO experts and service providers, and other resources essential for building strong CSOs. The Portal will also serve to improve the visibility of CSO impact in Armenia and increase public trust towards CSOs.
The CSO Portal has been developed by the Media Initiatives Center (MIC) – one of the implementing partners in the CSO DePo.
The CSO Market research was conducted within the framework of CSO DePo: CSO Development Program. The primary objective of the research was to evaluate the gaps in CSO capacity building and the services necessary for their development. The research consisted of two components – a selective quantitative survey of the CSOs located throughout the territory of Armenia and a qualitative study of the opinions of other stakeholders. Comparing the results of this research with previous and other contemporary studies, one can note that the self-awareness of CSOs and the wording used for their problems have become more diverse and nuanced. Obviously, this has happened due to several factors, including the different kinds of assistance that CSOs have received from their supporting structures over the years. In this research, that issue becomes particularly noticeable when comparing the results of the quantitative and qualitative studies.
This shows the opportunity for a new, and so far stable, stage in the development of CSOs. At the same time, new issues are coming up like, for example, the need to make a statement directed at the Armenian business sector about what CSOs are doing and why they are a necessity. The summary presented is, of course, just a section of a multi-layered study with the relevant interpretation, and we hope that other users will complement the presented recommendations and/or clarify their prioritization by studying the results obtained from the research, thus imparting continued value to this research and the activities that stem from it. We thank all the individuals and organizations that participated in the survey and/or expressed their opinions during the in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, to the whole CRRC research team and the representatives of the CSO DePo program who, led by EPF, contributed their part to the realization of this research, as well as to USAID, and specifically its Local Solutions team, who continuously support Armenian CSOs.
The “CSO DePo: CSO Development Program” is made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents and the views expressed as part of the Program are the sole responsibility of Eurasia Partnership Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.