With the grassroots: our common cause

seamusstaff2

25 March 2015

By Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs

During discussions on the CONCORD’s new strategy, there has been a lots of reflection of the relationship between civil society and NGOs and new social movements. 

Activists from all over the world gather for the World Social Forum in Tunisia, March 2015

Just this week ahead of the World Social Forum in Tunisia, ActionAid, Oxfam, Greenpeace, Civicus and Awid published a joint call outliing their desire to work more closely with social movements and grassroot activists. 

Ana Alcalde, Director of Spanish NGO Alianza and one of the European representatives on the action/2015 campaign has looked at this question and I asked her for her thoughts and reflections on the topic in relation to CONCORD.

Find her points below:

Social Movements and CSOs-CONCORD

Rationale and Driving ideas:
1. Systemic change, transformative agendas, ambitious and deep changes to be achieved in the next decade are becoming essential elements of CONCORD and CONCORD members political vision and narratives.
2. After decades of DNGO policy work with institutions and decision makers, we have learnt that systemic changes and transformative agendas are not the result of experts lobby in closed up offices and meetings.
3. Major changes happen when citizens share a vision, collectively mobilize and fight for their Rights.
4. DNGOs have often seen citizens as passive players, who receive our support to get organized, our knowledge and expertise to build public proposals and our values to become aware.
5. But reality have proven to be different. Since the turn of the century more and more emblematic social mobilizations are taking place over the world, brining on the table abitious political agendas for democracy, participation, control and accountability of public and private actors, more effectively than traditional work of NGOs.
6. CSOs now know that without citizens engagement transformative agendas do not come true. So we have to move:
a. From passive engagement to active engagement
b. Form policy to transformation
c. Form expertise to systemic thinking that build new narratives

Social Movements and CSO: What we share
1. Constituencies and sometimes common origins
2. A commitment to systemic change and transformative agendas in favor of a Global Citizenship, Human Rights and an equal and sustainable world
3. A need to build new narratives that explain and express more effectively the challenges and the new models to enjoy Human Rights for all, to build a sustainable world and more legitimate and democratic institutions at global, regional, national and local level
4. A need to build new strategies to have an effective political work at global level that impact on and extremely interconnected world…

How to work together:
1. Developing our complementarities. CSOs bring longer term perspectives on political processes and changes, contacts in government and institutions, knowleged about policy making processes. SM bring huge number of people engaged , with strong political commitments, daring to challenge directly the power and prompt to immediate action
2. Sharing strategies: We have to engage in a more open and fluid dialogue between SM and CSOs, more flexible and non hierarchical. We have to adapt our priorities and language to be more people centered. We have to share key social media and communication strategies.
3. Bringing in our global connections, to exchange experiences in mobilisations, that might facilitate a more global action.
4. Supporting current mobilisations, politically and with the means and people.
5. Engaging in people led accountability mechanisms and the open data revolution.

How CSO have to change:
1. Recognize and accept leadership in and by the social movements
2. Do not fear a radical discourse
3. Erase the breach between professionals and activists

 ENDS