This paper documents and analyses the trajectory, challenges and lessons learnt by civil society organisations (CSOs) in their effort to become sustainable. It explores the degree of relevance of four CSO sustainability convenings and three sustainability workshops which supported 106 CSOs and 56 CSOs respectively to reflect on appropriate strategies to increase their resilience and sustained impact. Its three sections contain solutions to the practical challenges related to civil society sustainability in Ghana; theoretical and practical lessons learnt.
The first section focuses on the challenges faced by civil society in a bid to remain sustainable. It explains how Ghana's graduation to middle-income status resulted in donors curtailing some aid programmes in Ghana. Another challenge is the shrinking civic space with the poor regulatory, legal and environmental frameworks that limit the effective operations of CSOs. The second section focuses on the sustainability journey of CSOs in Ghana. It presents the key milestones and highlights many other aspects to sustainability, not just the financial dimension but also the identity, interventions, and operational sustainability. The third section presents valuable experiences and lessons on how organisations are responding to their sustainability challenges.
This paper has two main objectives: to document and share civil society's challenges and progress towards sustainability as well as effectively use the evidence to shape the discourse on CSO sustainability in Ghana and West Africa. It is therefore important for development stakeholders in the Global North and South because it presents evidence that strongly reflects issues on the ground that would challenge preconceptions, while still maintaining a relevance to public policy and practice. It offers a broad understanding of civil society sustainability, exploring why this issue matters in the present geopolitical context, reviewing what has changed from previous analyses, and proposing ideas for what needs to change as we move forward.