Often times the concept of a ‘civil society’ educes a masala of assumptions. For instance, they do not apply commercial strategies, laymanship is at their core, they are propelled by spontaneity and they preserve the principle of locality.
Recently, Global Shapers Gaborone hosted a Leader’s Imbizo (roundtable discussion) at the Botswana National Productivity Centre in Gaborone. 26 young leaders from approximately twenty one diverse civil societies unpacked their thoughts on “The role of civil society in the national and global development agenda” and “Challenges faced by local NGO’s and identification of gaps and opportunities for further advance our efforts”.
Among the copious conversations that went on, some of the aforementioned assumptions were touched on, thus painting a reality of the civil societies that existed in the room. Some of the organisations in attendance were social enterprises that reinvest their profits to tackle social challenges, some are led by experts that provide technical services, most were formal, professional and well governed and some had a regional and/ or international reach.
By their very nature civil societies are imbedded on the spirit of social-consciousness that do not simply operate as ad hoc clusters that are fuelled by benevolence. Civil Societies were described as deliberate, impactful solution drivers that act as gap fillers, policy drivers, mediators and strategic partners in societies.
Despite their mandate to be stimulants for change and solutions, it became evident that civil societies, specifically in Botswana, tend to have to function in a pond of common drawbacks: funding, human capital, bureaucracy, lack of synergy and poor leadership. It was largely agreed that in this regard, it should be their aim to function collectively through collaborative projects and to ensure that they are well governed and that they function innovatively and sustainably.
By inference, civil societies are part of the “third sector” (non-governmental and non-profitmaking organizations, enterprises or associations). They host a hybrid of active citizens who formalize their passion and drive for societal advancement in one way or another. They are vested with the responsibility to effect positive change and despite their setbacks and challenges they are equipped with enormous potential to inform national and global development.
The Gaborone Hub wishes to applaud all the civic leaders that came to the table and we hope to follow through with similar initiatives in the foreseeable future.