You are on page 1of 21

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP)

Executive Summary | 03

Background | 04

Methodology | 04

Civil Society Capacity Assessment | 06

Conclusions | 20

Annexes 1-8 | 22
Executive Summary
The project Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) has completed a thorough assessment of Zimbabwean human rights
and pro-democracy civil society. The assessment evaluated the current state, needs and perceptions of civil society and the
most appropriate corresponding areas for capacity building, as well as existing support available in terms of resources and
know how as well as previous or ongoing capacity programmes. The level of interest and demand for a support system in
the country was reconfirmed through the various methodologies, which integrated a representative sample of Civil Society
Organizations (CSO) from Harare as well representatives from other regions in the country.

The methodologies used included a standard questionnaire, a series of focus groups, a set of interviews and preliminary online
research into existing resources. These were complemented by a mapping scorecard to evaluate the capacity levels of civil 3
society organizations in the core areas identified in the proposal and by the needs assessment process, and a research project
into media coverage received by CSOs in Zimbabwe carried out by the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ).

The key findings from this assessment are not only useful in terms of what can be done to strengthen civil society and the
best possible means of doing so; they are even more indicative of how Zimbabwe civil society can take responsibility and
ownership of that process in the context of a rapidly changing political and social environment. The report reflects key findings
on internal and external skill sets; establishment of relationships and engagement with stakeholders; and strengthening of civil
society credibility, accountability and positioning. Each section provides an analysis of the main themes that emerged, and
possible intervention mechanisms to tackle those challenges.

In terms of the specific skills highlighted by participants, strong emphasis was placed on the areas of advocacy, fundraising
and internal organizational development. The need for sustainable mechanisms ranging from human resources operational
mechanisms to monitoring and evaluation models was articulated through all the different assessment methods and was a
concern for the majority of participant organizations.
Engagement with other sectors was highlighted not only in terms of coordination but also in other areas. It is clear that CSOs
recognize the importance of engaging many different types of stakeholders as a legitimacy, advocacy and resource tool. These
responses reinforced the general perception that for CSOs to build their credibility and accountability they must work across
the board with other segments of society while at the same time strengthening their inter-organizational relations. In this
vein, participant organizations emphasized the need to strengthen umbrella and coalition organizations as a hub for resources
and coordination. This realistic appeal was also closely linked to the need to provide space for effective communication and
networking channels to develop new ideas and promote exchanges of information. Organizations demonstrated willingness
and disposition to take ownership of the self-sustainability concept behind the initiative, not only through active participation
in this assessment phase but also by putting forth new proposals that have the potential to serve as the backbone for future

Overall the picture that emerged from the assessment process was one of widespread recognition, on the part of the vast
majority of civil society actors, that both efficiency and credibility are essential and integral factors in ensuring the sustainability
of both civil society and its initiatives.
01 Background

1. Background
The assessment process outlined in this report forms an integral part of the first phase of the Civil Society Self-Support
Programme (CSSP) The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute to the development of a flourishing and diverse civil
society across a broad range of human rights and democracy-related themes that is engaged at a variety of levels (local,
provincial, national and international). In order to support this goal, the broad target areas of this project fall into three areas:
Supporting institutionalization of self-support and interaction mechanisms for human rights and pro-democracy civil society
Helping human rights and pro-democracy civil society groups to redefine their role during and after a transition to democracy,
and to overcome the legacy of repression
Expanding the scope of human rights and pro-democracy civil society activity and encouraging the growth of new and
smaller groups and their interaction with the broader civil society community

Within the framework of this project goal and target areas, the assessment process is designed to evaluate the current state,
needs and perceptions of civil society and the most appropriate corresponding areas for capacity building, as well as existing
support available in terms of resources and know how as well as previous or ongoing capacity programmes. To this end the
assessment evaluates civil society capacity needs in light of the demands of the current operating environment. In keeping
with this orientation the findings of the assessment detail:
Existing capacities, capacity gaps, priority capacity needs for civil society in addressing human rights and democracy issues
both in Zimbabwe’s transitional era and in the long-term
4 The status, challenges and possibilities for civil society to address internal and external challenges, engage external stakeholders
and enhance credibility and legitimacy
Skill sets required to enhance civil society interventions in human rights, democracy and governance
Possibilities, opportunities and limitations of the project to be developed to address the identified capacity gaps and needs,
including strategies to create linkages with other ongoing capacity initiative as well as monitoring and evaluation of progress

2. Methodology
2.1 Needs Assessment
In order to ensure relevance and effectiveness, an assessment system was designed based on collaborative research processes.
Given the goal of evaluating the current state, needs and perceptions of civil society, and the most appropriate areas for capacity
building, as well as existing support available in terms of resources and know-how, the team decided to use different data
gathering methods. Accordingly, the process included a standard questionnaire, a series of focus groups, a set of interviews
and preliminary online research. All tools were selected in order to speedily obtain as much information from the most diverse
range of CSOs possible across the democracy and human rights arenas.

2.1.1 Questionnaire
The first needs assessment instrument selected was a questionnaire, which was distributed through NANGO’s membership
and regional structures. The questionnaire format was selected as an appropriate methodology for gathering feedback on a
wide array of topics and in reaching out to a diverse set of organizations all around the country. Respondents were asked to
comment on their organization’s current skills; skill sets needed given the current political and social environment; and the
impact of current legislation and political limitations on their work. The questionnaire also probed perceptions of civil society’s
role both currently and in a possible transition environment (See Annex 1).

2.1.2 Interviews
Interviews were carried out with 16 individuals –primarily directors of their respective organizations– who have the potential
to offer major contributions given their status and the organizations they represent. These individual interviews targeted

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

02 Methodology

people who were unlikely to have participated in other aspects of the assessment process and the less structured format
allowed for deeper discussions and more substantial exchanges of ideas. These individuals have been active in civil society
over sustained periods of time and this experience combined with the central positioning of their respective organizations
gives them comprehensive and highly nuanced perspectives. As with the questionnaires and the focus groups, the guiding
questions involved sought to explore the different opportunities to support capacity building within their organizations and
for civil society as a whole (see Annex 2).

2.1.3 Focus Groups

A series of focus groups were organized to complement the broad brush patterns offered by the questionnaire process with
in-depth, creative discussions. Meetings were held in Harare (4), Bulawayo (1) and Masvingo (2). A mix of groups was organized
to solicit a range of perspectives. Some groups invited organizations by sector (e.g. human rights, women, and youth) and
requested the participation of high- or middle-level representatives. Other sessions comprised organizations from different
sectors and individuals from different levels within their organizations. The questions were drafted with the guidance of an
expert focus group facilitator, who also trained the FH SA and NANGO staff who facilitated the sessions, and were sufficiently
broad for participants to explore civil society needs in the context of the ongoing changes in Zimbabwe as well as the possible
future scenarios. Participants were encouraged to speak from both individual and organizational experience.

The focus groups were not intended to produce generalizations about trends in civil society but rather to explore the thinking,
responses and attitudes behind current challenges and approaches, and to open up space for creative thinking around
civil society responses and future possibilities. Moreover it became clear from the discussions that many of the participant
organizations had been frustrated by difficulties in coordination in the past. Providing this focus group space for communication 5
and exchange clearly created an environment conducive for networking (see Annex 3).

2.1.4 Media Survey

In order to gain a better understanding of current media management, political communications and marketing capacity of
Zimbabwean civil society, FH SA commissioned the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) to carry out a research
project into media coverage received by CSOs in Zimbabwe for the period from March 2007 to June 2008, including a
comparison of public and private media coverage, and assessment of individual organizations’ media coverage as a proxy
indicator of their capacity to make the most of opportunities in the media arena, as well as a reflection of current conditions
and limitations faced. An interim report has been submitted (see Annex 4) and final results are due at the end of October.
These results will offer crucial insights into this capacity arena which is consistently flagged up by organizations as a high
priority capacity need.

2.2 Existing Resources

A secondary goal of this assessment phase was to catalogue existing capacity development resources.

2.2.1 Case Studies

Preliminary research identified a series of case studies from around the world that can both inform the design of the programme
and serve as reference to civil society throughout its capacity development initiatives. At this stage, the initiative was designed
only to identify and outline cases with the potential to offer useful guidance and ideas in future and to assess whether more
in-depth study would be useful and/or feasible in this arena (see Annex 5).

2.2.2 Training and Advisory Resources

A pilot research project was also initiated into the hands-on tools designed and made available by other organizations, both for
a proposed website and for possible integration into training curricula. The approach covered a broad range of capacity areas
– from organizational development to media instruments, and resources such as toolkits, manuals and even academic articles.
It quickly became clear that in some areas (e.g. advocacy, strategic planning and management among others) resources
were abundant while in others (e.g. research methods) there was little provision. A substantial follow-up project is now being

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

designed (see Annex 6).

2.3 Review
Reviews after conclusion of each individual research methodology and an overall debriefing helped the team to generate
guidelines for future assessment and monitoring processes, which are expected to integrate some of the same methodologies
as this initial assessment (see Annex 7).

3. Civil Society Capacity Assessment

This section presents the key findings from the extensive assessment of civil society capacities that was carried out in August
and September 2008. Part of the groundwork for the project Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP), the assessment
is an action learning enterprise to inform the development of a long term self sustaining capacity building model. As such
the findings documented in this section relate to the design and implementation of sustainable skill sets, tools, structural
arrangements, interventions and trainings for the enhancement of civil society capacities. They also reflect the project’s focus
on the human rights, democracy and governance sector in civil society as well as the realities of the environment in which this
project will be implemented.

The information obtained through the various methods has contributed a broad programmatic vision of current priorities,
capacity and capacity building needs. In doing so it has helped lay the foundations for appropriate programs and activities
6 that will help define and sustain definitive roles for civil society, engage external stakeholders and strengthen credibility,
accountability and positioning within the sector. See Annex 8 for a brief summary of findings.

3.1 Current Operating Environment

The development of Zimbabwean civil society has been warped over time by a combination of a repressive external operating
environment and underdeveloped internal mechanisms to meet the demands of that volatile context. Civil society deals with
an operating environment in which logistical and technical challenges absorb disproportionate amounts of energy, planning
is severely hampered by the unpredictability of the arena and citizens are distracted from civic action by a preoccupation with
daily survival. Under this pressure, organizational transparency and accountability takes a back seat to issues of security and
improvisation. This amalgamation of internal and external challenges represent a vicious cycle for civil society as the external
pressures further weaken internal integrity and prevent capacity development. As such, need for robust civil society grows
while civil society capacity declines. Among the major challenges highlighted by participants in the assessment exercise are
the following:
Rapidly shrinking space for civil society to carry out such functions as mass mobilization, civic education and social action
Continued disempowerment of citizens due to the humanitarian crisis and pre-occupation with daily survival weakening
civil society’s key support base
Repressive legislation, politicization of development, unresponsive regime, partisan judiciary
Crisis of legitimacy diluting commitments to rule of law, social accountability, good governance and human rights
Competing state-sponsored civil society pseudo-organizations
Weakening resource base –technical, financial and otherwise– due to the economic crisis, isolation from the international
community, brain drain and taxation
Security concerns particularly for human rights defenders and activists due to the militarization of state functions

3.2 Structure of civil society

Zimbabwean civil society organizations are complex, interconnected and therefore interdependent. Civil society’s fluid
structure generally follows the pattern of networks, coalitions and umbrella bodies coordinating the initiatives of member
organizations in a related field. Diversity, local ownership and commonality of structure predominate.
Pro-democracy and human rights activist civil society takes on issues as diverse as political rights and freedoms, constitution

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

and legal reform, media access, good governance and gender equality. However, as is the case with civil society in many
countries worldwide, particularly where civil society suffers repression and restrictions on its activities, the combination of
environment and a failure to link these concerns effectively to citizens’ everyday realities have resulted in limited popular
participation. As a result civil society still struggles with enhancing its relevance, credibility and legitimacy to the general
public as well as in the political arena. Among the major issues with regard to the structure of civil society highlighted by the
assessment exercise are the following:
Due to resourcing patterns and limited access, especially in the rural areas, civil society has become generally (although by
no means universally) middle-class, urban-based and lacking in grassroots representation.
Linkages between the different facets of civil society (e.g. NGOs, faith-based organizations, labour and community-based
organizations) have sometimes been weak or even at cross-purposes.
Weaker and marginalised civil society constituencies such as youth, women and rural residents have relatively less space,
institutional capacity and voice compared to other dominant civil society constituencies
Lines of fragmentation reflect sectoral divisions, funding biases, ideological differences and personal leadership

3.3 Addressing internal and external skill sets

This section focuses on core capacity needs of civil society including resources, management requirements and programmatic
skill sets. The patterns described are neither universal nor definitive but rather reflect trends picked up on consistently by
Zimbabwean civil society participants and respondents in the assessment process.

3.3.1 Resources 7
The depleted human, structural and financial resource base for civil society coupled with an expanding mandate and rising
stakeholder expectations requires on the one hand skills to mobilize increased resources and on the other the realignment of
civil society sharing and coordination structures to maximize benefits and impact from existing resources.

Civil society organizations suffer not only from collective brain drain –as trained personnel leave the sector in the face of
logistical, financial and operating obstacles– but also from movement of individuals within the sector as funding is gained and
lost, and as priorities shift constantly in the unstable socio-political environment. This deficit is exacerbated by poor investment
in staff capacity for a variety of reasons, and by internal systems that impede institutional memory and institutional retention of
capacity. Organizations also struggle to source core funding and consistently fail to share resources across the sector.

In terms of financial resources, participants consistently commented on their perceptions that over-reliance on foreign donors
has affected both priority-setting and patterns of institutional development, reducing accountability to grassroots concerns.
Behind these commentaries lies recognition of the limitations in civil society capacity to source alternative financial resources
or to make the most of existing financial resources. Skill sets for the creation of a sustainable resource base for civil society
through diversification, innovation and improved financial management are pivotal for the financial sustainability of civil
society. In addition, fundraising strategies will need to respond to the realities of shifting funding patterns during a possible
transition – including an expected trend toward funding government to perform functions formerly taken on by civil society.

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Weak human resource base Lack of institutional stability Creative employment arrangements and personnel
Continued loss of trained personnel, time-sharing initiatives
institutional memory and evolved Increased use of volunteers/interns
capacities Training in organizational structuring to maximize
Lower incentives for investments in human resources
personal capacity building initiatives Training in strategies to ensure institutional memory/
for CSO staff learning/capacity development
Support to develop human resource policies and
Technical support and backstopping for joint
programming and resource pooling

Poor infrastructural and asset Lack of core funding due to project Training in income-generating approaches for
base based granting development or social entrepreneurship
Limited outreach capacities and Development of focal points/central resource centres,
urban bias e.g. for internet access, printing, meeting rooms
Promotion of long-term resource-sharing initiatives
(e.g. shared office building)
Lack of sustainable funding Narrow sources of income and lack of Training in resource mobilization
sources innovation about potential new sources Networking with potential funding sources including
Dependence on the international the business community
8 donor community Advocacy for guaranteed civil society funding support
Potential reductions in donor funding (e.g. from government)
in future Advocacy for funding to civil society in a transition arena
and beyond

3.3.2 Management
Overall there is a clear deficit in terms of management tools that help resolve the tensions between achieving social change
and meeting project responsibilities. As a result general management skills are an unexpectedly high priority for many civil
society organizations, with areas of interest focused on improving management models and staff development. Areas such as
monitoring and evaluation are particularly crucial and difficult to manage given external factors such as the economic crisis
and restrictions on civil society activity in the democracy and human rights arena.
A lack of clarity over organizational roles and responsibilities reflects the need to improve strategic planning, particularly
as CSOs work to adapt to the changing realities of their country. Both long-term organizational planning and strategically
positioning within the sector will be improved through strengthening of planning skills and introduction of new models.
Leadership development was also highlighted (see 4.4.2: Leadership Skills below).

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Intervention

Monitoring and Limited knowledge of external management and Knowledge sharing among organizations who may
Evaluation planning models (e.g. RBM, Logical frameworks, have an evaluation model in place
project cycle management) Harmonization of multiple donor management
Insufficient information on program impact due to techniques and reporting requirements
external constraints Development of alternative management tools and
Misinformed assessment of the needs on the ground techniques
leading to poorly-designed programs
Inability to fulfil external partners’ reporting
expectations reducing funding opportunities

Management for social Adoption of outside models of resource heavy Development of alternative management tools and
change and top-down forms of institutionalization and techniques

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Intervention

Strategic Planning Lack of clarity over organizations’ roles Training in scenario analysis and strategic planning
Need to revisit vision and mission in terms of Participatory strategic planning exercises
programmatic agenda and future plans
Lack of internal process know-how and facilitation

3.3.3 Programmatic Capacity

The gamut of human rights and democracy promotion programmes has progressively narrowed, largely as a result of the
repressive operating environment. This environment not only reduces the range of programming options but also creates
intractable disincentives for citizen participation. Programming has, as a result, become predominantly urban based and event-
focused. Workshops, research, consultative meetings and media work are common programming patterns and impact has
been limited as a result. Innovative capacities are needed to move beyond this limited range of activities, and crucial skill sets
are likely to include citizen empowerment and promotion of citizen participation; information dissemination, communications
and media relations; and advocacy, campaigning and event management. Participation and mobilization

Participation and mobilization are essential enablers for human rights and democracy imperatives insofar as they give voice
to citizens and expand their influence on political processes. Faced with severe restrictions on its activities and approaches,
civil society in Zimbabwe has struggled to achieve widespread mobilization on human rights and pro-democracy issues since
the movement around constitutional reform in the late 1990s. This limitation is also reflected in civil society internal structures,
which are often detached from their members/constituencies. A focus on strengthening participation and mobilization needs
to encompass both internal dynamics of recruitment, retention and engagement through existing structures, and external
dynamics of information provision, campaign development, visioning and strategy, and core mobilization strategies.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Weak linkages between broader Persistent exclusion of some constituent Creation of mechanisms/forums to
civil society and mass-based groups from CSO targeting of initiatives (e.g. strengthen ties between the NGO sector,
organizations (e.g. faith-based, middle class, youth etc.) Labour and the Faith Based Organizations
labour) Underdeveloped strategies and capacities to Training in grassroots mobilization,
work with and through other groups such as networks and membership development/
grassroots and mass-based civil society sectors, management
the church and labour unions
Duplication of membership/constituent base
within civil society
Unwillingness among CSOs to share access to

Lack of citizens awareness and/ Weak and poorly targeted mass information Training in communications and
or understanding of civil society dissemination capacities awareness raising including alternative
prerogatives Limited outreach efforts and capacities media, public information campaigns
particularly towards rural and marginalised Training in strategy development to
sections of society improve consistency
Low downward accountability by civil society
to citizens
Poor popular understanding of motivations for
participation in civil society initiatives
Inconsistent civil society messaging and
approaches leading to popular confusion and
failure to participate

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment Advocacy/Communications
Advocacy and communications skills are relevant to a broad range of civil society activities and areas of focus, and are already
playing a crucial role in civil society’s engagement with the emerging transition arena. The capacity of civil society to influence
aspects ranging from negotiation processes to human rights procedures to policymaking and reform depends on both
advocacy and lobbying skills and strategies, and communications and media management. A decade of state monopolies
over policy development processes has impeded civil society efforts to counter repressive legislation, disastrous policies and
twisted international perceptions. Capacity building needs to equip civil society both to lobby and campaign more effectively
in this restrictive environment, and to be ready to take advantage of future openings as they emerge.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Strategy Lack of strategic innovations to counter repression Learning from/exchange visits to CSOs in similar
development and other barriers to successful advocacy contexts
processes Training in advocacy processes
Weak connection between constituency base/
popular support and CSO advocacy strategies

Communications Limited information/campaign dissemination Training in use of alternative and new media
options Training and/or skill sharing/mentoring in use of ICTs
Limited awareness/use of ICTs for outreach for communications
Difficulties drawing public celebrity support for
10 Campaigning Poorly structured and under-resourced Training in issue based campaign development and
campaigns, sometimes sending conflicting implementation
messages Growth and development/ mentoring of pool of
Limited pool of activists willing and able to activist mentors
spearhead campaigns and failure to structure
campaigns to be more inclusive

3.4 Engaging External Stakeholders

3.4.1 Stakeholders and relationships

The volatile political environment has diminished the potential for meaningful engagement between civil society and critical
stakeholders such the state and the private sector. Ideally CSOs occupy the autonomous space outside the spheres of state and
market but this autonomy has been challenged as the state invests heavily in coercion, cooption and repression. The private
sector has meanwhile been generally suspicious of civil society and particularly reluctant to engage in the human rights and
democracy arenas. In response, civil society has failed to develop an agenda and strategies for sustainable engagement and
relationship building with critical stakeholders. Structured frameworks for engagement such as the Tripartite Negotiating Forum
or the Development Committees at District and Ward levels have fallen victim to adverse political dynamics and manipulation.
Different sectors and different levels of civil society reported variances in their relationships with critical stakeholders. However
a common denominator is the shared understanding that strengthening civil society relationships with key stakeholders will
contribute to making civil society initiatives more effective. National government

The Zimbabwean context reflects highly fractured relationship between the State and civil society in terms of civil society
autonomy and opportunities for dialogue, although the government has encouraged civil society to play a role in plugging
gaps in social service delivery. Deficits in democracy and human rights have left little room for formal CSO participation in
political processes. Repressive laws delegitimize and criminalize civic activities such as public meetings and voter education
initiatives. The challenge for CSOs in capacity terms is to expand the limited openings for dialogue with the State and to
strengthen the linkages between the support arena which Government is more willing to engage on and the human rights

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

and democracy promotion arena in which engagement is severely restricted.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Legitimising CSO participation High levels of mistrust, misconceptions and acrimony between Training in alternative
in human rights, democracy the State and CSOs engagement strategies
and governance processes Repressive legislation excluding CSOs and criminalizing CSO
Formal exclusion of CSOs in relevant policy and dialogue

Expanding dialogue processes Limited CSO capacity to engage critical platforms such as Strengthening of
and strengthening existing Parliamentary committees and government taskforces coordinating capacities of
engagement mechanisms Lack of understanding of policy processes and how to influence networks and membership-
them (consultation, formulation, implementation, monitoring and based organizations to
evaluation) facilitate CSO participation in
Uncoordinated and sometimes conflicting engagement dialogue and engagement
processes by different CSOs or groupings processes
Passive response to State divide and rule strategies to prevent Training to support
collaboration between CSOs engagement in specific
CSO failure to manage and take advantage of existing arenas (e.g. policy
opportunities offered by structures such as Ward and Village development/reform,
Development Committees advocacy)

Linking support services to Weak strategic collaboration between human rights and Promotion of multi-sectoral 11
human rights, democracy and democracy CSOs and support service/humanitarian CSOs initiatives to seek dialogue
governance CSO failure to link socioeconomic and humanitarian issues with and advocacy opportunities
the human rights and democracy arena Local government

Although still severely limited for human rights and democracy CSOs, there is relatively more dialogue and collaboration
between State and civil society in the local government arena than at the national level. Moreover, the push for decentralization,
local governments’ greater need for technical support, personal relationships in tight-knit communities, and the recent shift in
political power toward the Movement for Democratic Change at the local level all open up prospects for CSO-local government

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

CSOs servicing local government technical and Lack of CSO understanding of technical Training on CSO participation in
policy gaps and policy information needs of local local level policy processes and
government officials structures
CSO technical capacities at the local Setting up mechanisms/establishing
level limited to a few individuals and a hub to support linkages between
organizations local CSOs and specialist CSOs
Weak linkages between local CSOs and
specialist CSOs based in other areas

Expanding dialogue processes and CSO failure to manage and take Training of local multi-sectoral CSO
strengthening existing structures for advantage of existing opportunities teams to participate in advocacy/
engagement offered by structures such as Ward and dialogue processes with local
Village Development Committees government structures Business/private sector

Current civil society–private sector engagement is generally focused on the Corporate Social Responsibility agenda and

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

therefore outside the human rights and democracy framework. Other efforts to bring elements of civil society together with
business, such as the Tripartite Negotiating Forum, which aimed to bring business, labour and the state together, have collapsed
in the face of business cooption by government elites – a problem civil society consistently faces in engaging business around
human rights and democracy issues. Civil society has also consistently campaigned on issues such as privatization that clash
directly with business interests, thereby increasing private sector distrust and unwillingness to engage. There are, however,
opportunities for stronger civil society-private sector relationships around points of convergence within the Corporate Social
Responsibility sphere, as well as on consensus issues such as anticorruption campaigns. In addition, civil society could benefit
from a diversified resource base and access to technical capacities in the private sector.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Defining a common agenda for Control of private sector agenda by political Training in high level engagement
sustainable civil society–private elites in government Support in strategy development for
sector engagement and Polarization and escalation of conflict due to engagement with the private sector
cooperation economic crisis, rule of law and other political
Long-standing contestation with business
over privatization, high pricing and the neo-
liberal agenda

CSO access to Private sector Business mistrust/misconceptions about CSOs Training in resource mobilization
resources CSO failure to demonstrate returns for Capacity building in Corporate
12 investment Governance
CSO failure to inspire private sector confidence
as a sustainable strategic partner to fulfil
Corporate Social Responsibility obligations Media
Media in Zimbabwe is deeply polarized along political lines, with state media following government directives and positioning
to the letter, while the few elements of private or ‘independent’ media that have survived recent repression fall behind the
opposition and are, as a result, generally supportive of the pro-democracy and human rights agenda. While the private media
regularly reports on civil society activities, the state media tends to comment only on the activities and agendas of pro-
government civil society organizations, referring to more autonomous CSOS critically if at all. The result of this divide is that
civil society requires two different skill sets to engage both sides of the media divide, and this dynamic is likely to become
more significant as a possible transition phase increases the openness of state media reporting. Priorities for human rights and
democracy CSOs are to promote conditions that allow greater access to information and greater media freedoms.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Engaging the Continued use of state media to advance partisan agenda Training in communications and media
State owned Inability of CSOs to take creative advantage of space within engagement
media fraternity state media Development of collective strategies for
Inability of CSOs to package information compliant with state increased engagement and support for
controlled editorial policies implementation
Exclusion of members of state controlled media houses from
CSO initiatives

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Engaging the Inability of CSOs to mobilize sustainable resources to utilize Training in communications and media
Independent independent media services engagement
Media Dependence on advertising over successful securing of Specialized training of spokespersons
coverage through articles/reporting Development of collective strategies for
Weak collaboration on issues such as advocacy for access to increased engagement/integration and
information, community radio and broader press freedoms support for implementation
Inability of CSOs to develop diverse newsworthy and credible
media personalities (e.g. spokespersons)
Lack of comprehensive strategies to integrate media as part of
civil society (e.g. roles of watchdog and advocate)

3.4.2 Leadership skills

A diverse set of concerns points to the need to strengthen leadership skills within civil society. Pressures of environment
and performance often pit technical “management” competences against charismatic “leadership” qualities. Competition and
lack of resources can leave little room or investment in leadership development through mentoring, peer reviews or other
structured mechanisms. In addition, lack of strategic planning deprives leaders of a coherent set of messages with which to
encourage and promote participation and engagement. Diplomacy
Two major facets of diplomacy predominate at present. Skill sets around negotiation skills are a vital aspect of effective
civil society engagement with other major stakeholders, particularly in the political arena and particularly in a transition
environment. Equally, the capacity to judge and manage relationships based on an understanding of multi-faceted (as
opposed to antagonistic) approaches can have a major impact on advocacy achievements.

Capacity Interventions/ skill

Capacity Gap Challenges
Diplomacy skills Weak linkages between civil society individuals with Mentoring and training for
capacities and experience in diplomatic engagement, and individuals in advocacy and
upcoming inexperienced personnel in leadership positions leadership roles Representation
CSOs are often challenged to legitimise their interest in or participation in issues by proving the mandate from the
constituencies they represent. For membership based organisations proving representativeness is often not as difficult as it is
for technical organisations such as think tanks. Improving representativeness of CSOs may entail interventions aimed towards
strengthening civic activism and hence a stronger pool of citizens willing to engage with CSOs, and strengthening the ties
between membership-based organisations and the organisations with the technical competencies to carry out functions (e.g.
legal representation) on behalf of constituencies.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions/ skill sets

Inter-Civil Society linkages Lack of appropriate Training in, and facilitation of inter-sectoral networking
mechanisms to promote the
collaboration of technical
and membership based
Limited knowledge about
the information needs of
different stakeholders

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions/ skill sets

Expansion of CSO stakeholder base Limited skills to engage Training in mass mobilisation and membership
and expand constituent development
accountability and
participation frameworks
to include stakeholders Mentoring and Training

Marked discrepancies in core capacities such advocacy, resource mobilisation and information dissemination continue to
widen the longstanding divides between rural and urban CSOs. The challenge has always been to put in place skills transfer
mechanisms that can facilitate transfer to areas with lower capacities without reducing capacities in higher end organisations
or creating excessive work for them.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions/ skill sets

Skills transfer Inadequate information about where capacities Capacity building in intra- and inter-organisation
mechanisms are located or required mentoring
Lack of a comprehensive framework for skills Establishment of mechanisms to promote
14 transfer with built in incentives monitoring processes

Leadership Small and static group of individuals occupy Opportunities for exchange among different regions/
leadership positions organizations
Lack of opportunities to train young individuals Inclusion of new individuals in existing training

3.4.3 Strengthening civil society credibility, accountability and positioning

The policy impact, resource mobilization capacities and other roles of civil society are heavily dependent on its credibility,
legitimacy and positioning. All of these inform the perceptions of key stakeholders including the public, government and
donors. Zimbabwean civil society has received high ratings for its high standards of corporate governance and general
adherence to state regulatory framework but civil society is disproportionately weak in terms of its accountability to the public
and the constituencies it claims to represent. This deficit reduces the legitimacy and credibility of its human rights and pro-
democracy initiatives. Credibility
Credibility is generally a product of positive accountability processes and the moral authority that stakeholders ascribe to
particular civil society roles. For human rights and democracy programming, the credibility of CSOs derives from processes
that are inclusive, participatory, transparent, consultative, embedded in local realities and where possible owned by their
beneficiaries. This depends not only on ingraining mechanisms for downward accountability in CSO processes but also
strengthening CSO communications, “branding” or image, and engagement with key stakeholders. It also depends on civil
society adherence to baseline standards of quality service provision.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Downward accountability Weak mechanisms for consultation and inclusion Capacity building in citizens’ engagement,
of marginalised stakeholders consultation and mass mobilization

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

“Branding” Lack of proactive strategies to gain and maintain Training in communications and marketing
public confidence Support in developing strategies for
stakeholder engagement

Service delivery standards Lack of awareness and adherence to good Capacity building in corporate governance and
corporate governance and service delivery social service delivery standards
standards Self-regulation for civil society
Lack of consequences for “bad apples” or reward
mechanisms for good practice Coordination
Coordination is widely regarded as the worst weakness and strongest opportunity for Zimbabwean civil society. Weak structural
mechanisms and the marked ideological and strategic fissures impede formalized inter-organizational cooperation, leading to
duplication, competition and weak stakeholder mobilization. Stronger coordination would support civil society across the full
spectrum of its agendas and activity patterns.

Critical areas for investment in coordination include addressing the divide between urban and rural organizations, building
links between centralized or specialist organizations and those of a grassroots nature, supporting engagement between the
service provision and human rights and democracy sectors, and promoting inclusion of marginalised groups. Coordination
will also help to counter operating environment difficulties such as the shrinking resource base and aspects of State repression
and restriction on civil society activity.
Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions
Strengthening umbrella networking Inadequate coordinating capacities within Capacity building for coordinating
and coordinating bodies sector and national umbrella coordinating bodies in management of membership
bodies based organizations and promotion of
Lack of buy-in/interest from potential coordination mechanisms
participants in coordinated activities
Lack of conflict resolution mechanisms to
address competition for resources and space for

Bridging ideological, financial and Limited platforms for information-sharing Training in Information dissemination and
other divides within civil society Competition for external resources communication
Inadequate incentives for information Development of information-sharing and
disclosure to avoid duplication coordination platforms
Weak inter-sectoral networking capacities Training in networking and coalition
building Consistency
The tendency for CSO interventions to be episodic and transient reflects limited long-term strategic planning and an over-
dependence on external resources. The influence of donor priorities is in no doubt a factor in the changing priorities of
CSOs but more important is the failure of CSOs to define and remain consistent with their visions and values. In this context,
consistency depends on organizational structures that can respond to external pressures without compromising internal

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Clarity of agenda and defined Absence of long-term accountability for plans Training in Results Based Management
niche/constituency base and actions Capacity building in strategic planning for
Tendency to prioritize short-term fundraising fundraising and organizational direction

Long-term planning Lack of strategic planning leading to short- Training in planning and strategy
term responses formulation Integrity and presentation of messaging

Poor public presentation of civil society initiatives often leads to misrepresentation or under-representation of initiatives. Good
intentions and plans are often lost in ineffective packaging of information or campaigns. This can be the result of inadequate
information generation on the one hand and inadequate communication skills on the other, both of which derive from
inadequate information management strategies.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Information Lack of information management Capacity building in information management

management capacities Capacity building in communications and
Limited knowledge about the information marketing strategies
16 needs of different stakeholders

3.4.4 Accountability
In recent years, concern has been raised by governments, the public and donors about CSO accountability in so far as this
affects their legitimacy and credibility. Growth in the civil society sector in response to a variety of challenges has come
brought with it negative perceptions about the role and work of CSOs; weak corporate governance and organizational
management frameworks; and competition for space and resources resulting in unethical behaviours, short cuts and in some
cases non-transparent and unaccountable tendencies. The main allegations against CSOs from the ZANU PF government over
the years have been that the sector is only accountable to donors, has deviated from its core mandates, has been delving into
political activities and has no proper checks and balances. These concerns, although not substantiated and in many cases over
exaggerated, should not be ignored. In fact, failing to self-regulate or to commit to keeping CSO houses in order will not only
affect the sector’s image but will inevitably give the government enough justification to interfere with CSO work in the name
of ‘regulating’ the sector. Self-regulation of NGOs

A trend has developed toward self-regulation as a way of enhancing accountability and credibility of NGOs. Pilot self-regulation
initiatives in other countries include codes of conduct, codes of ethics, certification schemes, reporting frameworks and other
related initiatives. In 2004, NANGO members endorsed self-regulation as one effective tool of dealing with the accountability
challenge.1 Beyond this, however, human rights and democracy CSOs have paid little attention to the potential of self-
governance initiatives.

Self-regulation mechanisms not only serves as a buffer against undue state interference but can also demonstrate the
willingness and commitment of the civil society sector to respect and adhere to principles of good corporate governance.
The NGO sector in Zimbabwe is developed enough that it can self-regulate while the State itself lacks the necessary capacity
to effectively monitor and regulate the sector. Self-regulation is important and necessary because in the long term, having in
place a self-regulation system that is respected by NGOs, that is trusted by the public at large, and one that works effectively
will lead to a more effective NGO community that enjoys the confidence trust and support of all the stake holders.

1 In order to avoid undue state interference, NANGO launched a Self-regulation programme in 2004 that culminated in the development of an NGO Code of Conduct and a Corporate Governance Manual.

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Accountability Poor image of civil society due to lack of Training/public education on accountability tools including
transparency and perceived accountability codes of conduct/ethics, certification schemes, reporting
Lack of awareness of accountability tools frameworks etc.
and mechanisms Promotion of self-regulation mechanisms for civil society
Challenges and interference from the State Promotion of self-regulation and accountability mechanisms
and other stakeholders between organizations and their constituencies
Public education on the NGO Code of Conduct and
Corporate Governance Manual NGO Corporate governance

Good corporate governance has emerged not only as an essential tool to enhance professionalism but, more importantly,
to ensure that NGO interventions are effective, sustainable, efficient and positively perceived by all key stakeholders. The
credibility of an organization can be enhanced by adherence to the principles and practices of good corporate governance.

An integral component of corporate governance is the clarity of roles and responsibilities of Boards, management and staff.
How these roles are defined and executed determines the power relations, balance of authority and the extent to which an
organization will be run smoothly, effectively and efficiently.

A number of discussion sessions, studies and reports on CSO work by NANGO, culminating in a baseline study on NGO 17
corporate governance in 2006 have revealed weak corporate governance amongst CSOs in Zimbabwe. Weaknesses are often
observable in such key issues as role of Boards vis-a-vis management, financial management, human resources management,
planning, monitoring and evaluation. In some organisations this has created doubts over accountability, transparency and
consequently loss of funding partners.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Internal governance structures for Poor project implementation Training/mentoring on governance

civil society Poor civil society image due to issues including Board/Secretariat relations,
perceptions of poor governance organizational management policies, and
organizational constitutional frameworks

3.4.5 Responding to Transition

The Zimbabwean political environment determines the operating environment for civil society. Long-term capacity building
still needs to take into account the current environment as this defines both the learning arena and the immediate priorities
for civil society. Developments in Zimbabwe since the September signing of the 2008 Inter-Party Agreement point toward a
transitional period which, regardless of the form it takes, is expected to create new roles and possibilities for civil society. While
some predict further entrenchment of the status quo, most anticipate some elements of reform, and in particular national
processes on constitutionalism, transitional justice, policy and legal reform, and other aspects of democratization and human
rights improvements. Civil society will need to respond with careful strategic positioning to ensure its continued relevance
and integration into these processes in an arena in which focus is likely to shift toward support for the reforming elements in
government. Proactivity
Major political upheavals in Zimbabwe (e.g. Operation Murambatsvina, land reform, post-Election politically motivated violence)
have consistently caught civil society off guard. In light of the emerging prospects for transition civil society needs the skills
to proactively anticipate political developments and adjust its strategic plans accordingly. Skills focused on improving civil

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment

society’s scenario analysis, strategic planning and agenda setting abilities are crucial contributors to changing this dynamic.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Planning for Inadequate scenario analysis leading to failure to Training and support in scenario analysis and
proactivity anticipate change and events strategic planning
Weak alert mechanisms leading to delayed responses Learning and exchange initiatives with civil
on key human rights, democracy and governance societies from similar contexts
indicators Training in environmental scanning and
Difficulty linking immediate developments to monitoring human rights, democracy and
longstanding positions (ideological, consensus-based governance
or principled)
Lack of consistency in appraising developments on
the ground and linking them to policy processes or
advocacy plans

Clarity of agenda Unclear and unjustified positions on critical Training and support in scenario analysis
issues and organizational positioning
Lack of consistency in messaging Training in effective communications/
messaging Specialist Roles/Capacities

The specific capacities for specialist roles in the current environment –either in terms of skills such as research methodologies,
or in terms of specialist knowledge for transitional justice or conflict resolution and healing– will play a vital role in ensuring
the relevance of civil society throughout this period and in the longer-term. The transition arena is best suited, however, to
multi-sectoral initiatives premised upon the pooling of specialist capacities and resources. Niche or issue-based CSOs are more
likely to achieve impact as part of a mutually reinforcing set of interventions. As such Zimbabwean CSOs need to invest in
strengthening specialist roles whilst also linking these roles to broader initiatives.

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Access to specialist capacities Specialist organizations are Compilation of civil society capacity/resource database
often unwilling to share their Creation of a pool of specialist professionals to support
expertise with other CSOs broader civil society
Information about specialist Special capacity fund to support CSO access to critical
capacities is hard to access capacities from other sources (e.g. academia, private sector)
Some specialist capacities are Training in specialist capacities
generally lacking across civil

Disconnect between specialist/ Specialist organizations tend Strengthening inter-sectoral communication, coordination,
niche based CSOs and broader to avoid cooperation in order to networking and resource sharing mechanisms
initiatives protect their niches Training in sustainable multi-sectoral development
Technical specialist processes
organizations struggle $to
communicate with non-
specialist organizations and vice
Limited understanding of
sustainable multi-sectoral
development processes

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

03 Civil Society Capacity Assessment Issue-based engagement

A possible transition would open up opportunities for issue-based engagement in areas ranging from legislative and institutional
reform to constitutional processes to transitional justice. This creates room for engagement at both policy formulation and
public awareness-raising levels. Civil society needs the skills to manage their communications, policy and representation roles
in each of these specific arenas, as well as the leverage to balance issue-specific engagement against broader cross-cutting

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Agenda setting Difficulty balancing piecemeal gains on specific issues Awareness raising on the People’s Charter
against the broader framework of a sustainable reform as a consensus-based core framework for
process CSO engagement
Securing interest in marginalised issues/constituencies
in a context of competing priorities

Effective engagement Lack of experience in diplomacy or high level Training in high level diplomacy and
with relevant stakeholders engagement processes lobbying
Condescending attitudes of State officials towards civil Mechanisms to encourage multi-sectoral
society representatives dialogue and engagement teams
Lack of consensus over engagement strategies and Facilitation of linkages between
their pros and cons engagement processes and other advocacy
Harmonising messages, Managing State divide and rule tactics Mechanisms to strengthen inter-sectoral
managing diversity Promoting accountability and representativity of communication, coordination, networking
engagement processes, especially when undertaken on and accountability
behalf of broader civil society or groups of organizations
Conflicting messages by CSOs engaging on different
Difficulty balancing gains by some sectors or groups
within civil society against disadvantages for other
sectors of civil society Non-partisan positioning

Political tensions in Zimbabwe have led to multiple splits within civil society. The State has campaigned relentlessly to
delegitimize civil society as an appendage of the opposition party while also creating pro-state civil society outfits to counter
and undermine the initiatives of supposedly “anti-state” CSOs. Even within mainstream ‘autonomous’ civil society, meanwhile,
some CSOs maintain that the removal of the ZANU-PF government is a necessary step towards improving human rights
and democracy, while others maintain that civil society should remain entirely detached from party politics. Civil society
appreciation of the distinctions between its roles and that of the political parties, even within the broader pro-democracy
movement, is important to ensure the integrity and relevance of civil society.

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

04 Conclusions

Capacity Gap Challenges Capacity Interventions

Engaging Difficulty separating civil society from political actors given Training in high level diplomacy and
political parties historical links, the role of civil society in the formation of the engagement
opposition MDC, and the role of the State in the formation of Potential for civil society to promote a
some CSOs political party code of conduct to improve
Popular perceptions of linkages – for example that civil society terms of engagement
is a training ground for future politicians
Common agendas between CSOs and some political parties on
some critical issues (e.g. constitutionalism)
Negative State strategies to deal with CSOs including co-option,
repression, patronage and divide and rule

Asserting Lack of consensus on core issues, demands and civil society Strengthening civil society consensus
nonpartisanship positions building and accountability mechanisms
of civil society Limited awareness of international standards, norms and best Training in international standards,
practices on human rights, democracy and governance norms and best practices on human rights,
Poorly coordinated participation in critical policy processes democracy and governance

4. Conclusions
20 This assessment process has delivered a set of comprehensive results which were mostly consistent with preliminary analysis
invested in the initiative, particularly in terms of the areas in which civil society perceives a need for capacity building. Given
the country’s financial crisis as well as the repressive political environment is no surprise that funding constraints and advocacy
were consistent top priorities. More unexpected was the strong interest in organizational development across the diverse
sample of organizations across the country. This confirmation that strengthening of internal structures and capacities is a
high priority for civil society strongly supports the rationale behind the project as a whole and highlights the need for solid
structures that can take future development in these areas further.
Even though advocacy was predictably one of the main topics requiring training and investment, results showed a nuanced
understanding of the role and importance of advocacy at more than one level. In other words, while lobbying for national
policies was a consistent across the board, the call for support this area in relation to local government, extended community
dialogue and engagement with other sectors such as the media, opens up the space for different levels and types of advocacy.
This will allow for diversification and deepening of future training and related activities.

The findings also demonstrate that organizations are in great need of more training and support in order to smooth the
running of programs and overall functions. In terms of organizational development the areas of monitoring and evaluation,
human resources and corporate governance were flagged up as those in which systems are either lacking or fall short of basic
expectations. In the case of human resources, for instance, participants repeatedly complained about the high turnover, brain
drain and human capacity reduction due to the lack of policies that provide appropriate support and incentives for employees
to stay and contribute to the organization’s growth.

At the sectoral level, areas in need of strengthening included coordination and leadership. While the former ranged from
citizen mobilization and participation to coalition building the latter centered on the need for mentoring and exchange. The
two are closely related as leadership skills form the foundation for effective coordination and collaboration to ultimately help
in the bridging the gap between civil society and their local constituencies – another area regularly cited as a major challenge
in terms of mass mobilization and the legitimacy of civil society claims for representativeness.

Engaging with other sectors was highlighted in other areas in addition to coordination. It is apparent that CSOs recognize the

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report

04 Conclusions

importance of engaging many different types of stakeholders as a legitimacy, advocacy and resource tool. These responses
reinforced the general perception that for CSOs to build their credibility and accountability they must work across the board
with other segments of society while at the same time strengthening their inter-organizational relations. In this vein, participant
organizations emphasized the need to focus on development of umbrella and coalition organization as hubs for resources
and coordination. This realistic appeal was also closely linked to the need to provide space for effective communication and
networking channels to develop new ideas and promote exchanges of information. Organizations demonstrated willingness
and disposition to take ownership of the self-sustainability aspect of the project, not only through active participation in this
assessment phase but also by putting forth new proposals that have the potential to serve as the backbone for future project

Findings across the different regions did not vary greatly; in fact the main capacity building areas overlapped, leading to
the conclusion the capacity gaps are persistent regardless of the infrastructure, local government or political conditions of
each location. It must be noted however that regional organizations tended to have broader mandates than their urban
counterparts. So, while most organizations in Harare were clearly working on issues of democracy and human rights, provincial
and rural organizations working on service delivery (particularly on HIV/AIDS) also considered democracy and human rights
issues to be on their agendas, primarily due to the humanitarian implications of political mismanagement and resulting high
demand and low delivery capacity for public services.

Overall the picture that emerged from the assessment process was one of widespread recognition, on the part of the vast
majority of civil society actors, that both efficiency and credibility are essential and integral factors in ensuring the sustainability
of both civil society and its initiatives. 21

Civil Society Self-Support Programme (CSSP) || Assessment Report