You are on page 1of 18

WEST AFRICA CIVIL SOCIETY INSTITUTE

Grooming Young Professionals


Internship Report October 2009 to March 2010

By: JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG


March 2010

Acknowledgement
Working as an intern at WACSI from October 2009 to March 2010 has been an enriching professional experience. I have acquired a lot of social and professional skills while working for WACSI. The acquisition of knowledge was not an individual achievement. It was the product of collective support, assistance and encouragement from my family and colleagues at WACSI. I sincerely appreciate the constant advice and direction given by Ms. Thelma Ekiyor, former Executive Director of WACSI. Sincere thanks also go to Mr. Charles K. Vandyck, Training and Capacity Building Officer of the Institute, for the devoted supervision he attributed to me, and, the technical supervision of Dr. Lansana Gberie, the Research Fellow of the Institute who gave me hands on direction on field research. I also wish to extend my gratitude to Mr. Gima H. Forje, the pioneer intern who participated in this programme for the enormous teachingthrough-experience which he delivered to me. Your constant guide and follow up to ensure that I imbibed the full benefits of the programme was an overwhelming force that enabled me to complete this programme successfully. I also wish to acknowledge the enduring support given to me by all WACSI staff during the six months I served as an intern at WACSI.

Table of Contents Acknowledgement....................................................................................................2 Table of contents......................................................................................................3 List of tables..............................................................................................................4 List of acronyms........................................................................................................5 Executive summary...................................................................................................6 Introduction..............................................................................................................7 Overview of internship period..................................................................................9 The internship experience......................................................................................12 Recommendations..................................................................................................13 Conclusion..............................................................................................................18

List of tables Table 1: Time schedule for initiation of interns......................................................14 Table 2: Content and features of WACSI News magazine......................................15

List of Acronyms
CSOs........................................................................................................Civil Society Organisations OSIWA.................................................................................Open Society Initiative for West Africa WACSI..........................................................................................West Africa Civil Society Institute

Executive Summary
Civil society is a strategic partner in state building and development. Civil society organisations (CSOs) in many parts of Africa and the world at large are at the forefront of calls for effective policies, good governance, sustainable development, peace and transparency in state affairs. The role of civil society is to make democracy work by bringing peoples issues and the voices of the marginalised to the social and political arenas. Civil society actors contribute towards delivering public services and facilitating democracy and development at the grassroots. Civil society shapes public agenda and influences public policies. They promote the values of human rights, social justice, participation, accountability and pluralism that make democracy and development meaningful. In addition, they hold governments and multi-lateral organisations to account for their policies, programmes and actions. In West Africa, civil society supports poverty reduction and promotes sustainable development, by enabling citizens to empower themselves and actively seek effective performance and accountability from the state and the private sector. At community, national and regional levels, CSOs in the region have become recognised as a vital force in development, governance and democratisation processes. Given the importance of civil society in West Africa, WACSI was created by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to strengthen the capacities of civil society actors and their organisations in the sub-region. This was done to minimise the policy influencing and capacity building deficiencies inherent within CSOs. In doing so, WACSI stands as the prime catalyst in leading West African CSOs towards a better implementation of their flagship programmes. Given this responsibility, WACSI, after its creation, almost immediately implemented the Next Generation Internship Programme to build a guaranteed future for a young generation of competent personnel within civil society in West Africa. Through this programme, interns are given maximum exposure to civil society concepts, platforms and opportunities to enable them to be endowed with the skills required to serve as agile civil society actors in the future. This report covers my activities during the internship programme. I will enumerate the tasks performed; the knowledge and skills acquired and propose a way forward for the Institute to continue successfully in its enriching programmes for the benefit of West African CSOs and actors.

Introduction
West Africa is the western most region of the African continent. Geo-politically, the United Nations definition of West Africa includes 16 countries distributed over an area of approximately 5 million square kilometres. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote dIvoire, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. In the past years, development has gradually increased within this sub-region through the poignant influence of civil society. Civil society is a complex concept. It is viewed as groups and associations pursuing common interests to improve the lives of the citizenry and sometimes, as a dynamic offshoot of the State. In both cases, the implied notion of civil society as groups of citizens who come together in an effort to influence policymakers in terms of their interests and aspirations is the basic conception used to carve out this sector from the different social clusters in contemporary society. The sector is populated by organizations such as registered charities, development nongovernmental organizations, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups. Civil society organisations carry out one or more of seven (7) primary functions to represent the interests, needs and concerns of their constituencies. These may include the following: 1. Protection of citizens 2. Monitoring for accountability 3. Advocacy and public communication 4. Socialisation 5. Building community 6. Intermediation and facilitation between citizens and state 7. Service delivery In an ideal situation, a kind of cooperation is expected between civil society and the State. In many parts of Africa, however, there is a clear break between the two. In traditional Africa, civil society has placed itself in a rather uncritical and non-confrontational position with respect to the State. Given this position, civil society tends to uphold a compromising stance which impedes civil society from achieving its goal within the sub-region. Also, the lack of adequate

skills by civil society actors as well as poor organizational techniques by civil society organizations (CSOs) sometimes serves as a booster to the former. It is on this foundation that the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) acquires its momentum to strengthen weak civil society in the sub-region. WACSI was established by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to enhance and strengthen the capacity of CSOs in the sub region by bridging identified institutional and operational gaps. WACSIs programmes aim at rendering CSOs as viable partners in the pursuit of democracy, good governance, peace and development with governments in the sub region. WACSI has been focused to its vision and mission as a capacity builder for CSOs. To achieve this, WACSI instituted the internship programme, grooming future professionals for the civil society sector. This programme seeks to ensure the continuity of having potential ground-breakers and future prominent decision makers in the civil society sector in the near future. Through this programme, young scholars and professionals are empowered with the appropriate skills to face the challenges inherent to civil society. The programme provides interns with opportunities in research, policy advocacy and training and capacity building which are the core areas in which WACSI operates. Through these defined areas, interns are assigned tasks which enable them to acquire and/or improve upon their skills in research, report writing, programmes conception, planning and implementation. Most particularly, working within such an environment endows interns with a comprehensive understanding of organizational functioning. The Next Generation Internship programme commenced in January 2008. I joined WACSI as an intern in October 2009, for a period of six months. During this period, I harnessed my understanding of civil society, the modus operandi of civil society organisations and the pertinent role of civil society actors. Most of all, the fun, excitement and strings of stress attached with working in a cross-cultural work setting served as a valuable professional experience. This report expatiates on my experiences during my internship period at WACSI, and the knowledge and skills gained whilst at WACSI.

Overview of Internship Period


The first part of my internship lasted from October 2009 to December 2009. During this period, I worked under the Institutes Research and Documentation Unit. The Research and Documentation unit conceives researchable themes relevant to established and growing civil society in contemporary West Africa. The unit carries out research under these themes and the output of the research is used as a background to strategise for a more savvy civil society in the sub-region. The research documents are published and widely disseminated across the globe to partner organisations. These serve as learning tools for growing civil society organisations, and as resource banks for civil society actors. These publications empower actors within the sector with the skills and knowledge needed to attain positive breakthrough in the society for a more open society. Working in the Research and Documentation unit of the Institute, I had the opportunity to carryout both desktop and field research, as well as analyse both primary and secondary data. These served as the pillar in the acquisition of research skills and these have contributed to my research competencies.

Major Projects
During my internship period, I contributed to the realisation of the following projects; Field and desktop research and the development of a research report on The Role of Civil Society in the Truth and Reconciliation Process in Liberia. (Unpublished) The truth and reconciliation process is considered to be a viable means of restoring peace to countries recovering from conflict. This process is initiated for civilians to come to terms with their dirty past, and reflect on a way forward for both perpetrators and victims. The civil war in Liberia was very deplorable, causing an incalculable loss of human lives and property. The war left many displaced communities and intensified rivalry between some ethnic groups and communities. The quest for long lasting peace by Liberians led to the institution of the truth and reconciliation commission. This process was greatly masterminded by civil society both in Liberia and abroad. It is against this backdrop that the Institute sought to unravel the contribution of civil society to the truth and reconciliation process in Liberia. Being a part of the research team, I gained extensive knowledge on how an influential civil society can guarantee the defence of justice to humanity. I also acquired practical field and desktop research skills.

The WACSeries Vol 1. No. 3, which focuses on Guinea at a Crossroads: Opportunities for a More Robust Civil Society. (Published) Recently, the West African nation of Guinea has suffered civil strife that was sparked up by successive dictatorship regimes. This situation was worsened by the death of President Lansana Conte and the undemocratic seizure of power by military ruler Dadis Camara. This led to a state of socio-political instability in the country. This volume of WACSI Series elaborates on the prevailing situation, the involvement of civil society to eradicate social injustice and puts forward recommendations to facilitate an environment of peace and stability in the country. Contributing through desktop research to the outcome of this volume of WACSI series added value to the research skills I possess. Developing the policy forum report on Elections in Africa: Lessons from the Ghanaian Experience into a publishable document. (unpublished) This forum was a platform for substantial brainstorming on the success achieved in recent years by the electoral process in Ghana. From this platform, recommendations were made to drive the process more successful in the country and to serve as a source of inspiration and a model of democracy to other African nations. The content of the forum was undoubtedly rich and very educative. WACSI realised the need to develop this document into a more resourceful document which can be a medium of strengthening civil society engagement in electoral processes. The desktop research that I undertook enabled me to upgrade my knowledge on electoral systems and processes in Africa and proffer recommendations. This task enabled me to understand and analyse how civil society has influenced the process to yield better electoral results. Developing the Regional Institutions and Instruments in West Africa: A Handbook for Civil Society. (unpublished) This handbook was developed through desktop research. Reflecting on the civil society strategies enabled me to better understand how civil society can collaborate with other development stakeholders and organizations and this further portrayed the relevance of inter-dependence and networking within the civil society sector. Entering data on the online platform of the Civil Society directory for West Africa on the Institutes website.

10

Coordination of the 2009 Annual Report. (ongoing) I was tasked with coordinating the compilation of the Institutes 2009 annual report. This activity was a very important platform which helped me grasp the technical aspects of corporate communications. The annual report includes the entire 12-months activity profile of the Institute. Working closely to ensure that the report had the needed content and design was a very teaching exercise and, it gave me an opportunity to apply my journalistic skills in the process. These tasks have enhanced my ability to marshal facts. Working as intern in the Research and Documentation unit of WACSI has helped me to acquire strategic skills and knowledge on regional trends and global issues, organization/project management, organizational communication as well as boost my skills in field and internet research. During this period, I have been assigned with challenges to be accomplished within rigorously stipulated deadlines. Meeting all these deadlines has been an added impetus which makes me optimistic about facing greater challenges in the future.

11

The Internship Experience


The Next Generation Internship Programme has the aim of imbuing young African scholars and professionals with the skills needed to work in the CSO sector. This is done with the overarching goal of enabling them reach the acme of their potential. As an intern, the programme has created an enormous impact on my skills and aptitudes in different domains. This internship programme has given me the opportunity to work in a multi-cultural environment. I was exposed to a professional environment wherein I learned the ways of working in a well-structured organisation, collaborating with colleagues from different nationalities, exchanging ideas and accepting the opinion of others, as well as learning from one another, and these have made me apt for future challenges in the civil society sector. In the course of the programme, I was exposed to such challenges as writing reports for the Institutes programmes which I attended, or programmes in which I was opportune to represent the Institute. Through this exercise, I have learned how to report objectively for an organisation. My ability to handle leadership roles have been improved upon through some of the Institutes programmes we are supervised to coordinate. When the Institute organises programmes within West African countries, interns are given the lead role in the organisation and planning for the success of the events and through such experiences, I have been able to develop improved decision making skills as well as gain a better understanding of the process of planning and implementing projects. The Institute has an advanced research and documentation unit which actively involves interns to contribute in research carried out by the Institute to improve on the civil society sector in West Africa. Working more actively in the Research and Documentation Unit of the Institute, I had the experience of carrying out field research on the role of civil society in the truth and reconciliation process in Liberia among others. Through this, my skills in conducting field research have greatly been improved upon as I gained a better understanding of implementing survey research techniques and I grasped skills necessary in carrying out basic research. I have also acquired knowledge on thematic areas such as gender, policy advocacy, peace and conflict resolution and elections and democracy in Africa. This has been possible through the review of documents on related themes in the Institutes Resource Center, policy forums, training courses and workshops and other knowledge sharing platforms which interns are given the opportunity to attend in order to build their capacities in such domains. Through such meetings, I have the opportunity to connect with senior actors in the sector and develop a substantial network for future professional progress in the sector.

12

Recommendations
This internship programme has come a long way. It has certainly registered success over travails to witness the level of achievement it enjoys today. This is eminent through the Institutes ambition to build a better future with more savvy, skilful and intellectually apt civil society actors. To achieve this, the Institute has ameliorated its approach towards handling the internship programme and made substantial modifications to the programme. In this section, I earmark some aspects which require some attention and put forward humble opinions which if implemented, WACSI will gain a milestone achievement in making the civil society sector in West Africa, one to rely on for ideas and actions to fill socio-political pot holes in the subregion. INTERNSHIP EXCHANGE PROGRAMME WACSI should effectively implement the internship exchange programme. It was previewed that interns would serve for two months in partner organisation during their period as interns but this programme has been dormant. Through this programme, interns will gain the experience of learning from diverse organisations. Also, the interns will apply the experience acquired from other organisations to WACSI and this will contribute to improve upon the functioning system at WACSI and the implementation of its strategic plan. The reinstitution of this exchange programme would increase the visibility of the Institute and as well, serve as a platform for the creation of new and concrete partnerships in the sector, country and subregion. TIMELY PUBLICATION OF RESEARCH OUTPUTS WACSI should ensure the proper planning, timely publishing and the wide dissemination of research publications. Working in the Research and Documentation unit, I observed a gap in the respect of stipulated timelines in publishing research work. Facing this challenge and working stringently to cover this gap would valorise the credibility of the Research and Documentation unit. By so doing, the engine of the Research and Documentation unit would be ever steaming, thus, making WACSI a viable think tank within the civil society sector. In doing this, partner organisations will always rely on sources of information disseminated by the Institute. This can win for WACSI other research avenues which will enable the Institute to remain at the forefront of research within the civil society sector. ENCOURAGE PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNS The internship programme is a platform which enables beneficiaries to groom their full professional potentials and develop an astute personality suitable to inspire a positive change in behaviour. In this light, WACSI, through this programme, should ensure that interns are well organised in and out of office. Interns should be advised and supervised on the proper handling

13

of office equipment and WACSI property in the residential quarter. This is to ensure that interns in service do not destroy and misuse available items to the disadvantage of future interns. This will go a long way to reduce wasteful spending on the purchase of items that could have lasted longer, within very short periods of time. In doing this, WACSIs interns will be models in their future job positions in the proper handling of office items. STRUCTURAL AND IN-DEPTH ORIENTATION TO INTERNS Given that WACSI is a well-structured Institute, with different functional units, interns should be given an opportunity to understand how activities within these inter-dependent units unfold. This could be done during the first month of the internship. During this month, the intern should be effectively taken through each of the departments of the Institute; the administrative department, finance and accounts department, secretariat department, policy advocacy, research and documentation and training and capacity building units of the Institute. This should be done to give interns practical knowledge of how WACSI functions, thus, empowering the intern with knowledge on the functioning of civil society organisations. This horizontal understanding of the functioning of the organisation can be done using the following schedule outlined below. Table 1: Time schedule for initiation of interns Department/Unit General administration Secretariat/Front desk Finance and Accounting Policy advocacy Training and Capacity Building Research and Documentation Intern exchange with other organisations Time line First week Second week Third week First two days in fourth week Third and fourth days in fourth week Fifth day in fourth week Fourth and fifth months

Intern chooses or is allocated to one of Last five months of first six months and WACSIs core functional areas but is given second shift of internship if renewed periodic opportunities to support the other two areas

14

After a well-grounded understanding of how the Institute operates, and given an in-depth knowledge of all the core functional areas in which the Institute imparts its influence within the civil society sector in the sub-region, the intern can be assigned to a particular unit based on the need of the unit, or given an opportunity to choose any unit of interest to him/her. WACSI NEWS MAGAZINE WACSI plays a vital and central role in the civil society sector within the sub-region. It is highly recognised by other civil society organisations, civil society actors, parliaments and governments within the sub-region, across Africa and the world. Acclamations from partners and WACSIs trainees portray that the Institution holds a key role in inspiring, educating and empowering other civil society organisations and actors in the sub-region. Given this cornerstone position in the civil society sector, WACSI should diversify its medium of transmitting information and knowledge across the sector and sub-region. This should be done by instituting a Quarterly News Magazine (entitled WACSI NEWS), which covers themes pertinent to civil society issues and simultaneously transmits WACSIs core messages. This project can be developed within a communication unit of the Institute and coordinated under the Research and Documentation unit. The magazine should have the goal of educating civil society actors as well as create a more appealing medium of disseminating information on WACSIs activities. Through this medium, it will arouse interest in non-civil society actors to be aware of the pertinence of the civil society. It will also enlighten governments on the contribution of civil society to the development of their nations. Through this, WACSI can stand as the fore runner in mediating for a more judicious partnership between governments and civil society. Proposed news bits to feature in the magazine can include: Table 2: Content and features of WACSI News magazine Section of Magazine Training and Capacity Building Features News bits on training and capacity building programmes realised within the quarter. This should focus on the goal, methodology and outcome of trainings. Viable testimonies from trainees. Expatiate on needs of civil society sector in countries within the subregion and how WACSI organises programmes to meet the existing needs.

15

Research and Documentation

Policy Advocacy

Education

Focus

This section should capture a summary of research publications released within the preceding quarter. Tips on carrying out desktop and field research. It should also carry a comprehensive list of documents and resource information available at the Institutes Resource centre. Subsequent issues should be updated with recent entries to keep civil society actors, organisations/partners and readers informed of the wealth of the Institutes resource centre. This section should highlight on programmes implemented by the Policy Advocacy unit, the results achieved and the policy recommendations propounded. It should also focus on policy amendments made as a result of policy forums organised by the Institute. This section should discuss contemporary themes relevant to civil society. This can be achieved through elaborate essays that address vital subjects that can educate and spur further thinking within the sector. These themes should be identified by WACSI and given to experts to expound upon. The focus of each issue should carry an in-depth interview with prominent civil society actors or experts in the field to discuss on the focal theme (caption) of the magazine to be issued.

16

Information transmitted via print in the form of magazines attracts wide attention. It would therefore be no doubt that rich information packed in this form would transform lukewarm attitudes directed towards civil societys core messages into a speedy request for interventions by civil society, particularly WACSI. This medium of information transmission will also be a reliable way of reaching out to a wider public and networking with other organizations.

17

Conclusion
Six months at WACSI as an intern have been a period of great learning. It was a unique experience which gave me the opportunity to express my savoire-faire in a domain of personal interest - research. As a learner, WACSI provided me with an opportunity to acquire practical experiences, thus, a deep understanding of the civil society and organisational management. My understanding of civil society operations, interventions and challenges has appreciably been enhanced. During this period, I have upgraded my knowledge and understanding of issues relevant to civil society and vital for a healthy society such as democracy, peace and peace processes, policy advocacy, gender, human rights among others. I have also gained an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing West African communities which impede the smooth achievement of economic, social and political development relevant to contemporary global trends. This experience has also been relevant in sharpening my nave perception of civil societys prowess in influencing change in society. Presently, I have realized that a vibrant civil society is needed to make things right in under developed countries and change the face of poverty and marginalization amidst citizens in nations under bad governance. It is an awesome experience to be one of the beneficiaries of this practical learning and professional moulding platform in West Africa. Through the Next Generation Internship Programme, WACSI has distinguished itself as a warehouse for the civil society sector, which does not only strengthen personnel in the sector, but also, trains personnel needed to fill human resource gaps in the sector. Interns who have graduated from this programme now provide substantial intellectual outputs to meet institutional needs in the sector. This is obvious because the intensive programme leaves no stone unturned in the professional arena of interns. This has enabled the Institute to be assured that through the internship programme, it is achieving its goal of grooming young professionals.

18