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Why we need strong social justice institutions—and how to build them

Now more than ever, what society needs are durable, resilient institutions that can take on inequality and advance justice. In my contribution to Civicus’s 2015 State of Civil Society Report, I explain why it’s important for funders to help build these institutions—and why organizations of all sizes need general support to thrive.

As I outlined in a post last month, the Ford Foundation’s blueprint for the future centers on, in part, a renewed commitment to providing critical general support for the organizations that are driving social change in our world today. I’m grateful to Civicus for offering me the opportunity to make the case for this strategy at length.

“For all that project-based grants can accomplish, they cannot keep the lights on. They do not provide organisations with the flexibility to meet their needs and pursue their missions. They focus on a short term initiative, rather than long term institutional health. And this is why, going forward, as a general principle, the Ford Foundation is committed to increasing general support.

In my experience, we too often ask what CSOs [civil society organizations] can do on our behalf, and too little about what we can do on theirs. When I was a CSO leader myself, I rarely heard foundation programme officers begin a conversation with the words, ‘How can we help you create a stronger organisation?’

And yet this is precisely the question donors should be asking.”

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