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This session presented a number of sustainable financing options, including regional examples of public financing, both from donors and governments, social enterprises connected to legal empowerment organizations, and various program innovations that expand scale, improve efficiency or cut costs. The rich discussions in the session showed that diverse combination of funding sources make legal empowerment programs more financially sustainable.
The session began by asking participants how sustainable their organization’s funding situation is for the coming year. The results are below:
Questions discussed by panelists
- How do legal empowerment organizations employ a diverse range of financing options and models to increase the sustainability of their financing?
- How should legal empowerment initiatives maintain their independence while seeking funds from both public and private sectors?
Contributions from Panelists
Moderator Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei- Program Manager, OSIWA
OSIWA has supported legal empowerment work in West Africa for many years, through financial and technical assistance. OSIWA invested $5m for legal empowerment in Sierra Leone 2016-2020. But sadly this initiative has ended and from donor perspective, I emphasize that donor funding is time bound, project based and priorities change. It is important to have a multi stakeholder commitment to legal empowerment work to make it sustainable - while maintaining independence of institutions.
Panelist Nancy Sesay (@nancysesay) - Program Coordinator, OSIWA
Before 2012, many NGOs on working legal empowerment were 100% donor funded. Based on advocacy from Timap, in 2012 an act was passed, recognizing the work of paralegals as critical legal aid providers. This gave rise to the establishment of a Legal Aid Board with the right to deploy and pay paralegals, as well as enter in cooperation with paralegals and others so they could provide community based justice services. In reality, while Legal Aid Board has paralegals funded by the government and some donors, due to resource restrictions it has not made cooperation agreements with NGOs. So NGO-based paralegals still do not receive public financing. In the 2020 national budget there is $50 million for access to justice designated for the Ministry of Justice, not sure what the details are.
What should happen? Government funding is secure and helps in sustaining paralegal work. But the Legal Aid Board is underfunded, and money is not going to community based services. I am hopeful that this will change going forward. The $50 million to the Ministry of Justice is a good show of political will, but money needs to be channeled to NGOs that are effective and experienced in communities.
Also hopeful that OGP and SDG processes will enable NGOs to leverage funding from government funding - these global processes are opportunities.
Panelist Mademba Gueye- Maison de Justice, Senegal
Funding for Senegal’s ‘Maisons de Justice’ is ensured by state and financial and technical partners. The government has understood the importance of including legal aid in its budget. Financing goes directly to Maisons de Justice; financial transfers are done regularly via Treasury so urgent situations can be handled, as well as long or short procedures. Each ‘maison’ can control and execute as needed. This is a major advantage for sustaining services, especially for vulnerable populations.
We also have financing from territorial collectivities that are partners - mayors and universities. Technical and financial partners such as OSIWA & World Bank help with construction of maisons and strengthen capacity of actors.
Donors always want to know if there is sustainability, and state financing gives that confidence.
Panelist: Chelcy Heroe- Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Domestic Helpers Organisation, Sierra Leone
Set up as a social enterprise - a business not to make profit but have money to run your activities. It is time to change our mindset from donor funding to different options about financing; need to be creative because this work is a passion and should not end because of donor funding.
Members pay dues in this model and receive benefits such as training so that they can advocate for themselves, as well as connection to employers. We also have a savings loan scheme, and organize different activities that will bring in support for work.
Panelist Seth Tladi - Social Change Assistance Trust, South Africa
Trust raises external funding and then gives monthly core grants to 30 organizations across South Africa to do access to justice work. 95% are dependent on Trust for sustainability. About 24 of 30 deal with cases of gender based violence, child support grants. But have evolved from advice offices to include programs and activities that are in response to social challenges in communities. E.g. income generating and income projects.
These organizations need to learn how to ensure sustained financing and minimize dependency on the Trust. Trust helps through fundraising workshops but also by incentivizing. e.g. fundraising incentive scheme to identify local philanthropy and foster community participation and ownership. Other fundraising activities include family fun runs, food sales, concerts. As reward for fundraising, Trust matches what they raised, and money goes back directly into activities, such as paying staff.
- Donor funding is time-bound, project-based and strategic priorities change. Donors themselves are acknowledging this and encouraging grantees to shift from donor-funded model for sustainability.
- Government funding is secure and helps in sustaining paralegal, community-based legal empowerment work. However, financing models should rely on multi stakeholder involvement, not donors or government alone.
- Innovations in financing models are on the rise in West Africa, and there is interest in how some of the existing, successful examples can be taught to and adapted by other organizations to ensure their sustainability.
- NGOs and community based legal empowerment organizations should use domestic and global processes such as the national OGP platform and the SDG platform to advocate and leverage funding from the government.
- Governments should demonstrate their political will for legal empowerment of their poor and vulnerable citizens by committing resources that will be directed at community-based organizations and legal aid.
- NGOs should think creatively about how to change their models of support so that they can begin sourcing their own funding, whether this means transforming into a social enterprise or membership-based model.
Some of the questions from participants include:
@abigailmoy: Does government funding create any tensions or conflicts of interest in cases where the government may be an involved party? I’m thinking of cases relating to accountability of services, corruption, or abuse of power.
@eleanorthompson :The Fundraising Incentive Scheme (from South Africa) is really interesting. To what extent do the communities/public feel as though they are contributing to the ability of the legal empowerment organisations to provide them with services?
NACCLE, Sierra Leone- Good Initiatives from Senegal on public financing: With the experience and successes from Senegal, which role can the institution play to scale up public financing across the sub-region, specifically regional protocols?
Question for @chelcyheroe from @eleanorthompson: Thank you, Chelcy, for emphasising the need for creativity in resourcing legal empowerment, including self-sustaining models. Since introducing the domestic worker collectives and them developing their own fundraising methods, have you seen it make a significant difference in DHO’s ability to expand the services provided to and by domestic workers?
Question on social enterprises from Cerue Konah Garlo - Social enterprise is a good option but we need to take into consideration small economies such as Liberia that majority of the people are poor so they are not able to support CSOs/NGOs on large scale. We also need to take into consideration the laws of our various countries- do they allow NGOs/CSOs to operate social enterprise especially when NGOs/CSOs are requesting government to give them exemption to input equipment that are use for operation of the NGOs/CSOs? Also we need to push for donor funding to build local capacities so INGOs leave and the national CSOs can continue to operate, seek donors such as USAID, EU, SIDA and others and don’t be in competition with small national NGOs/CSOs.
Question about donors from Sarnyenneh M. Dickson, Esq. - As much as there are other creative ways to sustain funding of entities, there are reports of budget recasting at some recipient institutions that secure funds to support sustainability. Even though there accountability concerns regarding this practice, how have donors dealt with this?
@Nii, Ghana: How are the youth engaged in paralegal issues at the regions. Secondly how can the government support intiatives
NACCLE : Public financing is indeed a novel and a more sustainable source, again depending political will and change of governments. CSs keeping their non-political values should be an important asset.
Abdul Karim Habib : In my opinion what NGO’S needs now is institutional support. that is what a well established NGO’S now in Africa rather than project based
@eleanorthompson Very insightful, @nancysesay . The political will displayed by government including a dedicated budget line for increasing access to justice in the 2020 national budget is an opportunity to make Sierra Leone’s strong legal framework for legal empowerment via government and civil society paralegals a reality. As CSOs, let’s use platforms like the OGP, where we are co-creating and engaging directly with government to ensure that the commitment to increasing access to justice goes beyond financially supporting government paralegals and also reaches civil society paralegals.
To continue this conversation, please share your comments and questions in the comment section below.
See you at the next session: Benchmarking and Scaling Legal Empowerment Projects: Good Practices