Civil society advances the public good with institutions powered by private energies
“A quality civil society has three critical underpinnings: a commitment to pluralism, an open door to meritocracy, and a full embrace of what I describe as a cosmopolitan ethic.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Providence, Rhode Island, March 10, 2014
In an era of rising expectations and unmet needs in the developing world, civil society plays an essential role in providing social services, protecting marginalized groups and promoting good governance. Civil society’s role is especially critical where governments lack necessary capacity, as in situations of post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction.
Where civil society organizations (CSOs) function well, development indicators improve. CSOs constitute a wide array of social and civic institutions including village and women’s organizations, NGOs, unions, professional associations, neighborhood self-help groups, microcredit groups, coalitions and advocacy groups.
Central to the work of Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA) is the belief that communities can take ownership of their development to overcome problems of poverty, lack of education and poor health over the long term. In order to empower local communities, the Foundation supports programming and research to broaden the practice of community philanthropy, where local donors of varying scales build and contribute to local organizations that work on locally identified priorities. By working with local communities, we support local institutions such as village organizations, where local citizens get together to achieve what they consider to be important.
Our support of CSOs provides communities with the resources and tools to help citizens’ groups take the lead in solving community problems. The Foundation supports programs that are initiated by the communities so the investment continues on over the years with the commitment of local people themselves.
AKF USA has developed and implemented programs to strengthen local governance in Afghanistan and empowering local civil society organizations in Kenya, connecting communities to their governments and more effective provision of services. The Foundation fosters CSOs’ abilities to sustain themselves by working with them to build independent assets, capacity, and trust from the communities they serve. In East Africa, we have helped to create over 200 locally owned early childhood centers.
AKF USA is working to study and support the building of social cohesion in the Kyrgyz Republic, where violence in 2010 sowed mistrust and exclusion. In Tajikistan, the Foundation’s work has created 2,500 jobs with 500,000 people benefiting from village-organized projects to repair and rebuild schools, clinics and infrastructure.
In Pakistan, AKF USA has supported the certification of over 300 civil society organizations, and works with certification organizations in Afghanistan and Kenya, enabling CSOs to build credibility and confidence with donors and communities. Together, these initiatives strengthen local organizations to sustain their operations, and transform crises into opportunities.
Learn more about our civil society projects below.
Project Spotlight: Read more about our work in civil society