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CIVICUS Webinar: Accepting the gap between activism & traditional CSOs
Amanda Atwood, Kubatana.net
July 20, 2011

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Paper prepared for the CIVICUS Webinar July 20, 2011

According to the invitation letter for this event, "the purpose of this thematic consultation is to develop policy recommendations for civil society organisations, public and private sector donors and governments to enable them to bridge the gap between traditional CSOs and online activists."

A few things come to mind when I consider this sentence and the discussion notes circulated in advance of this webinar, including:

  • How compatible is "activism" with the work of "traditional CSOs"
  • How compatible is donor funding with activism?
  • What can ICTs contribute to promoting activism (and what can it not)
  • Where should we be focussing our attention?

Unfortunately, answering these questions in the time we've been allocated will entail making some generalisations along the way, but I'd like to explore these questions particularly from the perspective of a context I know well - my work with the Zimbabwean civil society information portal Kubatana.

Kubatana is probably best known for our website, www.kubatana.net. On our site, we aggregate civil society press statements, reports, research and news articles across a number of topics, including civic activism, democracy and governance, human rights, and issues like water and sanitation, health, HIV/AIDS and sexuality.

The purpose of the website is to aggregate Zimbabwean civil society content into one central, organised, searchable archive, so that the publishing of our CSOs is not lost or too difficult to find to be helpful.

But as an organisation, our key objective is to keep Zimbabweans informed about the civic issues around them, and inspired to do something about them. As such, we spend a lot of time translating between the work, publishing and research of "traditional CSOs," and our own desire to help Zimbabweans "get active" in making a difference in our country's many challenges.

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