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The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NWO-WOTRO Science for Global development, and INCLUDE have joined forces for the research programme ‘New roles of CSOs for inclusive development’ (hereafter called the ‘Assumptions Programme’). The Assumptions Programme investigates the assumptions, solutions and problems underlying the civil society policy framework ‘Dialogue & Dissent’. The programme will look at if and how the assumptions underlying the theory of change on which the Dialogue & Dissent framework is based will play out in the power and stakeholder context in which civil society organizations (CSOs) operate. Scrutinizing the assumptions underlying the policy framework is essential in order to build a more credible policy framework and a more sustainable policy strategy. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs will use the knowledge generated in the ongoing learning agenda with its partners in the current Dialogue & Dissent framework (2016–2020) and as input to the design of the next civil society policy framework from 2019 onwards.
Six research groups, which have been granted funding by NWO-WOTRO, will investigate the position of CSOs around three core themes:
Four projects will be conducted in Africa (three in Kenya, one in Ethiopia), one in Ukraine and one in India. All six research project are linked to projects implemented in LLMICs by CSOs supported by the Dialogue & Dissent framework. Starting in December 2017, the research projects will have a maximum duration of 18 months and consist of 2 parts: a literature review (3 months max) followed by empirical research (15 months max). The different studies will contribute to the evidence-base of the policy framework Dialogue & Dissent and support CSOs. Each research project will have two objectives:
As knowledge generation alone is not enough to ensure changes in practices and policies, the research groups also have to share their knowledge in an accessible way with policymakers and CSOs in the Netherlands and LLMICs. During the 18-month project timeframe, INCLUDE will organize workshops and other knowledge sharing activities that bring together researchers and other stakeholders. This will make the generated knowledge available and accessible to possible (end-) users.
Civil society organizations are groups of citizens who organize themselves to pursue goals that concern a wider group in society. They are present in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members. CSOs can fulfil social, economic and political roles. The new roles of CSOs are becoming more important and are increasingly focusing on lobbying, advocacy and service delivery. The issues that CSOs raise are interconnected and demand an allied approach from local and global policy actors. This interconnectedness also requires different types of cooperation between northern and southern CSOs.
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports CSOs in LLMICs in their development role. This policy is based on the assumption that a diverse civil society is essential for inclusive development. Based on the increased importance of the political role of CSOs, the Ministry has shifted the focus in its civil society policy framework to the political role of CSOs. The policy framework, Dialogue & Dissent, aims to tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality while taking into account the interconnectedness between issues in developing countries and in the Netherlands.
The overall goal of ‘Dialogue & Dissent’ is to enhance the lobbying and advocacy capacities of CSOs in LLMICs. The framework aims to support CSOs in their mission to contribute to sustainable, inclusive development through their local, national and international networks. Underlying the framework is a theory of change. The framework, which was implemented in 2016 and will run up to 2020, contains five main support elements:
As described in the call for proposals by NWO-WOTRO, June 2017