NNA - Building on its track-record in serving as a regional hub for the NGO sector development, capacity building, and institutional strengthening, the Non-Governmental Organizations Initiative (NGOi) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) received a $4.8 million grant to establish the Arab Alliance for CSO Development (AACSOD). Supported by the Ford Foundation and the Asfari Foundation, AACSOD is a 5-year flagship program of NGOi, dedicated to institutionally strengthen Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) operating in the Arab World through a network of more than 100 partners and stakeholders. The program is envisioned to institutionally support at least 60 CSOs in twelve countries of the Arab world through a contextualized set of service packages. These services include institutional strengthening and organizational development, capacity building, contextualization and Arabization, knowledge sharing, and organizational certification.
“Undoubtedly, AACSOD is a major step forward and a flagship program of the NGOi at AUB to support civil society institutional strengthening in the region,” commented Dr. Fadlo Khuri, AUB’s president. “As a university, we are keen on strengthening our academic and programmatic regional presence in support of more prosperous and inclusive societies.”
Dr. Shadi Saleh, NGOi’s founding director, reiterated the commitment to a transformative vision for the strengthening of NGO ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. “We live in a vibrant region that has shown a great level of resilience and social solidarity in difficult settings and contexts. As a flagship program of NGOi, AACSOD will further highlight our belief that civil society can play a major role in the social and economic development of the region through effective and transparent CSOs that adopt a contextualized approach,” he stated.
Dr. Noha El-Mikawy, the regional director of Ford Foundation at the time of the grant award, highlighted the foundation’s main goal behind supporting the establishment of AACSOD, “Ford Foundation and its partners engaged in intensive discussions throughout 2021 with CSOs in the MENA region only to discover the need for a regional resource hub to support institutional capacity building of these organizations.”
“To address this need, the foundation has committed to support the NGOi to serve as a regional hub for contextualized institutional capacity development through the establishment of AACSOD,” she added.
The contribution and partnership role of the Asfari Foundation with NGOi extends many years with the foundation supporting many projects. AACSOD was an opportunity to further solidify this partnership. “Our support to regionalize NGOi’s services through the establishment of AACSOD comes as a natural scale-up of collaborative development projects that the foundation has pursued in the past two years with NGOi,” said Saba Al Mubaslat, then executive director of Asfari Foundation. “These projects constituted a proof of concept of NGOi’s capacity to institutionally strengthen CSOs in the MENA region and generate contextualized and accessible trainings and knowledge. We believe that AACSOD, with the services it offers, will contribute to fulfilling this goal.”
It is envisioned that a call for regional partners and experts to join AACSOD will be released in summer 2022, followed by a call for applications addressed to CSOs that wish to engage in AACSOD’s institutional strengthening program. As a result – starting fall 2022 and for each of the following years, AACSOD will support fifteen CSOs from three different countries yearly to reach a total of sixty CSOs in twelve different countries in the region. AACSOD’s institutional strengthening program is a twelve to eighteen-month program focused on organizational development as a means for organizations to reach operational excellence.