K4D Learning Journey on Civil Society

This Learning Journey aimed to establish a more effective approach to two-way learning with the civil society sector in order to share and develop wider FCDO (then DFID) policy and programmes. It therefore responded to internal policy directives, the objectives of the SDGs, the Commonwealth Charter, the 2014 and 2018 ICAI review, demands from country offices and a range of external Civil society initiatives (BOND, EPIC, CIVICUS etc). It also provided an opportunity to pilot new ways of sharing and embedding learning, initially by interrogating the different meanings attached to civil society, its role and its significance, and identifying and documenting good practice in working together at both country and thematic level. ​​​​​​​

What topics were covered?

  • What is Civil Society and What can it do?
  • Localisation (or Shifting the Power)
  • Closing Civic Spaces
  • The Role of Faith Based Organisations
  • Civil Society and Technology
  • Civil Society and Climate Change

What were the learning outcomes?

  • An active and informed CoP, with representatives from across cadres and country offices and from key civil society groups
  • A clear plan for capacity development and a second, follow up learning journey to cater for identified needs
  • A strategy for capturing learning from outsourced country level activity, and for embedding this more broadly within and between cadres
  • Increased links across ministries, between countries (SDC, DGIS etc), with international bodies (UNDP/LNB) and key civil society groups (BOND, CIVICUS etc)
  • Appropriately adapted funding mechanisms that ensure organisations are supported to achieve their own vision and missions, rather than just to deliver programmes
  • Strategic and Proactive engagement with CSOs at all levels within DFID (from PermSec, to HQ to Country Offices) which enable CSOs to be proactive in building actual and effective partnerships with them.​​​​​

Who was this Learning Journey for?

Within DFID: the Civil Society Policy team, a core group of Advisers (Social Development, Governance), policy and programme staff (both head office and selected country offices) engaged on programme delivery and relationships with CSO partners, and on policy issues for civil society space.

Across-Whitehall: Joint Funds Unit and other ODA spending departments working with civil society and FCO Political teams at post engaged on influencing civil society space.

Partner CSO: In the UK: Engagement with Bond (NIDOS, NCVO), existing CSO learning networks (e.g. INGO KM&OL)

Internationally: Engagement with key CSO networks and platforms e.g. CIVICUS, A4SD, LNB Partnership, International Federation of Platforms/IFP

Also potential scope for engagement with wider donor networks for joint competency development and organisational learning e.g. Learn4Dev Network and relevant Expert Group, OECD DAC Community of Practice on Civil Society and Donor Group on Civil Society Effectiveness, SDC and Dutch on Civil Society voice and Leave No One Behind.


Helpdesk Reports

K4D Helpdesk Report 488
What is Civil Society? How is the term used and what is seen to be its role and value (internationally) in 2018?
Rachel Cooper
15 October 2018

K4D Helpdesk Report 438
INGOs Relocating to the Global South
Kirsten C. Williams
10 September 2018

Key contacts

Juliet Millican

Honorary Associate

Paul Knipe

Director of Consultancy, Impact and Influence


Supported by

About this project


Juliet Millican

Honorary Associate