National Directories of Civil Society Resource Organizations in Southeast Asia
In Africa, Asia and Latin America, citizen participation has become a growing and vital force for social change. Through donations of time, energy, materials, and money, civil society organizations have brought significant material and human resources from the community level to bear on problems of poverty. Increasingly, locally managed and controlled organizations that mobilize financial resources and transfer these funds to civil society organizations have been established to facilitate just this kind of community action.
While the number of such organizations remains small in these regions of the world, they are helping to support, strengthen and sustain thousands of small and large civil society organizations. General consensus over the terminology for such organizations has not yet been reached, though they are often referred to as "foundations" or "community development foundations" in recognition of the role they have in common with foundations of the US, Canada and parts of Europe.
In Asia, the term "civil society resource organization" -- or CSRO -- is frequently used. For the purposes of the directories of organizations in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, we have chosen to use this term to describe the general group of organizations contained within.
The growing universe of CSROs in Asia is only beginning to be systematically studied. In discussion with CSROs in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, Synergos decided to map the emerging role of CSROs in strengthening civil society with the aim to better answer questions such as:
The activity of CSROs in these three countries is little known. It is our hope that these directories will shed much light on the nature of these unique organizations and the very critical role they are beginning to play in civil society in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is our hope that CSROs in each country will access these databases; notify Synergos of updated information regularly; and that new CSROs will reach out to Synergos to be included in the online directory too. In so doing, interested groups will be able to monitor the growth and development of the sector.
We anticipate that it will also serve as a tool to measure the growth of civil society in the three countries and as a basic source of information for those interested in the CSRO sector, including staff and boards of CSROs, domestic and foreign donors (private and public), grant seekers, and academics.
While CSROs share many characteristics with the typical grantmaking foundation of North America, they have also developed programs and policies in ways that are unique to their own enabling environment and traditions of giving. For example, they are more likely to mix program operation with grantmaking than might be found in American or Canadian foundations. They may also pursue more loan making. Few of them were created with a single large endowment, as was the case with most private foundations of the US. In fact, most of them rely on a wide range of strategies to mobilize financial resources including earned income, contributions from individuals and corporations, and grants from international organizations. Building an endowment may still be many years away for most of these CSROs.
While a broad array of strategies and activities are applied by CSROs in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in the world, we can say that these organizations tend to be: