Training on Influencing Change in Nigeria: Outcome Paper
This training seeks to explore conversation on how change happens in Nigeria and to equip participants with skills to understand the various dynamics that influence change; how to be creative in program and project development to impact change; and the critical questions, considerations necessary for impactful programming that can lead to change. This training is designed to contribute to the understanding of the dynamics that influence change. It provides comparative analysis of change movements, elements of effective change making and the needed organizational disposition for effective and impactful programming.
Specifically, the proposed training outcomes include the following:
- Improved understanding of the concept of change
- Ideas and insight on how to program, resource and engage to influence change
- Comparative learning on change movements and the various dynamics that influence outcome
- Understanding of advocacy, innovative program development and network building
Democracy in West Africa is imperilled. Inequality is growing, democracy is not delivering on development and governance institutions are weak. While West Africa was a bastion of democratic growth in early 2000, currently, the region is seeing a worrying decline in the quality of democracy coupled with declining human development indices.
Civil society and indeed citizens are struggling to adapt their methods of engagement to confront these mutating challenges. Being the last line of defence, citizens and civil society must adapt productive strategy of reversing the declining fortunes of the region
Ford Foundation’s work is focused on addressing inequality. The foundation prides itself as reimagining philanthropy to catalyze leaders and organizations driving social justice and building movements across the globe. What is envisaged for ensuring social justice is a fundamental shift on how society works and building a society that is citizen centered and where there are inclusive opportunities and development. In line with the Foundation’s mandate, Ford Foundation provided support to Thoughts and Mace Advisory to implement this project with the above stated objectives.
The conversation on how change happens is fundamental at a time like this to help shape deeper understanding of structural dynamics within the peculiar realities of the region that drive change. This understanding comes from interrogating social movements and change efforts in the region and drawing relevant lessons that have implications for changemakers and social entrepreneurs in Nigeria. This report offers a synthesis of the facilitated conversations that happened in Lagos and Abuja in December 2022.
Training Format and Structure:
The conversation started with a context discussion of the state of the nations, current realities of CSOs and reform efforts in the country. It identified a key bucket list of pressing issues that are facing the country. We analyzed the feedback from the pre-training survey and each participant talked about what change meant to them. We then reviewed the case studies. Drawing from these examples, we answered the defining questions outlined below to see how they played out in the case study scenarios and their implication for the work participants are doing. The session then focused on key lessons, drilling down to specific approaches to driving change. We concluded with commitment to new ideas and approaches. Conversation was informal, participatory, and actionable recommendations focused.
Session defining questions included the following:
In our various contexts, what problems are we trying to solve? What does a solution look like?Whose interest are we trying to serve? What does solution mean to them? (Whose interests would be undermined by our intervention. How can we mitigate the resistance or backlash to get a win-win? This is a bit of stakeholder mapping and defining solutions from many lenses)
Who do we speak for? (What informs our interventions, the problem that we see or the problem the people see?). What does change mean? What is change in our context (often time we are unduly influenced by standards of the West in appraising effectiveness of our interventions). What makes our intervention context fit and realistic?
What do we calculate as holding the line? Does holding the line (avoiding further regression) in the context of our engagement considered progress?
What variables impact change making?
What is the realistic limit of our influence? How does that influence what change means to us? (Pacing our expectation of outcome, change and progress)
How are we organized as a sector and a collective to impact our environment?
What is the place of partnership, network building and collaboration in building momentum for the change we seek?
How does our disparate efforts in many directions come together?
Training Faculty and Resource Persons:
T&M put together a faculty of six resource persons and facilitators. The faculty had complementary skill sets. Experiences in confronting military regimes in Nigeria; front row seat in social movements in Nigeria (occupy Nigeria and #EndSARS); deep understanding of innovative programming and change making; advocacy and network building; and civic space strengthening. These diverse skillsets enriched the conversation. To help aid comparative learning, the faculty included a Senegalese pan African civil society expert who helped bring continent wide comparative learning to the conversation. The faculty included the following: Edetaen Ojo, Yemi Adamolekun, Chinedu Nwagu, Ibrahima Ibou Niang, and Udo Jude Ilo
36 people participated in the training with majority of participants holding senior leadership positions in their organisations.
Pre training Survey and Findings: From the survey responses and conversation in the training, we distilled out the following:
- CSOs are doing important work across multiple sectors in Nigeria
- Notion of change is often insular. Very much limited to specific project objectives within their Grant
- In some cases, there is no clear relationship between the change respondents want to see in their specific project areas and the change they want to see in the country
- There is limited appreciation of building an ecosystem to address specific challenge identified.
- The greater societal impact does not appear to be the focus of project development and the relationship between narrow project objectives and major social change is not clear.
Key takeaway from the facilitated conversations and training:
Two sessions were held in Lagos and Abuja. Lagos happened on the 5th and 6th of December while Abuja held on the 8th and 9th of December. To aid the conversation, four case studies were developed spanning three countries in West Africa including Nigeria. The choice of the case studies was deliberate with due attention paid to lessons in network building, building on past achievement, understanding timing, and working with diverse interest. The case studies showed the power of planning, advocacy, power mapping and pragmatism in negotiations. From Nigeria, we developed two cases studies- The EndSARS protest which responded to policy brutality and Concerned Abuja Resident response to Abuja Raid on women (addressing gender- based violence sponsored by the state).
From Senegal we developed a case study on M23 Movement which rallied to protect Senegal’s constitution from President Wade and eventually succeeded in truncating the President’s effort at third term in office. From Burkina Faso, we developed a case study around citizens’ revolution that stopped Blaise Campaore from removing the presidential term limit, forced him out of power and stopped a coup plot by the Presidential guard.
These case studies addressed organizing within communities, response to constitutional issues and movement building at a national scale. It provides instructive lessons on why some of these efforts failed, why other succeeded and the important dynamics and elements that make the difference.
Specifically, the following lessons came out of the training conversations:
- Project development must respond or contribute to addressing larger societal challenges. This will require proper context analysis and deliberate attention to the prevailing social or governance conditions. While project design understandably may be narrow, the link between project and how it impacts change in the larger society must be clear. Take for instance an organisation that conducts polling. The focus of their polling may be about how gender-based violence is perceived within the society. However, a proper context analysis will reveal the many ways this piece of information can influence change and impact society. This would then inform the dissemination targets for this polling result, the various format of dissemination (social media, infographics, radio commentary) that allows a wide range of audience to understand the message. When an organisation is focused on the big picture, it forces a strong attention to optimal utilization of outputs and impact maximization. The other important consideration to have in mind is to understand how your project output can support the work of other groups. Polling result in this hypothetical context above can serve the groups doing advocacy on SGBV. It is important in designing projects to build in mechanism for ensuring that other likeminded groups can benefit from the outcome of your project. This approach expands the remit of impact and ensures that you narrow project objectives contributes to a larger societal relevance.
- Visioning and shared ownership within an organization is central to being impactful. Every organisation must have a vision and purpose that informs the activities of the organisation. Organisational vision must be bold, ambitious, and compelling. Such a vision must respond to larger issues beyond just the organisation. Visioning must be responsive to the context of your operation as a CSO. It must be something bigger than your organisation- a compass that directs the work of your organization. It also must be something owned and shared by members of your organisation. A shared vision has a lot of advantages- it ensures that an organisation is working towards a clear goal; it allows the organisation to understand who they need to work with to achieve their vision; and most importantly, it helps an organisation to consolidate effort on a clear agenda. It creates a guiding destination where all organisational effort is pointing to- allowing for efficiency and consistency. These are important elements that influence change.
- Credibility is central to being influential. Credibility gives you good standing within and outside of the sector to command attention. As a change maker, partners need to be comfortable dealing with you. Your community needs to trust you. Personal credibility has a huge impact on organisational credibility. An organisation with the best kind of reputation can easily be pulled down if the leadership is shown to be dubious. Without credibility, you cannot rally people, and neither can you be taken seriously. To ensure credibilty and a perception of being credible, you must walk the talk. If you are preaching transparency, it needs to start with how you manage your organisation and how your organisation manage resources available to it. If you work on SGBV, you need to have excellent safeguard polices within your organisation. You need to be consistent with your position, respectful of colleagues and above all avoid being self-serving in your engagement. Reputation for transactional relationship and needless competition undermines your capability to work with others.
- Citizens’ ownership is critical in ensuring that change happens. Across the region, every significant social movement which has reshaped countries or narrative are citizens driven. The ability to find the right kind of message that galvanizes citizens ownership of an idea is fundamental to success. As a changemaker, a key consideration in designing your project and network building must be about what is important to the field and the willingness of the communities that we serve to own the message and not see the process as something imposed from the outside. Movements are often sustained by people – informal structures. Social change must be built around people and the field.
- Change is incremental. Change does not happen suddenly. It influenced by building blocks and little fires put in place by others before you. We must learn to honour the work of our predecessors and build on it. We need to appreciate that that change happens when our individual efforts come together. The case studies from Senegal, Burkina Faso and Nigeria clearly showed that most movement are successful when there are existing structures already built by others on which the new movement is predicated. It is difficult to create change from a vacuum. This also means that we need to be more measured in the way we attribute failure to our interventions. A policy advocacy that failed today may be successful tomorrow because of the effort that has already been put in- the sensitization, meetings, network building etc. When there is a second attempt, the past effort makes the work easier and, in most instances, successful. Understanding the interlinked nature of our efforts, deliberately leveraging on those linkages, and consistently sharing lessons, allow us the space to ensure that our modest effort in different directions come together.
- Have a strategic plan: No organisation thrives without having a strategy that draw from its vision. A strategic plan provides the signpost to how you work towards your vision. The process of developing a strategic plan is important. It must be consultative, analytical, and inclusive. A strategy plan needs to provide a clear context analysis which allows you to unpack the environment within which you operate. It must have a clear articulation of your mission and vision which responds to the reality of your environment. Furthermore, there needs to be a proper analysis of your challenges you see, your strength and weaknesses, and how you are positioned to address the problem. There must be a clear articulation of measurable objectives, the activities you hope to carry out, the partnerships, resources and network needed. Importantly, the strategy helps you to see the field clearly and to understand how your work might contribute to solving problems and creating change.
- Consistency is key: Every significant change identified in our conversation was a result of consistent work by partners. Two illustrative policy example was the Freedom of Information Act and the Disability Act. Both piece of legislation took more than a decade to pass. Instructively, the advocacy for their passage never wavered with the baton passed from one CSO leadership to another and eventually the hard work and coalition built around the message paid off. Same applies to the progress made on addressing SGBV. It has taken decades of work but today, it is now one of the most topical issues in the country. The problems of SGBV persist but people are aware that as a country, we have made significant progress in Prevention Accountability and Support (PAS). The change is happening gradually because there has been consistency in the demand for it.
- Applying multiple and complementary tools: To get result, changemakers need to utilize multiple tools. Research, Advocacy, Community organizing, network building, strategic communication, social media, mainstream media, influencers, etc are all necessary tools that complement each other. Often, an organisation does not need to do all but would leverage on the expertise of others. Street protest should be complemented with advocacy. Community organizing may need research to be able to provide the right kind of information to the community. These tools are good in themselves but more effective when they complement each other.
- Framing and narrative building: On many occasions, working for change depends a lot on how you frame your message. Two good examples came out of our conversation. One was the response to the Abuja raid on women. The Concerned Abuja Resident (coalition of groups and individuals fighting to end indiscriminate arrest of women on the suspicion of prostitution) framed the issue as state sponsored attack on women. Before this was done, government was treating the arrest of women as morality issue- stopping prostitution. The moment the narrative that FCT was targeting women and using state institutions to abuse them gained currency, it changed the colour of the debate. It was no more about whether prostitutes need to be protected but rather, the kind of society we want to build- do we want a society where women are routinely and indiscriminately targeted for abuse? Changing the narrative won the debate. The second example is the Not Too Young to Run campaign. This framing energized young people across Nigeria and appealed to the conscience of duty bearers to give young people a chance. Initial attempts to reduce the age requirement for elective posts were not successful. Framing needs to give your both the moral and logic high ground. It needs to be emotive, compelling, non-threatening to the duty bearers and rational. Owning the narrative helps you control how the issue is framed. If you lose the narrative, it is difficult to influence change.
- Building a diverse and inclusive spread of partners is key. It takes a village to shift the needle and create change. Changemakers must constantly keep in mind that they need others to be able to influence change. Careful influence mapping- understanding those who can help make the change happen, cultivating diverse partnership and leveraging on disparate skillsets make change possible. Our case studies clearly showed that movements without diverse partnership often fail. In instances where partnerships were built across diverse fields and competences, it transforms ideas into a powerful movement. Prepare to work with those you do not like or often agree with. If there is a common interest and they bring value to your work, you are encouraged to engage. Sometimes, you need to engage with those whose interest your change threatens. Influence and power mapping help identify these interests and carefully plan how to address their concerns or bring them into the fold. You cannot achieve big result with only those you agree with. You also need to understand the interest of those that do not agree with you.
- Mentorship and intergenerational partnerships are important in building an ecosystem of changemakers and social entrepreneurs. Do not break the bridge when you cross it. The intergenerational partnership ensures continuity and consistency. There is a lot, experience can bring to the table, but youthful energy helps to sustain and amplify this. “It takes the wisdom of the elders and the energy of the youths to win a war”1.
- Telling our stories: The work changemakers do are important resources that can shape how the public view the sector, resources for others to learn from and a crucial tool in framing narratives. For us to light little fires that come together to make roaring flame of renewal for our communities, we need to know what each other is doing, build on it or just learn from it. Telling our stories in relatable and usable formats helps in building open-source resources to support the work of others. It sustains the ecosystem. 1 Commons on Glory (Soundtrack to the award wining movie Selma). This movie is recommended for its great insight on organizing and advocacy.
- Advocacy and Ethics is critical. Advocacy is not about grandstanding. Protest can get you into the room, but advocacy gives you the policy change you need. When it comes to policy change, advocacy is fundamental. It requires talking to ALL duty bearers relevant to your cause. Every war has ended in the negotiating table. It doesn’t matter how obnoxious government has been, whenever the opportunity presents itself engage. Sit down and provide alternative solutions and make demands. To a large extent, the changes that we seek requires a change in behaviour on the part of government for maximum impact. Always identify the advocacy opportunities that the work you do present and explore those. Work with others if you necessary but never shy away from an opportunity to talk to duty bearers. There must be some basic ethics to this. It requires some level of trust and sometimes an expectation of confidentiality for duty bearers to sit with advocates. Ethics requires we respect that confidentiality, refrain from publicly embarrassing our advocacy targets or use information shared in those behind-the-scenes setting for public show.
- Funders and development partners need to be focused on influencing change. This would require a rethink of funding models, investment in innovation and deliberate focus on building up ecosystems around specific issues. It requires an understanding of the issues raised above and it should be critical to how Funders engage partners and how they prioritize and influence the direction of project design by their grantees.
- Introspection is important. Changemakers needs to step back and appraise their work, learn, and reflect. Forums for shared reflection amongst peers are important. It is something that requires investment, deliberate and consistent prioritization. It came out clearly from the conversation that convenings of this nature across important issues affecting CSOs in Nigeria should be a priority.
- There is need for ecosystem building. Funders should ensure that there is structured framework that allows partners to interface with each other, understand what others are doing and encourage to find complementary collaboration that feeds into bigger objectives and impact
- No organisation can create significant impact all by itself. It takes a village, an ecosystem, a network of collaborators to shift the needle. Network and partnership building should be central to project development. Equally, funders should seek such collaborations amongst themselves to be able to make significant impact on an identified issue
- Within the funding and development community, there needs to be a conversation on how to fund change. Sometimes funding framework may inadvertently undermine change or disrupt collaboration in the field. It is recommended that a training of this nature should be designed for funders and development partners to reflect on how their funding effort is impacting the field.
- There is need for significant investment in mentorship within the sector. There is a deep ignorance of history by the younger generation. It played out in the #EndSARS protest where the youth had no idea of what happened before them and were distrustful (disregarded) the older generation. This denied them the needed insight for more effective organizing. We need to invest in intergenerational learning, structured internships and learning fora, and deliberate investment in supporting the growth of young changemakers.