The Civil Society Programme (CSP)


Political instability in the Levant has left little room for a functioning civil society. In Lebanon, local civil society organisations (CSOs) are challenged by sectarianism, economic hardship, a weak state, and the influx of refugees; Syrian organisations battle security concerns, constant change and the devastating consequences of a decade of conflict. Despite these challenges, the region’s CSOs continue to work for the common good.

We believe that a flourishing civil society is a cornerstone of a just, accountable society. Through the Civil Society Programme (CSP), we work to help develop a vibrant, resilient and empowered civil society infrastructure that can hold those in power accountable, no matter who they are, and continue to advocate for positive change in the region.

From 2012 to 2018, the programme worked to identify and respond to the short-term programmatic and core needs of small, local CSOs in the region, largely those addressing governance, citizenship and the media. Following an impact and needs assessment in 2017/18, our strategy evolved to focus on longer-term funding for core costs and organisational development (OD). This means we can support organisations to invest in their capacity, structures and growth; bolstering their resilience and sustainability, strengthening their impact, and widening their reach.

Beyond grant-making, the programme will also work to connect diverse actors from across local, regional and global networks who share a vision for the region, and invest in learning and knowledge-sharing across these networks. In this way, we seek to build a global community of practice dedicated to social and economic change in our region, guided by evidence and experience, and led by the expertise and commitment of local CSOs.

The objectives of the programme are:

  1. To invest in the organisational development of small to medium-sized, local and regional CSOs in order to increase their resilience and capabilities. This will enable them to ensure their continued operation in lean times, retain their assets, adapt to rapidly changing environments, attract support from diverse donors, and strengthen their impact.
  2. To support these CSOs to leverage their experience and expertise in order to strengthen their sustainability and impact.

How the programme works:

  • We offer three-year grants for small to medium-sized local CSOs operating in the region. Funding is flexible and must be used for OD, as well as for core costs where these are related to OD.
  • Our typical grantees (partners) are organisations which have demonstrated impact, commitment, creativity and ambition; are in good standing with their communities and beyond; and have a clear vision for the role they will play in the region’s future.
  • Our support extends beyond financial support: partners become part of the Asfari Foundation’s ecosystem of local, regional and global actors, offering opportunities to connect with peer organisations, academic institutions and think-tanks.
  • We place a premium on knowledge-sharing. Local CSOs in the region have accrued a wealth of experience and expertise; we will extend opportunities for them to collate and share their knowledge with others in our ecosystem of actors, connecting the local to the regional and global, and positioning local CSOs as leaders in this community of practice.

To apply for funding in 2020, click here.