Strengthening Civil Society Projects

Isandla Institute has always had a keen interest in understanding the nature of civil society organisation as well as its effectiveness in addressing systemic poverty, exclusion and inequality in South Africa.

Being an NGO, Isandla Institute recognises the tremendous value that organised civil society can add to governance and development in South Africa, yet is cognisant of the importance of critical self-reflection by the sector as well as the need for knowledge sharing, networking and collaborative engagement within the sector.

Strategic Planning for the NDA

Isandla Institute facilitated a strategic framework discussion and the strategic thinking and planning process for the Board of the NDA as it geared-up to expend approximately R300 million per annum for use by South African civil society organisations who work on poverty eradication, 1999.

Background paper for Human Development Report

Isandla Institute was commissioned by UNDP-South Africa to prepare a background paper on ‘new spaces for democratic engagement’ between the state and civil society in South Africa. The paper informed the Human Development Report for South Africa, 2000.

National Anti-Poverty Agenda

Isandla Institute undertook background research and managed a project for SANGOCO on what the elements of a broad-based poverty eradication campaign should entail, 1999-2000.

Profile of the Non-Profit Sector in South Africa

This report was prepared as part of a multi-country comparative study of John Hopkins University on the state of the non-profit sector, 2000.

Urban Social Movements

A research paper on urban social movements in South Africa was prepared for a new global research network, comprised of academics and NGO researchers from South Africa, Brazil, Thailand and India, 2002.

Capacity Building for Poverty Eradication

Isandla Institute drafted a concept paper that served as a starting point for a sector-wide (training and organisational development NGOs) discussion on how to scale-up activities aimed at building the capacity of organisations of the poor, 2002.

Alternative Development Frameworks

Isandla Institute facilitated a series of open-ended dialogues with former political activists to commemorate ten years of political freedom and signal what a more expansive and holistic development approach should entail. This resulted in a book project and the publication Voices of the Transition, which was published by Heinemann in 2004.

Voices of the Transition (2004) - ISBN-10: 0796209707; ISBN-13: 978-0796209702

Social movements and urban development

Research study on the Homeless People's Alliance of South Africa as part of a larger comparative investigation into new social movements under the auspices of the Centre for Civil Society (University of KwaZulu-Natal), 2004.

CSO workshop on ‘Overcoming structural poverty and inequality in South Africa’

The workshop convened in April 2010 sought to create a platform for knowledge sharing and strengthening of collaborative action and advocacy on poverty and inequality. The workshop was co-hosted by the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII), the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) and Isandla Institute. It followed on from the national conference with the same title that the organisers, with the Presidency as a fourth partner, hosted in September 2010.

Advancing communities of practice/a partnership-based approach to incremental upgrading of informal settlements

Isandla Institute has taken a particular interest in ensuring that the urban governance NGO sector is more coherent and coordinated in its efforts to address urban poverty and exclusion, and in particular becomes a more meaningful actor in informal settlement upgrading initiatives by fulfilling requisite intermediary functions between the state and poor communities. The initial 2-year project concluded in October 2013, with the subsequent focus (2014 – current) shifting more explicitly to supporting communities of practice in this regard.

Good Governance Learning Network

Isandla Institute hosts the Secretariat of the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN), a national network of NGOs with an active interest in local governance. The main purpose of the GGLN is to facilitate knowledge sharing, peer learning, knowledge production and advocacy aimed at strengthening meaningful participatory local governance. Amongst others, the GGLN produces the annual The State of Local Governance publication, focusing on pertinent themes such as leadership, social accountability, responsiveness, and so on.

Further details about the network, its membership and its work can be found on