2021 CSO survey – preliminary review

In 2020, BEARR organised a survey to find out how civil society organisations (CSOs) in our region, and the people they were trying to help, were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have just repeated this exercise in 2021 in order to track developments over the past year, and to find areas of need that we can address in the 2022 Small Grants Scheme. Here are the main ‘takeaways’ from a preliminary analysis of the recent survey, covering over 140 responses from 11 countries of the region:

  • The need for CSO services has increased significantly as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. 78% of CSOs report an increase in demand for services in their communities compared with only 59% last year. Detailed narrative comments left by participants give various reasons for this increase, including that disabled people often require support while self-isolating, and that there has been an increase in cases of depression and domestic violence during successive lockdowns.
  • CSO workers feel burned out: over 55% of those working in CSOs feel burned out or that they are barely managing their workload. Staff want psychological support and help with team building. A lack of face-to-face communication has also contributed to these sentiments. Some attribute their increased workload to colleagues falling ill or passing away from Covid-19. Last year’s survey did not ask participants about whether or not they felt burned out, but many pointed to the issue in their narrative responses.

  • CSOs have adapted to hybrid working: such adaptations include remote working (18%) and hybrid forms of work (58%). Most are now running meetings online (74%) or using telephones to reach their beneficiaries (57%). Some mentioned that lockdowns, as well as bans on public events and larger meetings, meant that CSOs have started providing more one-on-one consultations. The pandemic had some positive effects, for instance encouraging fast adaption to new technologies and thereby gaining access to new groups of beneficiaries. In this second year of the pandemic, people have learned to follow social distancing and self-isolation rules. They have also grown more interested in their own rights, especially in the sphere of health.

  • The pandemic has had a major impact on CSOs’ finances: 55% of CSOs reported that the pandemic has affected their funding sources. It has had a damaging effect on both local donations and international funding (43%). Many report that support received from international funders has lessened as a result of their inability to implement projects during the pandemic. On the other hand, some say that they have managed to attract further international funding to support projects which are related to the pandemic.

  • International sources of funding remain the most important (70%), while local fundraising contributes more to CSOs than state support (14% and 8% respectively). The principal areas where help and advice are needed are funding (82%), training on fundraising (46%), and developing new services (45%).

  • The pandemic has revealed and intensified various social issues, mainly domestic violence, and growing poverty, but also inequality in access to education, health, and social services. CSOs also report increased anxiety about colleagues and relatives falling victim to Covid-19; issues facing labour migrants, and job loss. Many reported that they prioritised coping with Covid-19 over other social issues, making it harder to promote protection of victims of domestic violence for example, or to work with HIV/AID patients.

A more detailed review of the survey results will follow in the new year.

Anna Lukanina-Morgan
17.12.21

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