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Civil Society in Jordan: How MERCI Supports CSO Sustainability

Civil society plays a pivotal role in democracies by serving as a liaison between citizens and their government, advocating for citizens’ needs while monitoring the government and holding it accountable. The strength of a country’s democracy can often be measured by the strength of its civil society. IRI's Middle Eastern Regional Civic Initiative (MERCI) supports nascent and intermediate organizations across the Middle East to strengthen their capacity toward building strong and sustainable democracies. The MERCI team is conducting a series of interviews highlighting its work and its beneficiaries’ experiences and success stories.

The following is an interview with Abderrazzaq Al Muhtaseb, the President of Future Makers Center for Studies and Development. Future Makers is a local non-governmental organization (NGO) created in 2010 and based in Maan, Jordan. It aims to raise awareness about human rights and development issues in Jordan and promote civic engagement and participatory governance through increasing the capacity of Jordanian youths to be active and engaged in their communities.

Disclaimer: this interview was conducted in Arabic. The following is a translated transcription of the interview.

Tell me about your involvement in the MERCI program.

The MERCI program has been one of the most beneficial programs for our organization. It was a practical program in which we saw a noticeable improvement of our capacities as an organization and the development of policies that lead our CSO. The MERCI program contributed to developing our communication strategy, writing effective proposals, ensuring the sustainability of the organization and retaining activists. Participating in MERCI made us work on areas that we neglected before. The communication strategy, for example, was not something that we invested much time on.

We had a short-term strategy that was neither holistic nor followed, but when we actually developed and implemented a long-term strategy, we noticed the benefits and how helpful it was for our work and organization. The Business Development (BD) trainings also helped us shift our approach to BD and we now use the templates and methodology provided in the training, namely problem statement, logical framework, and setting objectives, etc… As a result of this, I believe that our proposals are more likely to be successful than before.

What is one highlight from your participation in the MERCI program?

The highlight is the expertise and the experience sharing of the trainers, as well as the hands-on support received from the MERCI team. The Mentorship Sessions provided by MERCI allowed us to discuss our own challenges and problems privately with the trainers. One of the greatest things about this program also is how easy it is to access information. The communication with the IRI team was very fluid and they were always swift in their response to our needs. This made us feel that IRI saw us as more than a participating CSO, but also an important partner in the program, and that the objective was really to develop our capacities as a CSO. The Social Hours also was very beneficial. We attended sessions with Tunisian and Moroccan CSOs, which built our network outside of Jordan, and allowed us to hear about experiences and best practices from another country, which could be applied in Jordan.

Did you implement anything that you learned from MERCI in your CSO work? What did you do? Was it successful? 

We have a new communication strategy that we follow and update every six months. Such a policy was not written before and was not followed. Through this strategy, we were able to communicate more about our work, and we had more media presence to talk about our association, which made us more visible to fellow organizations as well as potential funders.

We were also able to develop official written procedures for financial and administrative processes. The tools and knowledge acquired during the BD training are still used now in writing proposals as they made it easier for us to identify and articulate clearly the problem we want to work on and how we will address it. Following the BD training, our organization worked on three proposals, two of which we secured funding for, which shows that our writing skills and methodology were more appealing to funders after participating in the MERCI program.

What is your organization doing now? What’s next? 

Our organization is now working on its sustainability. We have an active group of people within the association who work on proposal development, and we also started seeking partnerships with the private sector, through the Corporate Social Responsibility Act which encourages business owners who would like to get some of their taxes deducted to sponsor civil society in order to ensure a sustainable development of local communities. We are also focusing on broadening our partnerships to help us become more financially sustainable, through branding ourselves as a go-to institution when a CSO needs support in training; this will not only grant us good publicity but would also bring our institution some revenue. Our objective is still the same, to develop our community! We have ideas that we want to implement, we are actively seeking funding opportunities to achieve our goals.

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The MERCI project is funded by the Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).