The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

50 MAY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL disrupted communications must be prioritized. Donors must be as creative, adaptive and resilient as CSO part- ners have been. Dependence on government funding cycles, reli- ance on static indicators and outmoded procurement practices can hamper our ability to operate nimbly in restrictive environments. We must continue moving towardmore participatory design and flexible implementation of programs, matching programming needs for partners in closing spaces with novel and unprecedented services. As our CSO partners are experimenting with different organizational forms, revenue streams and partnerships to fortify their operations, we as donors must also experiment, pilot and scale up efforts tomatch these changing landscapes. One such effort is the Civil Society Innovation Initiative, a project funded by USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and private philanthropic organizations, but led and driven by hundreds of CSO actors globally. CSII has launched six civil society hubs around the world that connect actors globally and pilot outside-of-the-box approaches to tackle issues ranging from resource scarcity in the Latin America and Caribbean region to the exploration of innovative approaches to financing and fundraising in South Asia and the Middle East. We hear grim stories from the field, but also stories of resil- ience and fortitude. Melanio Escobar, a Venezuelan cyber activist who works to track individuals detained and disappeared by the military, explained his condition directly: “I don’t feel very safe, because I’m not safe.” But like so many activists, fear is not the end of his message. Escobar continued: “I feel like any- time something can go wrong, like in the case of many others; but it’s a fear that I have to face every day if I want to help my people. I know it does not sound logical, because it isn’t, but freedom and democracy are worth the risk.” West African activist Charles Vandyck shared the impe- tus for continuing to combat closing space day-to-day that is summarized in his daily credo: “I am a firm believer in people power and the need to ensure that citizens are engaged and are actively contributing to an Africa that is transparent, account- able and just. I am fighting for a better Africa for future genera- tions. Therefore, I must be motivated, always!” n