Strategies for Working with Global Summit Grantees (aka Organizers)

Some of the ways that grant makers have funded grantees in connection with an international summit include:

Strategic and Issue-Oriented 

  • Work with grantees to facilitate coalition-building and discussion around critical issues. A grant maker who funded groups involved in the Population Conference in Cairo recommended early funding for preparatory work among groups of NGOs. “Ahead of time we funded groups that were helping to develop their country strategies in Egypt and the Philippines. We put quite a bit of money into bringing groups together to strategize and figure out where some of the trouble spots might be. For example, how should the women’s movement engage population issues? Differences of opinion were worked out to reduce the level of discord when people got to the conference.”

  • Support grantee participation in Preparatory Committee meetings (PrepComs). Even well before the summit, NGOs often take advantage of the critical mass of people attending an official PrepCom to hold planning meetings of their own. A U.N. official remarked regarding NGO participation, “It’s better if they can be there at the beginning, because the first round is actually shaping what is the agenda.” Much of the platform for action is written at the PrepCom, and consensus is developed there. Major areas of dissent are left for the final summit. Those NGOs who are prepared to engage official delegations at PrepComs can contribute to outcomes.

  • Create or support mechanisms to strengthen diverse voices. A funder who worked on the International Conference on Population and Development realized early on in the process that one group of religious leaders — that wasn’t reflective of the diversity of opinion on reproductive and gender issues — was likely to dominate the discussion. In response, the grantmaker and her colleagues convened a more diverse set of religious leaders “to think through perspectives before the con- ference. We did not support groups to hammer out U.N. language. We brought people together to hammer out ideas, concepts, and strategies that, even without the conference, would have been useful.”

  • Support targeted policy research. Research on a summit topic, provided it is undertaken well in advance, can help to inform advocacy and media outreach. As an expert on foreign funding trends observed, for donors who are trying to address particularly sensitive topics, or who support work in difficult environments, “supporting research can be a moderate start to bringing up controversial issues.”

Logistical and Navigational

  • Fund travel assistance for participating grantees.

  • Ensure that grantees know about accreditation and how to work within a U.N. summit process. The rules of access to U.N. summits and their PrepComs are complex and can vary from summit to summit. “Funders should check with grantees to be sure they know how to become accredited to the official conference and should connect them with other NGOs who are more experienced with the U.N.”

  • Fund advance orientation activities. World summits and NGO forums can seem like international bazaars of immense proportions, and grantees can easily become stymied by logistical obstacles or lose sight of strategic goals. Grantmakers should ensure that grantees are fully conversant with the summit process and rules for NGOs, procedures for participating in the NGO and government forums, the layout and logistics of the host country and city, and how to make the best use of their time.

  • Provide targeted support to the summit secretariat. While the host country and some U.N. member states assume the lion’s share of a summit’s costs, in some instances there may be reasons to support the summit’s organizing body as the process moves along.

  • Support daily briefings for NGOs. At the summit itself, daily NGO briefings have proven indispensable in recapping events of the day before, highlighting the risks or opportunities of the day ahead, mustering support for particular positions on emerging issues, and providing opportunities for dialogue with U.N. and government representatives.

  • Support daily bulletins or newspapers. Like daily briefings, daily bulletins or newspapers at a summit can help grantees track progress in the official negotiations and where they should concentrate their attention on any given day.

Infrastructure and Capacity Building

  • Fund advocacy training and activities. PrepComs can provide good opportunities for grantees to learn more about effective advocacy — what works with policy makers and what doesn’t. The advocacy skills that grantees acquire can be useful not only for the summit process but also in their work back home. Besides trying to contribute to the public debate, grantee advocacy can also encourage governments to include NGOs in their delegations or simply buy-in to the summit process itself. Advocacy that encourages engagement by the host country government can also be important to ensure that it is committed to the success of the NGO forum and other civil society events that accompany the summit.

  • Provide planning support for the NGO forum. NGO forums provide critical venues for civil society groups to try to influence summit outcomes, to attract world attention to their views, and to meet and build rela- tionships with one another. Early support for the nuts and bolts of forum planning can be crucial.

  • Help build the capacity of host country groups, including linkages with foreign counterparts. There are many good reasons for support- ing host country groups. For one thing, those groups often play a central role in planning for the NGO forum, and can benefit from advance assistance. For another, the opportunities to build their overall capacity are too good to miss.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from World Summits and Conferences.