By Cristina Prego Tramuja, President of ANONG, member of Forus in Uruguay 

Between 2018 and 2020, the Asociación Nacional de ONG (ANONG), together with Forus, was part of the capacity development project “Strengthening organized civil society: towards more society, towards more rights”. It was a valuable opportunity that allowed us to make our dialogues more complex and to analyse in context so as to capitalise on our know-how for the purpose of public policy advocacy. 

The series developed by the project encouraged forums for discussiontraining; and the elaboration of collective positions that allowed the development of a political and conceptual base, which was successfully applied to other areas of the platform's activities, to governmental dialogues, and to other actors from organised civil society.  

The main axes of the discussion were centered on the role of civil society organisations as political actors promoting social change. This involved discussing the need to evenly manage the following: proposals; the construction of methodological alternatives; complaints; demands; political tensions; and the collective efforts among organisations, groups, and individuals with whom we work. 

This search for overall change implies substantive changes in social relations; in power relations; and in the consistent management of this privileged position that organisations occupy through handling information, through having spaces for dialogue with different actors, and through managing societies' public resources - a wealth often produced by the people more greatly affected by inequality. 

Within this process, autonomy is transformed into one of the major challenges: autonomy from governments, political parties, aid workers, the market. What does this entail? How much autonomy is possible in this context of restrictions on the enabling environment? How can we build alliances without losing autonomy? With whom can we build them? What are the possible concessions? These questions and others came up again and again in the dialogues, often raising more questions than answers. 

The social, economic and political backdrop - not just at a national level, but also regionally and globally - continues tset civil society organisations against the permanent challenge of creativity. We are forced to rethink policy-making from a social perspective, to establish a different narrative of our own that allows us to see ourselves as distinct actors, to recognise our full worth, and for our partners to do the same. The project allowed us to strengthen and reaffirm the idea that policymaking from within civil society means promoting deep and lasting transformations based on the promotion of an active, critical civic engagement on the part of everyone: a difficult but necessary task; a constant challenge.