DFID’s partnerships with civil society organisations

We are conducting a performance review to assess the extent to which DFID’s funding, and the influencing work of DFID and other departments, are achieving DFID’s objectives for its work with CSOs


Political rights and civil liberties are under threat around the world, and over the past decade, have declined in half of DFID’s 34 priority countries.

Similarly, the global Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operating space has shrunk in a variety of ways. Between 2012 and early 2016, countries on every continent have imposed legal restrictions on CSOs, and every year the number of new restrictions exceeded the number of restrictions imposed the year before.

In response to what it calls “worrying global trends of greater restrictions, intimidation and violence against civic actors”, DFID has committed to scale up support for a healthy, free civil society that can champion anti-corruption, transparency and promote debate, enabling CSOs to operate in a free environment without unduly restrictive legislative and regulatory burdens.

Our review will assess the relevance, effectiveness and learning processes surrounding DFID’s relationship with and funding of civil society since the commissioning of its Civil Society Partnerships Review in May 2015.


The scope of our review includes central, in-country and multilateral methods of funding (including both grants and contracts), as well as DFID’s work to help build the capacity of CSOs to deliver. The review will also assess the efforts of DFID and other UK government departments in DFID’s priority countries to maintain and expand these countries’ civic space.

This review will not assess DFID’s funding for research institutes, people’s movements, business and trade associations, DFID’s volunteering grants, the UK’s global efforts to protect civic space in countries other than DFID priority countries, or engagement between DFID and CSOs about UK Aid policies.

Our review will build on the OECD’s mid-term review of DFID, which considered changes in DFID’s engagement with CSOs, its evolving methods of funding, funding mentality and choice of CSO partners. It will also build on our 2013 review of DFID’s support for CSOs through Programme Partnership Arrangements, by exploring how DFID’s civil society partnerships have evolved since then and how issues and shortcomings identified in that review have been addressed through new funds.

Review questions

Through a combination of a strategic review, learning review, assessments of individual grants and funds, as well as two country case studies, this review will answer the following review questions:

  • How well does DFID’s approach to partnership with CSOs reflect DFID’s CSO objectives and priorities?
  • How well does DFID’s funding for CSOs and related influencing work contribute to better development results and a more effective civil society sector?
  • How well does DFID promote learning in its partnerships with CSOs?

Approach paper

For more information read the full approach paper:

ICAI approach paper – DFID’s partnerships with civil society organisations