Financial sustainability, and the inner-life of youth-led organisations in Medellin, Colombia

Research Abstract

The thesis examines the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in development, by inquiring into their capacity to articulate and enact ‘alternative solutions’ towards social transformation (Banks, Hulme, & Edwards, 2015).

More specifically, the thesis enhances our knowledge of how youth-led CSOs engage with the shrinking availability of funding for civil society. The argument I develop is that while seeking financial sustainability, youth-led CSOs in Medellin experience and must navigate the tension between official development discourses that promote competitiveness, innovation, the creation of employment and economic growth, and their own commitment to the co-creation of meaning around spaces, ideas, and practices that help people be together, reflect on their reality, and express themselves.  The need for financial stability challenges CSOs to creatively find ways of integrating their work with the evolving realities of the city, and I argue that their relationship with funding sits at the nexus of different narratives of social transformation. While this process of navigation is challenging, it has the potential to bring forward and sustain a civil society focused on new ways of being and doing, nourishing opportunities and methodologies for practicing coexistence, with other people and with nature, as ‘intrinsically important’.

The backbone of this research is a cooperative inquiry called ‘Plata, Cultura, y Cambio’ (Spanish for ‘Money, Culture, and Change’) which, over the course of ten months, engaged ten leaders of grassroots, youth-led CSOs in Medellin, Colombia, in a process of self-reflection (first person inquiry), and collective analysis, and exploration of their organisational cultures and practices (second person inquiry) (Heron & Reason, 1997; Reason & Bradbury, 2008). The findings from this action research process contribute to a deeper understanding of the world-views of the leaders of youth-led CSOs in Medellin.

Key Words: Youth, CSOs, funding models, organisational culture, Medellin (Colombia), cooperative inquiry.


A short video to glimpse in the research 😀