The Executive Director of the Community of Solidarity Organizations (COS) explains the challenges in terms of the role, articulation and innovation areas of civil society. In addition, he gives us concepts about the sector and about the role of the Colunga Foundation.
What is the link of the Community of Solidarity Organizations (COS) with Colunga?
We have a bond that has been growing. It was born when Colunga invites us to settle in the building that is in Parque Bustamante. Colunga is also interested, to some extent, in what matters to the COS, which is the strengthening of civil society.
And what is the Community of Solidarity Organizations (COS) doing?
The COS is a second-tier organization, which brings together corporations and foundations that work on issues of poverty and social exclusion. This is a figure that organizations have given themselves, therefore, those who belong do so voluntarily. And what the community does is to work on three fundamental axes: management of collaborative alliances, strengthening of civil society organizations, and public policies, particularly social policies, which have to do with those groups with which the organizations work. that form the community. Policies that affect children, older adults, people with disabilities, young people who do not study or work, people who live on the streets, groups that represent COS.
Both Colunga and COS are part of civil society. What is the civil society?
Broadly speaking, we understand civil society as this third sector, this place where people organize themselves. It is not the citizenship, that tends to be confused. Civil society is where people are organized to address issues of public interest. The public not only belongs to the State, it also interests the citizens when it is organized in foundations, corporations, community organizations, etc. According to Ignacio Irarrázaval (Center for Public Policies UC) 234,000 organizations make up civil society, which is a social fabric, a huge number of organizations, relatively larger than the United States and Australia.
Of these civil society organizations, only 7% are foundations or corporations. This 7% has greater ability to manage resources, mostly affects, groups more people and are more recognized by society.
The The role of civil society in general, in my opinion, is that it is a guarantor of democracy, is the one that monitors the State: for example, when Chile signs a rights convention, such as the Convention on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, it has to report to Geneva how these policies have advanced. Civil society does what is called the shadow report. The State says that it has advanced, and civil society says what has been advanced and what has not.
It also has a role of transparency instituting, that is, to show what the State stopped seeing, and to what the market does not pay attention because it does not interest them and because it is not their role. Make tasks of a social good, of a public good that is always running the limit. In other words, in Chile we would not be talking about gender diversity or sexual diversity if it were not for civil society. In Chile, we would not have defeated child malnutrition. We would not have an Emilia Law, a Ricarte Soto Law, we would not have a Zamudio law, all pushed by civil society. Civil society puts the issues that the State does not put because it has its own agenda but are urgent for a developed country.
And what is the role that Colunga is playing in this scenario?
Unlike COS, to measure it in parallel, the community groups organizations, raises their needs, is there attentive and articulates. Colunga has an enormous value, because I believe that Colunga is one step above the COS, because as it is an organization that does not have to manage organizations, all its capacity is installed looking at what is happening in civil society, with one leg in the State, another to put in the business, and another leg put out. And Colunga has the possibility, and I would dare to say the duty, and the responsibility to enlighten the Chilean civil society bringing good experiences, showing things that are happening outside, helping to innovate, helping to think, raising reflections, even bringing methodologies that can be useful for civil society.
Colunga, in fact, has a series of networks in the building, that is, the Impact ability is very high. Why? The capacity of amplify the voice of what they can bring us is much bigger. So my experience, what I understand of Colunga, which also raises funds, finances things, puts the building for all of us, it has to be the voice of innovation that moves the themes for civil society. And they are looking at international experiences, they have the capacity to study, to be looking at things that we who are in the management and in the territories, do not see.
And the COS can be an articulator of what Colunga is doing, but it is looking at what is happening in its organizations, and articulating public policies with the State, more in the contingency than in the future. Colunga can look or help us look at the future together. Where Colunga has a role of innovation and future congress for civil society organizations. That's how I see it. I believe that when they put this building, they were visionaries. Because they did not put it on recently. They put it many years ago. But they have a look of the future.
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