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About the GGLN

The GGLN was founded in 2003 as an initiative to bring together civil society organisations working in the field of local governance in South Africa to network and share information and lessons towards the goal of strengthening participatory democratic local governance. Now in its third phase (2010 – 2012), the network has taken on a more active focus on positively impacting on the local governance context in South Africa through collective learning, research and information dissemination.


The GGLN’s vision is to create a strong civil society network that harnesses and builds the collective expertise and energy of its members to contribute meaningfully to building a system of participatory and developmental local government in South Africa.


The objectives of the network are to:
  • Share information and learning about local governance by creating an interface for organisations working in this arena;
  • Document and disseminate best practices as well as produce information and research outputs that are of benefit to various stakeholders involved in local governance processes, including communities and local governments;
  • Advocate for changes in policy and practice to promote participatory local governance;
  • Promote the development and replication of innovative models for participatory local governance and pro-poor development at the local level;
  • Generate partnerships between civil society organisations, and between civil society and government at various levels, to strengthen local governance processes.


The GGLN is underpinned by the following set of values, to which all members of the network commit themselves:

  • Participatory and pro-poor governance
  • Non-partisanship
  • Constructive engagement with government and other stakeholders
  • Working together in the interests of achieving the network’s objectives
  • Sharing the benefits of membership of the network amongst active members
  • Building the capacity of member organisations of the network

Who are the members of the GGLN?

The core members of the GGLN are South African non-profit organisations that are dedicated to promoting participatory, pro-poor local governance and development in South Africa. A list of the full members of the network can be found in related items. Additional information can be found here.

Who hosts the GGLN and how is the network managed?

The Secretariat of the GGLN is hosted by Isandla Institute in Cape Town, South Africa.  The Secretariat co-ordinates the implementation of the GGLN programmes and manages the funding for the GGLN. A Reference Group, consisting of six individuals from member organisations of the GGLN, functions as the advisory and oversight body of the network.


Who funds the GGLN?

The GGLN is funded by the CS Mott Foundation and GIZ. For more information on the current funders of the GGLN, click here.


The GGLN was initially conceived of as an initiative of the Ford Foundation to bring its civil society grantees involved in local governance-related activities together to network, share experiences and lessons, and explore opportunities for collaborations and partnerships.  In January 2003, the Ford Foundation convened a roundtable discussion on ‘Citizen Participation and Local Governance’ in Cape Town, which was attended by representatives of six NGOs - the Foundation for Contemporary Research (FCR), Fair Share, Afesis-corplan, Democracy Development Programme (DDP), Centre for Public Participation (CPP), and the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) – as well as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and two donor agencies, the Ford Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

At the roundtable, organisations were invited to present their experiences of citizen participation and local government and their programmatic interventions within the arena of local governance.  It emerged that NGOs in the local government sector typically utilise one or more of three different intervention strategies. These are:

(i)    research and monitoring;

(ii)   training and capacity building; and

(iii)   communication, lobbying and advocacy.

While clearly some NGOs have individually employed these strategies very successfully to make an effective impact on local governance policy and practice, there was agreement among the participants that building alliances and partnerships with other organisations could enable NGOs to incorporate a wider range of strategies and broaden their impact, which would contribute to a more comprehensive, integrated civil society intervention strategy in the local governance sector. 

Thus the idea of creating a loose network to sustain the interaction between local governance NGOs to share experiences, learning, good practices and ways of improving their interventions was implemented. In September 2003 the Foundation for Contemporary Research (FCR), on behalf of the other NGOs at the meeting, successfully applied to the Ford Foundation for  funding for a series of learning events over the period from September 2003 to August 2006.

At the first meeting of the network, in January 2004, the discussions focussed on clarifying the nature and objectives of the network, the lessons that could be taken from the experiences of other learning networks, which additional organisations or individuals would be invited to participate, how best learning could be structured, and what the learning agenda of the network would be. The theme of Integrated Development Planning was set for the first learning event. Thereafter, the themes for future events were selected collectively by participants at the events.

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