Convergence point for civil society

By Feryal Domingo, Operations Director, Inyathelo

This article is also available in Inyathelo's Annual Report

The Inyathelo Civil Society Sustainability Centre is now fully operational. Within the Centre, in creative Woodstock, the Hub provides a supportive, innovative yet cost-effective professional space for civil society organisations. It is rapidly entrenching Inyathelo as the convergence point for civil society and philanthropists, where opinions and support are garnered, resolutions made, and issues affecting civil society are addressed – in the same way that the Constitutional Court functions as a physical representation of the constitution.

Convergence point for civil society

The focus in 2015 has been to settle down after the move and to promote the facilities, while hosting a robust round of activities. All six rental offi ces were fully leased. Parking bays were leased to organisations in the area, as well as two Inyathelo tenants, three SMMEs and one NGO.

The 250m² conference/meeting space includes state-of-the-art audio-visual and IT infrastructure and was promoted through an offer of free use of conference space to fi rst-time clients. There was a steady fl ow of booking enquiries, with a total of 49 external bookings for the financial year. The majority of users were NGOs, with fewer than five corporate users.


Key accomplishments


Physical environment influences how people feel, how they think and interact. All three conditions have a signifi cant impact on the quantity and quality of output in the life of an organisation. Inyathelo’s civil society hub space gave special attention to how our various stakeholders and employees would experience the space. Our primary intention was for people to feel welcome as soon as they entered our premises. We also wanted to incorporate the fl uidity of our work in the hub design, so we have tried to ensure that it allows for flexibility and change in ways that incorporate our different working formats whenever required.

As different stages of work process require different modes of operation, we incorporated transformable workspaces, so whether you are in deep discussion, are brainstorming or have invited a mass of people to be part of an information sharing session, the hub layout allows for different iterations of our use of space. For the Inyathelo staff, niche working zones have also been designated, allowing us to be separate from the open space while still engaging with the team overall. As an added experience to the learning interventions that our guests were attending, we wanted to ensure that there were other ways that our guests could experience the resources we offer. Our new offices have allowed us to showcase our resource centre, library, donor database; as well as show the meeting spaces, workstations, auditorium and training facilities that we are encouraging civil society to make use of.

What was most striking in 2015 was the opportunity to host programme grantees, programme benefi ciaries and visitors in our hub. Being able to host at our own offi ces meant an opportunity for all Inyathelo staff to interact with different audiences and for those audiences to interact, know and work with staff across the organisation.

Our civil society hub has become a space that allows us to interpret our work, showcasing a more holistic approach to our services, offering multiple entry points and encouraging a variety of experiences. Inyathelo offered a range of programmes, products and services in the new space during 2015-2016.


Resource Centre and Library

Our clients engaged with the resources in multiple ways, including:

FundingFinder: This online donor database provided useful information, hints and tips on how to approach donors; who to contact and how; and what activities and sectors are supported by donors. A total of 329 clients benefi tted from FundingFinder in 2015-2016.

Breakfast on the second floor: Some 112 clients and other visitors attended the regular debates, on key contextual issues, as part of our work to strengthen organisations and institutions in civil society. These provided a forum for energetic and provocative engagement.

Get Resourceful Sessions: Some 285 visitors attended the monthly get-togethers, as part of our efforts to empower and sustain organisations by sharing useful resources, tips, experience and expertise on the Ten Elements of Advancement. There was no charge to attend these interactive training sessions. The sessions were also tweeted, filmed and blogged about so that the learnings could be shared more widely online. Pinterest boards were created for each of the Ten Elements of Advancement to curate and share useful resources. These boards were integrated into our online resource portal (www.askinyathelo.org.za).

Donor Dragons’ Den: A total of 218 visitors attended this new Inyathelo event, which enable civil society staff and supporters to learn more about how donors decide which organisations, programmes and projects to fund. It formed part of our broader efforts to strengthen civil society by facilitating a greater understanding between grant seekers and grant makers in South Africa.