The civil society sector encompasses a wide and diverse range of initiatives. Therefore, it often helps to develop an understanding of the vocabulary that pervades the sector and to establish whether a common set of definitions can be applied to the use of certain terminology.
This ensures that ideas and concepts are communicated clearly and within a common contextual framework and that any misunderstanding is removed, or at least reduced.
The concept of social software arose in the 1990's, when people became more aware of the potential for communities to form online. However, its earlier incarnation was founded on the need for work-based team collaboration. The political aspects of social software are becoming increasingly important within civil society, as these types of tools allow civil society activists to bypass traditional constraints that prevented the sharing of alternate ideas and specific bodies of knowledge.
A relatively recent phenomenon is the development of a wiki, which is a web article that can be edited online by communities of practise that are drawn to the article or web page. The online editing takes place without moderation and requires courage from the original author who releases the article into the public domain to potentially transform into something unrecognisable.
A Common Language
One of the objectives of the SANGONeT portal is to educate and inform our constituency about issues pertaining to the sector, and this objectve extends to the terminology used when generating content for the portal.
While glossaries aren't necessarily compulsory reading, they provide an effective tool for verifying one's understanding of a concept. Being a glossary, the definitions provided are succinct and to the point. A more analytical interpretation would require that the user explore a far wider range of texts.
The Glossary of Funding and Fundraising Terms by Jill Ritchie is a handy reference tool for newcomers to the field or for those wishing to acquire a more precise terminology for their ongoing activities. It provides definitions for common terms used within our field.
However, whilst these terms and definitions cover many of the basic requirements for those in the local NGO sector, the SANGONeT team is of the view that the resource can be further updated and modified to include both new and amended definitions.
The Future Depends on You!!
Ideally, we would like to develop a resource written for and by South African civil society which informs the use and application of terminology across the local NGO sector.
It should include terms that are uniquely South African, such as the Lotteries Act, section 21 of the Companies Act, and Form 01/1. It should also cover commonly used international terms such as "proposal", ""CSR" and "M&E".
Therefore, we are inviting all interested members from within the local NGO sector to assist by contributing towards this effort. We hope that, by sharing insights and interpretations of the terms that might require greater clarification, we will be able to demonstrate the true value of a community-based wiki.
How to Contribute
Visit the current Glossary of Funding and Fundraising Terms and see if there are any terms that you would like to amend or add to this list. Please send your ideas and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org