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SICA Success Stories

USAID Enhances Expertise and Builds Capacity of NGOs in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, non-governmental organizations often obtain funding through state social contracts (SSC). Within this system, the government provides financial support to NGOs working to address significant social issues. Though the government provides guidelines on how to apply for state social contracts, many NGOs still struggle to secure them due to insufficient understanding of procedural details. To address this issue and improve NGOs’ chances of winning SSCs, the NGO Zhayik Tany ["The Dawn of Zhayik River" in Kazakh] created a comprehensive roadmap and recommendations to help both government agencies and NGOs procure and execute projects that tackle social issues.

When Gulbarshyn Mushtanova, a former schoolteacher and university lecturer, founded Zhayik Tany in 2016, she struggled to secure project funding. These struggles stemmed in large part from a lack of knowledge about SSC application procedures. "I encountered numerous unanswered questions and lacked a resource center to guide me on how to prepare SSC funding applications. As a result, I had to learn through trial and error," she recalls. During the first year, Gulbarshyn submitted 24 project applications, but unfortunately, none of them received SSC funding. It was at this point that she recognized the pressing need for a resource center to assist individuals and organizations in navigating SSC procedures effectively.

Today, Zhayik Tany provides essential consultation, training, and support to other NGOs applying for state social contracts. In 2022, the organization achieved a significant milestone by winning a USAID-funded Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA) program Institutional Development Grant. With the SICA grant, Zhayik Tany developed comprehensive guidelines on how to acquire SSC funding and pursue projects with confidence.

The main objective of the project is to educate individuals about SSC regulations. "State social contracts serve as a method of addressing social issues and involve three parties: the government [procurer] providing SSC funding, the NGO [vendor] offering mechanisms to solve a given social problem, the ultimate beneficiaries of the project. Questions arise at all stages of the application process," explains Gulbarshyn.

She continues: "Until now, there were no detailed guidelines explaining each stage of the SSC procedure. Thanks to the SICA grant, we conducted extensive research, including surveys of ultimate beneficiaries and in-depth interviews with NGOs and government agencies responsible for SSC implementation." Based on this research, the organization formulated a roadmap and two sets of recommendations: one for government agencies to improve SSC legislation and regulations, and another for NGOs to submit successful applications.

With the SICA grant, the organization also conducted a three-day seminar-training for NGOs and government agencies on monitoring and evaluation of state social contracts. During the seminar, one of the participants, Kuanysh Kozhakhmet, learned about a state social contract opportunity offered by Mangystau’s regional civil alliance. Kuanysh’s project won the competition, securing funding for the installation of a children's playground in his village.

"The village I live in lacked playgrounds for children," explains Kuanysh. "Like many other parents, we eagerly awaited the installation of children's playgrounds in our village. However, it was during the [Zhayik Tany] training that I realized I could proactively apply for the necessary funds myself without depending on external assistance."

Thanks to Zhayik Tany’s assistance, Kuanysh established an NGO that provides training to local residents on local self-governance and legal and financial literacy. The NGO also serves as his village’s resource center, where he and colleagues help local residents address social issues via meetings with local government and other means.

According to Gulbarshyn, with the SICA grant, Zhayik Tany has significantly expanded its expertise in SSC, moving beyond mere service provision for NGOs. "We have now become true experts in SSC procedures. Every day, we receive requests from NGOs seeking assistance with report preparation, topic definition, and supplier selection," she says.

"It fills me with pride to witness these NGOs actively advocating for their rights during the formation of SSC contracts, scoring, and determining winners. The presence of a robust and engaged civil society is essential for the country's genuine development, and our goal is to continue empowering NGOs to become a powerful force for good," concludes Gulbarshyn.

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