Joining Forces for the Poor: Alliance Building for Social Justice in South Africa

Resource type: Case Study

National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices |

The National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO) is a fairly new joint initiative between non-governmental organisations and donors in South Africa. NADCAO aims to strengthen the country’s crises-ridden community advice office sector and increase access to justice for poor and marginalised communities.

Since the 1930s, community advice offices and paralegals have provided free legal advice, information and support to needy South Africans. Post-1994, they have become key to realising democracy. 

This case study documents NADCAO’s progress, challenges and impact so far, and offers opportunities for learning within the development sector in South Africa and further afield. 

Since its launch in 2007 NADCAO has:

  • Established nine provincial community advice office fora and strengthened provincial-level leadership.
  • Rolled out an electronic case management system to bolster sector-wide lobbying and advocacy efforts.
  • Built alliances with key stakeholders in the community advice office sector, including government.
  • Positioned itself as a key government partner in devising legislation around community advice offices and paralegals.

From its inception and as it has developed, NADCAO has experienced a number of challenges. Some of the alliance-building lessons that this case study offers include:

  • The importance of a pro-active and ongoing process to cultivate synergy among alliance members.
  • The need to clearly define and delineate governance and decision-making structures, as well as mediation and conflict resolution mechanisms, in an alliance from the outset.
  • The necessity of clear specifications and communications around the role and strategies of an alliance.

Atlantic commissioned this report.

The National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices is an Atlantic grantee.