Strengthening civil society to improve the quality of life is a central goal of the AKDN. Civil society is increasingly recognised globally as a building block for democracy and economic development. AKDN understands civil society in the broadest sense as civic institutions working for the public good, therefore, a strong civil society can enhance social cohesion and pluralism, advance meritocracy, ethics and standards of quality, act as a bulwark against volatility in times of crisis, and protect communities against state failure.
AKDN works with the civil society sector to improve its accountability, transparency, integrity, and cooperation with government and the private sector. Ultimately, its aim is to improve the quality of life by strengthening the ability of local communities, NGOs, small businesses and governments to become more self-reliant and realise their own goals. The East African Institute (EAI) of the Aga Khan University is an example of a regional platform that uses policy-oriented research and analysis for public engagement. Its research focuses on youth, urbanization, food systems, education, the extractive sector, growth and inequality. The EAI advances it work and impact through building partnerships with government, civil society, media, academia, business sector and local communities. In Coastal Kenya, the “Citizen Voice in Devolved Governance” project is developing a vibrant civil society by assisting selected organisations in Kwale County to better communicate, innovate and engage with government. It works with networks of 280 community-based organisations to increase civic engagement in the development and implementation of county government programmes. It also responds to local priorities with effective programming, measures and documents results, and shares its lessons with governments, donors, and development actors to amplify impact by influencing enabling policies and practice.