The Civil Society of the Year Award (CSOYA) is an initiative of CRECO designed to strengthen the capabilities of civil society and community based organisations to discharge their mandate more effectively and on a sustainable basis started in 2007. In pursuit of its mandate of supporting and promoting member organizations and in furtherance of the ideals of the National Civil Society Congress, CRECO conceived the Civil Society of the Year Awards (CSOYA) as a mechanism to gauge status of its members and inspire their desire for growth and change. As a founding member of Viwango which is a national CSOs certification mechanism that promotes standards of excellence in competence and sustainability of CSOs in Kenya; and as a consortium seeking to strengthen civil society organizations through providing leadership in excellence and self-regulation, CRECO sought to recognize the important role civil society organizations play in the democratization process in Kenya. 

The CSOYA Awards have now run for seven years consecutively awarding civil society organizations and community based organizations in the Democracy and Governance Sector for their exemplary work and to encourage them to seek self-regulation towards achievement of their objectives.

CSOYA arose out of the realization that civil society organisations have had unique success stories that needed to be shared and replicated as well as challenges that needed to be addressed particularly in governance and performance and in monitoring and evaluation. The idea of capacity development, knowledge management and innovation and sustainability for civil society organizations also gained currency subsequently and influenced the parameters for assessment.

Therefore while the first two years the assessments were based on three core components namely Performance, Governance and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E); modifications were done subsequently in 2009 to include Financial Management category and in 2010 to include Sustainability. In 2011 the assessment parameters were overhauled and changed to leadership, management and governance; human resources and talent management; productivity and community focus. In 2012, after further interrogation, the award assessment parameters were modified to cover Performance Management, Governance and Management, Financial Management, M&E and Sustainability.

A team of civil society experts and practitioners continuously engaged in improving the award process by taking into consideration the diverse nature of non-profit organizations, the diverse sectors they operate in and the basic organizational standards that apply nationally and internationally and the lessons learnt during the award process. This would also entail review of the self-assessment tools and inclusion of feedback from the award participants. This would be done annually after each award ceremony. Documentation and publishing of the process and the award winners would also be done annually.

These regular reviews and opportunity for learning are an indicator that CSOYA has not only been a facilitator of change and growth, but has in and of itself been undergoing continuous improvement. These depict CSOYA as an award champion that is also positioned to be a centre of excellence.

Seven years on, there is realisation that the civil society sector has need to establish a mechanism for rewarding and recognising quality work and strengthening innovation, knowledge management, skills sharing and capacity development. To date there has not been a sector-wide mechanism that focuses on these aspects. Through this award processes it was also noted that innovation, knowledge management, skills sharing and capacity development were glaring needed across board, from large international and national CSOs to the local CBOs.

Reengineering of CSOYA would enable CSOYA to grow into the sector wide award process that is also inbuilt with facilitation and support to CSOs in capacity development, knowledge management and innovation. It will enable CSOYA to generate centres of excellence (CoE) across the nation and also in and of itself to be a centre of excellence in establishing CSOs Quality Standards. Various CSOs identified as leaders in different categories (or aspects) will be established as centres of excellence and through these CoEs, other CSOs will have opportunity to learn from and to benchmark themselves against the CoEs.