Ethiopia is a country faced with the twin challenge of development and democratization. To achieve those objectives, poverty has to be overcome; environmental degradation has to be checked; and the democratization process has to be deepened and broadened. While the state necessarily plays a preponderant role in realizing these objectives, Civil Society can also contribute its share. Situated as it is between Society and the State, it is well-placed to mediate between them. The Forum for Social Studies (FSS) had its genesis in considerations of this nature.
The Forum for Social Studies is an independent, non-profit institution dedicated to the cause of policy research and democratizing the policy space through informed public debate of development issues and concerns. It was set up in 1998 by a group of academics and civil society activists. It was established with the twin objectives of conducting policy research and providing a public forum for seasoned and reasoned debate of policy issues. The aim was to go beyond pure academic research - with limited circulation and impact - and to foster instead a tradition of policy-relevant research that is made available to government decision makers, legislators and the general public through public debates and dissemination of the research results. The founders of FSS also hoped to tap the rich experience of retired civil servants and professionals and thereby rectify the lack of continuity in development policy that has been a disturbing feature of Ethiopian life in the past few decades.
FSS began its operations under modest circumstances – in a two-room office and with two of the founding members serving for free as Manager and Editor. Initially, the running costs of the organization were covered through donations from members and friends. It held its inaugural workshop on 18 September 1998 at the Red Cross Training Center on the theme of ‘Issues in Rural Development’. Over the years, FSS has shown steady progress in institutionalizing its management and streamlining its operations. In 2006, the first Strategic Plan (2006-2010) of FSS was drafted in-house by the Management Committee and ratified by the FSS Board.
Following the enactment of the new government proclamation on charities and civil societies (Proc. No. 621/2009), the FSS Constitution has been revised by incorporating the requirements and provisions of the law. This paved the way for the re-registration of the organization as an Ethiopian Residents' Charity for three years starting in October 2009 (registration number 0072).
To help bring about a prosperous and democratic Ethiopia in which civil society and Government will engage in constructive dialogue and work in partnership for the greater public interest.
To catalyze the democratization of the policy making process and enhance public awareness on development opportunities and challenges facing the country.