European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

Strengthening LGBTI organisations and communities

Thriving LGBTI organisations are the cornerstone of a flourishing LGBTI movement. When functioning well, they are the muscles that carry the work towards change for LGBTI people forward.

LGBTI organisations differ greatly in size, structure and focus. Some work only on advocacy; some focus on community work by providing various services and some mix these advocacy and community approaches together. Some are very well established and run smoothly without any major organisational obstacles. Others are young and might not have much experience. Some organisations are membership-based; others are led by small groups of dedicated activists. Many activists work in hostile environments and face great organisational challenges.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ option when it comes to organisational approach; all of them can work perfectly in a certain context. Identifying the organisational structure that will achieve full equality for LGBTI people and work best in a particular country situation – that is what is most important to us.

In order to pick the approach that works best, LGBTI organisations will have to discuss several things: prioritising issues, how to coherently and strategically plan their work, how to have functional internal structures, and to monitor and evaluate outputs and outcomes efficiently.

Having the organisational capacity to achieve their objectives is essential for LGBTI organisations – not only because it sets the agenda of the public and political debate, but it also helps to create coalitions of allies that can support common struggles.

LGBTI organisations often undertake community development – and for a very important reason. Having the backing of the wider LGBTI community gives greater legitimacy to the projects being carried out by the LGBTI organisations. Community development can mean lots of things, for example:

  • counselling, setting up telephone help-lines or putting supports in place for ‘coming out’
  • running social events for the LGBTI community
  • gathering community representation for taking legal cases
  • developing advocacy strategies for legal changes
  • increasing public awareness with information communication strategies
  • organising cultural and social events for the wider community so as to educate re LGBTI lives/history and culture.  

LGBTI organisations need to take their role as community leaders very seriously. They must be representative of the reality that LGBTI people live in. When LGBTI organisations are advocating for equality, they will only receive community support if they are seen as legitimate and honest ambassadors for that community. The LGBTI community needs LGBTI organisations, and vice versa.