Civil society organisations play an important role in the country’s socio-economic life contributing largely to both democracy and development. These organisations are founded and led by individuals with passion for change in a world full of challenges. Amidst global and national onslaught of constant contestations, growing infringement on rights, shrinking civic space, conflicting deadlines and schedules, limited access to financial resources, break-neck speed of policies, laws and regulations, identifying  and celebrating these leaders that are using their influence, ideas, example, talent and discoveries to shape our country and world is long overdue.

Civil society leaders and their organisations serve millions across communities whose needs are changing rapidly. In these periods of uncertainty and extraordinary times exacerbated by a global pandemic- COVID 19, we need to find models for effective leadership at all levels, across every organisation and the third sector. Asserting leadership and maintaining it in the civil society sector requires balance, a terrain many of the leaders that will be selected have passed through.  That is why we are creating the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) 100 Most Influential Civil Society Leaders of our time as both a recognition of their efforts that goes into the growth of the sector, a means of identifying component elements that determine organisational leadership in the third sector as well as inspiring the next generation of civil society leaders who are passionate about leading change and challenging the Status Quo.

The Process

This is the first time an initiative like this will be developed by civil society for civil society to spotlight respected and inspiriting sector leaders that has through their passion and dedication to duty improved the lives of millions of Nigerians through activities and organisations. The Top 100 civil society leaders in Nigeria list celebrates the energy, innovation, leadership, resilience, and courage of individuals who are working hard to redefine what it means to be a nonprofit leader, build, work and run successful social or third sector organisations. They are role models for what the civil society sector exemplifies — integrity, selflessness, determination, passion, and love. We are interested in nominations from different institutions within the civil society family across the country.

The call was launched in November 2020 with nominations opening on November 6, 2020 and ran through till December 3, 2020 (initially) and further extended till June 2021. Nominations closed on June 30, 2021. Followed by an extensive 3-stage evaluation including formal letters sent via post to the nominees to confirm their information and acceptance or otherwise. Nominees were evaluated by a team of judges along several criteria. The 100 honourees were selected from all over the country.
Judging the process

Judging the process

Judges -individuals from different spheres of life drawn from the full array of civil society, who typically are senior managers in their organisations and respected in their chosen field reviewed all nominations, handpicked potential honourees from the nominnees’ category, and evaluated them along with the 100CSLeaders secretariat. The final list of honourees have been announced across all NNNGO social media platforms including traditional media.


For the process, nominees included 3 layers of qualities: those who came to their status through a) working for their organisation, b) founding their organisation and c) their moral example. They were selected from 6 influence base of the civil society sector: media, academics, religious nonprofits, traditional nonprofits, foundations/philanthropy and associations. Guiding the selection were these flexible criteria:

  • Entrants were required to have 10 or more years of experience, indicating experience managing their organisation through different stages of the nonprofit life cycle.
  • Ability to push societal, behavioural or governmental change through activism/advocacy etc into actual laws/policy review.
  • Lead an organisation with funding and asset starting from 100,000,000 Naira to signal their experience managing money, building trust and ability to fundraise for fulfilling their organisations mission statement.
  • Online accessibility illustrating how committed nominees are to sharing their thoughts and providing easy access to their work and expertise via social media (Facebook and Twitter) and websites.
  • News hits – newspaper, news articles on websites, TV and radio appearances, media mentions from the past 12 months.
  • Dynamic power (audiences, communities, and creative influence) and soft power (what are the nominees doing for the sector with their influence) within the context of the