Stefaan Verhulst

20 February, 2018

This is the first of two blogs on Data Collaboratives by Stefaan G. Verhulst of The Governance Lab. Data Collaboratives are an emerging public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors come together to exchange data and pool analytical expertise. Their potential is great, offering new solutions to old problems and making International Civil Society Organisations more effective.

The need for innovation is clear: The twenty-first century is shaping up to be one of the most challenging in recent history. From climate change to income inequality to geopolitical upheaval and terrorism: the difficulties confronting international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are unprecedented not only in their variety but also in their complexity. At the same time, today’s practices and tools used by ICSOs seem stale and outdated. Increasingly, it is clear, we need not only new solutions but new methods for arriving at solutions.

Data will likely become more central to meeting these challenges. We live in a quantified era. It is estimated that 90% of the world’s data was generated in just the last two years. We know that this data can help us understand the world in new ways and help us meet the challenges mentioned above. However, we need new data collaboration methods to help us extract the insights from that data. MORE

Claudia Juech

13 February, 2018

If you do an internet search for ‘data-driven disruption’ you can find articles about almost every industry being disrupted by digitalisation and new applications of data. Banking, transportation, healthcare, retail, and real estate, all have seen the emergence of new business models fundamentally changing how customers use their services. While there are instances of data-driven efforts in the nonprofit sector, they are not as widespread as they can be. Bridgespan Group estimated in 2015 that only 6% of nonprofits use data to drive improvements in their work.  

At the same time, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have set a very ambitious global change agenda and we won’t be able to meet their targets by doing business as usual. To achieve the SDGs requires new ideas across the board: new solutions, new sources of funding, new ways of delivering services and new approaches to collaborating within and across social, public and private sectors.   MORE

Duncan Cook

6 February, 2018

Chapter 1: The Internet 

Today I read a journal article about the charity sector reaching a ‘digital tipping point’. My immediate thought was, “It’s 2018 and we have to ask ourselves is the civil society sector only now talking about a ‘digital tipping point'”.

The introduction of the internet and its plethora of services, knowledge sharing and mass communications has changed humanity for good and for bad. 

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say the charity sector missed the opportunity to truly use this new and exciting platform for good, yes there are some good exceptions. However, in general, we missed a big opportunity, instead, we let the commercial world dominate the direction and were left simply as consumers of those services and platforms.   MORE

Thomas Howie

30 January, 2018

The International Civil Society Centre is hosting its second Innovators Forum on 27-28 February 2018. The Forum will explore the benefits and possible uses of Blockchain and Big Data in the civil society sector. Before the Forum, guest authors will dive into specific examples or innovations around digitalisation and digital technology, in this week’s blog we want to give a brief overview of the main terms and some examples of their uses.

Many CSOs around the world have realised the potential linked to both Blockchain and Big Data and are currently experimenting with how these technologies can support their work.

Big Data – what is that?

The term Big Data refers to extremely large datasets that can be analysed for trends and correlations by connecting different data on a large scale. Due to the size and complexity of the data sets used, new links and patterns can be uncovered. This means that problems that were previously not possible – or simply too complex! – to explain can now be tackled. Most CSOs work with Big Data to improve knowledge about marginalised or ignored groups of people and to identify better ways to serve them. Here are three examples how: MORE

Åsa Månsson

23 January, 2018

Digitalisation is having an enormous influence on the new infrastructure of global society in the 21st century. It is changing the playing field as we speak and forcing us to adapt quickly to new circumstances, changing the way we see ourselves and our organisations. The World Economic Forum talks about the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” when describing the current digital revolution.[1] MORE

Ilina Nesik

16 January, 2018

In recent years, governments around the world have responded to increased activism, protests and political engagement of citizens and various civil society actors with cracking down on civic space. Unfortunately, these trends have not passed the Western Balkans and Turkey by either.

As restrictions on foreign funding (in Kosovo, Turkey), barriers to registration (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey), intervention in CSOs’ internal affairs (Macedonia and Turkey), negative narratives (Serbia and Macedonia), and declining public trust in civil society in almost all of the countries become the new normal in this region, civil society and donors are going to have to adapt to this context: MORE

Ezgi Akarsu

9 January, 2018

It can be difficult to explain just what it is that Accountable Now does. Most of my friends and family still don’t understand it. Indeed, save for those who are directly working on accountability issues in relation to civil society organisations (CSOs), most people still equate accountability with simply getting an organisation’s accounts in order.

However, to us it is much more than that – a dynamic approach encapsulating all aspects of an organisation’s operations, from inclusive and sustainable practices to engaging stakeholders in the design and implementation of policies and programmes.

As we celebrate Accountable Now’s 10th anniversary in 2018, I am excited to see how far we have come in our understanding and practice of accountability.  In the past year alone, Accountable Now has taken a number of steps to advance our approach to accountability. I would like to highlight three of these and shed some light on what exactly we have been working on. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

2 January, 2018

One year ago I reviewed the political environment in which civil society had to act and drew some conclusions for the year 2017. I expressed my expectation that “we will not succumb to Brexit and Trump” and demanded: “We urgently need to come together in a powerful global movement to defend tolerance against the intolerant, pluralism and the rule of law against authoritarianism, and our future as a global community against chauvinism and xenophobia.” What has happened in this respect over the past twelve months?

Oppressing citizens’ freedoms has become mainstream

As I write these lines the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, announces that he will not seek a second term in office due to the “appalling” climate for human rights advocacy. From our own work on citizens’ rights, we know exactly what he means: during the past year several activists who worked with us and signed the Civic Charter were imprisoned, and many citizens and their organisations suffered from increased oppression and persecution. To name just one example: ActionAid Uganda, with a very impressive history of concrete achievements in the country, suffers from a range of oppressive measures by the government including their offices being raided by the police and their bank accounts frozen.

The ethic of solidarity is being replaced by the “survival of the fittest” MORE

Isabelle Buechner

19 December, 2017

In 2015 the nine Accountability Initiatives from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, supported by the International Civil Society Centre, began working together to the develop the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. On 6 December 2017 the Global Standard was officially launched during a session at the International Civil Society Week in Suva, Fiji. Participants came from all over the world to learn more about this tool and exchange ideas to promote dynamic CSO accountability. The following are my five main takeaways from the event:

1. A standard at the global level can only be a reference
The Global Standard is a reference standard that different organisations can use in various forms. Each CSO can decide what aspects of the Global Standard are the most useful to itself and to its members, and at which moment in time. Being a reference for reflection, discussion and change, it can be adapted to different cultural, geographical and organisational needs. The participants of our launch widely agreed that is an important quality of the Global Standard that it does not impose a set of guidelines in a top-down manner. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

12 December, 2017

When civil society organisations (CSOs) speak about power they usually refer to the power of others, and they refer to power in negative terms: power is used to oppress and exploit, power corrupts. However, such a simplistic and prejudiced understanding of power is an obstacle to CSOs’ endeavours to achieve their missions. Our sector needs to change its understanding of power in order to increase its effectiveness.

Embracing POWER as a positive concept

When looking up the definition of power in a dictionary we find that power is simply “the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way”[1]. Power as such is neither positive nor negative. It is necessary in order “to do something”, be it good or bad. This means CSOs need power to achieve the positive aims they are working for. They are part of the eternal power struggle between good and bad, egotism and altruism, short-term gains and long-term sustainability, etc. In this context it is not only necessary for CSOs to strive for maximum power, it is ethically desirable, as long as CSOs use their power consistently and effectively to attain their mission. MORE