In 2015 Greenpeace India had all their assets frozen by the Indian Government and was accused of a slew of allegations related to funding they received from foreign donors. Suddenly, it became clear that the space for civil society to act as a healthy mediator was becoming less certain. This was true even in democracies around the world and for international civil society organisations (ICSOs), which typically enjoy a privileged status in many countries. The environment in India specifically had gotten so hostile that even colleagues from Plan International – a perceivably less politically outspoken organisation than Greenpeace – said it had trouble getting their staff visas to travel to India. MORE
One of the first things I did after taking on the role of Deputy Executive Director was to review the Centre’s progress against its first 5-year strategic framework that would end roughly two years later. We came to two major conclusions: firstly, we had more or less achieved our objectives, even though we still had 2 years left until the “deadline”. Secondly, we were already focusing on completely different challenges, and our working environment had changed significantly in a way no one had foreseen when writing the original strategic framework. For example, some of the activities we had started in the meantime, might not even fit with the original framework and would have to be stopped if we were to stick to our original plan seriously. MORE
When the 19 member countries and the EU gathered in Hamburg for the G20 Summit one important topic was not on the agenda: from China to Mexico, Turkey to Russia, Saudi Arabia to India – the respect for fundamental human rights can no longer be taken for granted.
This also holds true for some EU member states such as Hungary or Poland. Freedom of expression, assembly and association are universal human rights enshrined in international law. They are the backbone of any democracy worth its name.
These rights are the precondition for a life in dignity. They are essential for shaping a sustainable future on this planet.
In the year of the organisation’s 10th anniversary, the International Civil Society Centre will use its Disrupt&Innovate blog to reflect on some of our activities and lessons learned.
Over the past decade, the Centre has been working on many areas such as disruptive change, innovation, and business models. With this focus, we have constantly aimed to implement some of the findings from our work into our organisation’s own development. By sharing some of our experiences we hope to inspire others and show how to engage and work with us.
We kick off this special anniversary blog series with an interview with the Centre’s founder Burkhard Gnärig:
In the civil society sector, it can sometimes feel like we are running just to stand still. Changes are going on around us all the time, and faster than ever before. That’s why having the people and ideas to harness those changes is crucial. Those people are called innovators. They work tirelessly to employ changes for the benefit of others, strive to break the mold and create what has never existed before. It’s as challenging as it sounds.
At the International Civil Society Centre we are lucky enough to have gathered the thoughts and experiences of several innovators at the top of their game and the forefront of their sectors. Here we present blogs from those innovators from; CIVICUS, Keystone Accountability, Save the Children, Feedback Labs, Good4Trust, Disberse, The International Civil Society Centre and UNICEF.
“When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say.” – Maggie Kuhn.
In the world today, there are almost two billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24.
Here is an innovation…..what if we listened to them…..to young people? Many are not expecting us to listen, but they are the ones in school. They are the ones preparing for future employment and starting families.
UNICEF tried just this: engaging and listening to young people in real time in 2011. Under the leadership of Dr. Sharad Sapra, UNICEF’s Uganda office developed and tested U-Report, an SMS tool enabling them to share their views on issues confronting them. Now available on Facebook, Twitter and Viber messengers the U-Report members, or ‘U-Reporters’, can respond to polls and submit questions to experts on a range of issues. MORE
Blockchain—it’s a term we often see in newsfeeds and articles but perhaps don’t really understand. We are however supposed to know that, despite its original incarnation as the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, it’s now the hottest technological innovation relevant to all industries and sectors—including the civil society sector.
Ben Joakim, CEO and founder of Disberse, explains that Blockchain is “in essence, a database that stores immutable [i.e. unmodifiable] transactions” on a secure and distributed network, “enabling people to exchange value peer to peer securely and transparently.” In other words, it provides us with a more secure way to interact with each other on the Internet. MORE
Running an agency means that you get the great privilege of working with a variety of organisations. The closeness of these relationships mean that you often get an insight into their innermost workings, and you’re able to see how they operate — the good, the bad and, unfortunately, the ugly.
What’s true across the board, is the drive organisations have to become more innovative and disruptive within their sector. Most organisations understand that it’s something they need to do, but the problem is that most of them are making the same mistakes and, in fact, killing innovation. MORE
Imagine a future where we as humans live in harmony with nature and ourselves. Would you think of this as utopian? It may be so… but is that not what we strive for in social movements and in civil society organisations? So how do we go about it? What we have chosen to work on is a new economic paradigm. MORE
What do people want to make their lives better? Are we helping them get it? If not, what should we be doing differently?
These are simple questions. Sometimes, we mistake them as trivial or think that we already know the answers. When I led a water and sanitation programme in Malawi I believed that people in Malawi needed clean water. I believed I could help them get it by helping local governments build their capacity to construct and repair water infrastructure. I saw plenty of evidence that what I was offering matched what was needed and wanted. I knew about confirmation bias, knew that communities and local government officials were likely to praise my programme rather than risk losing free support, but I believed that I had strong enough relationships to be hearing the truth. MORE