Burkhard Gnärig

23 August, 2016

Over the past few months a number of unexpected events such as the refugee crisis, Brexit, and the failed coup in Turkey – followed by increasing repression – have been telling examples of the challenges of disruption. To be better prepared for unexpected and often abrupt changes, civil society organisations (CSOs) must strengthen their efforts to detect disruption early. Working together across the sector and cooperating with other sectors can save costs and, at the same time, improve the quality of findings. Based on this understanding, we initiated the Scanning the Horizon project twelve months ago. In a blog post on 18 August 2015 I wrote:

“The International Civil Society Centre aims to bring together the specialists in strategic foresight from the different CSOs in order to update each other on their activities and to discuss how they can improve the quality of their work by cooperating across sector boundaries. The Scanning the Horizon project’s vision is to build a sustainable structure which continuously scans the horizon for potential disruption.”

Where are we twelve months later and what’s next on our to-do-list? MORE

Giulio Quaggiotto

9 August, 2016

I recently had the opportunity to learn about General Mill’s (the US food giant) “emerging brands elevator” program (also known as 301 Inc). Traditionally, General Mills has grown either through mergers and acquisitions, or by building new businesses from the ground up. Increasingly, however, it found that small brands were much faster at innovation, so it decided to switch its focus and create a “brand elevator”. The program consists of 2 core components:

  1. horizon scanning: to spot the most promising 21_NewPlayersemerging brands;
  2. indispensable partner: to identify ways in which the company can add most value to small, nimble businesses. Often this has less to do with capital injection and more to do with making the expertise and clout of a big multinational available to a small player.

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Craig Zelizer

26 July, 2016

One of the most famous quotes of business in the 20th century comes from Nobel Prize Winning Economist, Milton Friedman, “The business of business is business.” As a leading conservative economist, Friedman believed corporations should largely be left to pursuing profit, which would lead to a social good, as then they would hire more people, pay more taxes, and invest/save their profit.

This approach to business has led to somepexels-photo-large of the highest inequality since the great depression, with the top 1% controlling more than 50% of global wealth, many environmental challenges, and an increasingly disenfranchised workforce. Despite these enormous disruptions, there is an increasing push by key leaders in the business community, government, and nonprofit sectors to increase the role and positive impact of business. Business leaders are increasingly talking about the triple bottom line that business needs to pursue: profit, planet and people. That is a business needs to make money to survive, but that at the same time can have positive impact on the planet and diverse stakeholders. MORE

Virginie Coulloudon and Jed Miller

21 June, 2016

The current blog theme is Digital Accountability, and our guest authors – digital experts from within the civil society sector – recently took part in a four-day CSO Accountability in the Digital Age workshop, facilitated by the INGO Accountability Charter.

INGO_CroppedHere they share the issues explored and outcomes established during this hands-on event. Today’s blog is the second in a series of five.


As citizens in many democracies seek greater participation in public debate, international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are seeking a new model for advocacy: one where supporters become fuller participants in priority-setting and tactics, and where leadership demonstrates accountability to those participants on an ongoing basis.

“People power”, unleashed and expedited by newer technologies, can help ICSOs scale their impact – through crowdsourcing projects, for instance, that harness the input of thousands of unconnected individuals, or through networked campaigns that disseminate not only information but also campaign leadership across hundreds of small groups and thousands of miles.

People power enables ICSOs to augment or even replace traditional tools of advocacy. But many ICSOs – like the governments they work to persuade – remain too bureaucratic to pivot quickly, and too mired in hierarchy to convert grassroots ideas into programming decisions. Civil society leaders struggle to adjust, even when change can yield inspiration and a heightened sense of community.  MORE

Adriano Campolina

1 March, 2016

ActionAid International went through a tremendous transformation through what was called its internationalisation. It moved from being a British charity with branches in several countries, to a an alliance of few European members and now to a federation of 27 national members across all regions encompassing countries as diverse as Vietnam, Denmark, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Guatemala.

This new federation would be serviced by an Visioninternational secretariat, with the roles of coordinating international work, ensuring compliance with federation wide policies and supporting countries directly or by enabling peer support as well as managing the programmes in those countries that had not yet gone through a local governance development process. MORE

Salil Shetty

23 February, 2016

Amnesty International’s Global Transition Programme (GTP) is our process of moving closer to the ground to ensure we have significantly greater impact by becoming a more global movement. By distributing our teams to 15 Regional Offices in key capitals we will be empowered to act with greater legitimacy, speed, capacity and relevance as we stand alongside those whose rights are violated, and join with others to build rights-respecting societies. The reorganisation enables us to work in a more integrated, efficient and effective way across functions and across geographies as well as with greater accountability to our local partners.

The genesis of this change can be © Amnesty International (Photo: Amin/Drik)traced to the International Board’s decision in mid-2010 to recommend a new organisational model to best deliver Amnesty’s Integrated Strategic Plan. Developing the case for change (the “Blueprint”) took a further 12 months of consultation. The subsequent period saw the whole organisation wrestling with the implications of this case for change and there were unquestionably real periods of unrest. The GTP was implemented to address this. This was a Programme of work to determine the practical implications of the proposals, and to develop a challenging implementation process balancing the need for change with achieving buy-in and acceptance from a complex range of stakeholders. All this was to take place at the same time of maintaining the core programmes of work, reactive and planned, when dealing with the very real impact on colleague’s lives. MORE

Toby Porter

16 February, 2016

I am writing this blog at Zurich airport, on my way back from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting at Davos. Extreme global inequality was rightly a recurrent, prominent theme throughout the four-day meeting, again galvanised by the skilful publication by Oxfam of their calculations regarding the proportion of the world’s overall wealth held by the richest very few.

What is becoming clear, however, is that many civil society organisations (CSOs), working at national level, perceive a not dissimilar inequality in the global development and humanitarian system. Take the figure quoted in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit in May – a mere 10 CSOs are said to deliver 90% of the overall CSO share of global humanitarian assistance. Not surprisingly, there are a great many voices starting to say that this too is highly inequitable, and needs to change.

Older campaigners march in Haiti © Josph Jn-Florley/HelpAge International

In a recent blog for Devex I suggested that it was time for us CSOs to look at merging or outsourcing many of their functions at country level. Partly this is a matter of basic efficiency, starting to eliminate the obvious and widespread duplication in the current collective operational footprints in the countries and regions where we operate. MORE

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka

19 January, 2016

A historic year has come to an end.  We now need to join forces to tirelessly work for full implementation of the outcomes from the conferences on Financing for Development, the UN General assembly on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the climate agreement at COP 21.

One of the lessons of the last 15 years is that the Cecilia Nyambeki cooperates with the Kenyan CSO NACHU and is being interviewed by Nyokabi Kahura for a reportage at www.sida.seworld’s biggest challenges cannot be solved in isolation. The new universal agenda, which makes all countries developing countries, needs a more inclusive – as well as sustainable – social and economic model. How we as governments, donors, civil society organisations (CSOs), private sector etc. partner for development will have an impact on the ability to address the global challenges of today. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

5 January, 2016

I am sure that the conversation below is not happening in any of the international civil society organisations (ICSOs) we are working with. Nobody aims to “decline into obsolescence”.
However, “risking anything new” doesn’t look like an obvious choice of our sector either. Still, I believe that this is really the choice we have: either risk innovation or slowly fade away. So, why not make 2016 the year of exciting innovation, the year of prudent risk taking, the year in which transformative change takes hold in your organisation?Cartoon_Blog_Social_Media

Here are three courageous ideas which may help you start the transformation in your organisation: MORE

Rebecca Masisak

24 November, 2015

Be_The_Change_Report_Large_UploadIn early 2015 the International Civil Society Centre launched the Building an Organisational Culture of Change working group, bringing together 23 civil society leaders and experts for an exciting research project. Exploring the transformation that international civil society organisations (ICSOs) must undertake to adapt to disruption, the group developed an outline of a culture that embraces change and identified concrete steps towards establishing such a culture specifically in ICSOs. The results appear in the recently released Be the Change report. Rebecca Masisak was a member of the working group, and writes below about how the report’s messaging relates to her experience as CEO of TechSoup.

Disruption in society, business and government circles creates new opportunities for civil society organisations (CSOs) to look for innovative ways to meet their mission objectives. MORE