Kevin Jenkins

20 October, 2015

This is the first post in a four-week series of guest blogs by influencers in the civil society sector, reflecting on ideas and topics brought up in the book The Hedgehog and the Beetle – Disruption and Innovation in the Civil Society Sector by Burkhard Gnärig. The below blog by Kevin J. Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of World Vision International, draws inspiration from the Beetle in the book’s title.

Photo: Kevin Jenkins gets to grips with the mechanics of development, with Sheyara, a young friend in Sri Lanka.

Every few years, a book comes along that captures the mood of the aid sector. Stiglitz’s Globalization and Its Discontents, Collier’s Bottom Billion, Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics – each gave us something to think about, provoked debate about issues of real concern, and even dared to propose solutions knowing that the prescriptions would be controversial.

Whether The Hedgehog and the Beetle will have the same sector-focusing impact remains to be seen. It may be too much of an ‘insider story’ for mass appeal – but that could also be an advantage. Burkhard gets ‘under the hood’ with his toolkit and exposes the hidden parts which aren’t working the way we’d like. He wants us to think about adjustments we must make – and the cost of the labour and parts.

This is not a routine service. We need to do a major overhaul … while the engine is running. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

13 October, 2015

The world has several million civil society organisations, from local self-help groups to large national organisations, and from volunteer-based outfits to highly professional specialist agencies. However, there are only about 50 international civil society organisations (ICSOs) which are active around the globe. About half of these carry widely known and respected names such as Amnesty International, Oxfam or WWF. At a time when more and more of the challenges humanity is confronted with can only be successfully addressed at a global level these organisations carry a special responsibility.

Whether we look at climate change or migration, the pollution of the oceans or the destruction of tropical forests, the control of weapons of mass destruction or the fight against international crime: success can only be achieved by approaches which include many, if not all, of the countries and regions of our planet. But while a rapidly growing number of our challenges are global the world is still organised in national terms. MORE

Winnie Byanyima

1 September, 2015

Do organisations have to wait for the crisis to be serious before they can conduct transformative change? I think this depends very much on who defines what “the crisis” looks like. Is it the gradual drying up of donations from cash strapped governments and publics in rich countries? Is it the closing of civil society space, in both the North and South; or is it a humanitarian system stretched to breaking point? These are very real and practical threats to an INGO model we’ve had for the last fifty years or so. They are getting more and more serious and we will need to adapt and respond to them.

But when I became the first African woman to lead a major International NGO, I knew I was coming to an organisation that understood that a more fundamental crisis was already here, and already serious: a growing crisis of INGO legitimacy. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

25 August, 2015

I am just reading Frank J. Barrett’s fascinating book, “Yes to the Mess”. Barrett is a Professor of Management and Global Public Policy – and he is an accomplished jazz musician. In the book he brings his two vocations together. He describes jazz musicians playing together, improvising on a theme which each of them is allowed and expected to moderate and which they all work on together. Barrett presents jazz improvisation as an approach managers should use in times of disruption. He writes: “Jazz players look for and notice instability, disorder, novelty, emergence, and self-organization for their innovative potential rather than as something to be avoided, eliminated, or controlled. Indeed, jazz bands are very much human systems living at the edge of chaos.”

When we talk about “embracing disruption” we mean exactly what Barrett describes: civil society organisations (CSOs) are also systems increasingly living “at the edge of chaos” and need to learn to say “yes” to the mess. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

18 August, 2015

There are three major dimensions in navigating disruption. The first one is to detect disruption early. If you find out about a specific disruptive change well before that change affects your organisation, that gives you time to prepare for disruption and have your strategies ready once it strikes. The second dimension is to embrace disruption. This means developing a positive mindset towards disruption. If you can’t avoid disruption you better learn to love it and to disrupt yourself before somebody else will do it. The third dimension, finally, is to manage disruption once it strikes. Disruption means change – transformative change which comes along fast and fundamental, not incremental change which allows for hesitation and delays. We have discussed the terms of transformative change before.

Today we look at our first dimension: How can we detect disruption early, and, even more importantly, how can we identify the most relevant disruptors? MORE

Karenina Schröder

28 July, 2015

Creating Stakeholder Value in a Networked World

Corporates maximise shareholder value. Civil society organisations (CSOs) maximise stakeholder value. That’s what we are ultimately accountable for. But while this concept used to be focused on creating value for stakeholders it now moves towards creating it with their active engagement. Two developments drive this shift: Digitization brought instantaneous global connectivity at minimal cost, and rising levels of income and literacy have increased the agency and capacity of large populations to actively engage. For the first time in history, stakeholders can truly take the driver’s or co-pilot’s seat in achieving the impact they want to see.

Many CSOs are changing their operating model to capitalize on these developments. They move from a focus on ownership and control towards a networked platform approach. This means they let go of some control over staff, operations or campaigns and provide a platform that facilitates the inputs of activists, supporters and partners to advance the common cause. MORE

Dennis Whittle

5 May, 2015

Co-author: Renee Ho, Feedback Labs

Intermediation is not going away but it is changing and we should all agree that’s for the better. It’s changing in two fundamental ways:

1. Who is intermediating?
2. How are they intermediating?

In the old paradigm, large organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, CARE, Save the Children, and the Red Cross hired the experts to i) analyze problems and ii) design solutions. They then iii) mobilized the money to fund those solutions, iv) hired the staff or consultants to deliver the solutions; and then finally v) organized any monitoring and evaluation.

The who and how are changing for i) through v)……. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

28 April, 2015

In his reply to last week’s blog post Ken Caldwell asks for a debate on how and when – and whether at all – digital communications will dispense with ICSOs’ traditional role of intermediary between donors and recipients. I agree with Ken: having this debate is both urgent and important. Many ICSOs bring donors from the Global North and recipients of aid from the Global South together and charge a percentage of the donation or grant to cover 07_Disintermediationtheir overheads. As the revenue from intermediary services is the main source of income for many of the largest ICSOs, I am surprised that so far no major debate about the risk of disintermediation seems to take place.

Ken raises important questions concerning donors’ abilities and preferences such as: “Does the donor feel confident in their own ability to assess and prioritise the projects they wish to support, and have the time to do so?” The answer for most donors will probably be: “no”. And if that is the case, this means that some involvement of a third party may be required. But let’s leave the donor for a moment. Let’s look at the situation from the recipients’ perspective. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

21 April, 2015

Today we are publishing my book, “The Hedgehog and the Beetle – Disruption and Innovation in the Civil Society Sector”. What have hedgehogs and beetles got to do with civil society organisations? Let me briefly explain:

When I was a child, my family like most others in Germany who could afford a car, had a Volkswagen ‘beetle’. And when we drove in our little beetle we saw many dead hedgehogs on the roads, killed by cars like the one we drove. For about 15 million years hedgehogs had used the perfect survival strategy: they would roll up and wait until the aggressor gave up. But with the emergence of cars that strategy suddenly became the worst thing to do.

The situation became so bad that the hedgehog was threatened with extinction. Hedgehogs
very urgently needed to come up with a more effective approach to self -defence.  MORE