A few weeks ago I recruited a new colleague to our small Centre secretariat team. The pattern of many previous rounds was repeated: We reviewed a number of very qualified and competent young female candidates, struggled to invite equally impressive male applicants for an interview and in the end offered the position to a very dedicated, ambitious and talented woman who wants to develop a long-term career in the civil society sector. I have met and worked with many women like her over the years at the Centre and in the civil society organisations (CSOs) we work with. MORE
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
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
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
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. MORE
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”. 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
This era of rapid and accelerating change affects World Vision and our peers in the non-profit sector as much as anyone else.
The explosion of ‘big’ data, the pervasiveness of mobile technology, the increasing vacuum of political leadership, the ascendency of fear over hope – all affect our work.
Even the face of poverty is morphing. In a generation, populations once defined as ‘poor’ are now making progress, while those in fragile states and conflict-affected regions are slipping behind.
Some global trends affect those with the least resources more severely, including the negative aspects of urbanisation, the dramatic increase of climate-related emergencies, and rising inequality between the hyper-rich and the unreached poor.
Confronting this requires a transformation in our sector. But change is never abstract. It’s always personal … and that’s why it’s so difficult. MORE
A well-known global human rights activist working on the enabling space for civil society recently said to me: “to do this work, you need to prepare to be arrested.” Though I’m fairly comfortable with activism, having been a long-time campaigner – this came as a bit of a shock, especially as I work in a comfortable western environment. As it happened, shortly after we spoke, he was threatened with arrest in his own country.
My colleague’s response to the threat wasn’t what most would do. Rather than going undercover, he went into a press conference and said: “I’m here. Arrest me.” Fortunately, they have yet to do so. MORE
This blog is a summary of the full report, you can find it here.
For years, senior leaders in the private sector have grappled with disruptive forces that have fundamentally reshaped not only their organizations, but their entire industries. These upheavals have created winners—often new entrants who are on the cutting edge of change within an industry—and losers—often incumbents who did not change quickly or dramatically enough to keep up. However, some incumbents did recognize the need to transform early on: they exercised creativity and courage in envisioning a dramatically different future for their organizations, and were quick and effective in executing strategic transformation. In the end, these are the organizations that succeeded in staying relevant, profitable, and, ultimately, in business.
Currently, the civil society sector – especially the international non-governmental organization (INGO) space – is experiencing similarly disruptive forces and the urgent need for transformation. Despite having made dramatic progress in reducing poverty as well as in improving health, education, and human rights for tens of millions over the past seven decades, INGOs are experiencing a set of tectonic shifts that now threaten their relevance and viability. Leaders of these institutions are concerned that the volume, velocity, and complexity of these disruptive forces are straining their organization’s capacity to adapt to them quickly and effectively. MORE
In so many posts this blog has documented how the civil society sector is increasingly affected by a whole range of disruptions, many of which have the potential to undermine if not destroy the work of local, national and international civil society organisations (CSOs). In order to survive and thrive in a disruptive environment CSOs will have to continuously transform themselves, adapting to fundamental changes, overcoming critical challenges and seizing new opportunities.
CSOs’ need for continuous transformation demands a very different leadership style. While traditional leaders had to stand for stability and consistency, transformational leadership has to stand for flexibility and adaptability. While traditional leaders embody continuity, transformational leaders embody change.
Over the past few years the Centre has supported many CSOs with coming to terms with disruption. In the course of our work we have identified seven key strategies used by transformational leaders. Last week we presented three of these strategies. Here you will find the remaining four: MORE