Nathan White

17 October, 2017

Civil society organisations exists to make the world a better place. Some of us work on corporate transparency, others on voting rights, and still others on government accountability. While we each have different goals, increasingly the way we work is becoming reliant on digital technologies and spaces, such as the internet. We conduct research, we collaborate, we store and share information, and we build coalitions all on the internet. For most of the past two decades, that has helped us unite and become stronger together. Unfortunately, our increasing digital connectivity also creates a shared vulnerability that threatens to undermine our work.

Access Now is a human rights organisation that works to protect our digital spaces. We operate a 24/7 global helpline for users at risk. As such, we work with civil society groups around the planet and have witnessed the increasing attacks on our digital spaces and our ability to harness the power of the internet.

In particular, we’re watching an alarming increase in the number of “Internet Shutdowns” in which governments use their privileged position to shut down entire networks. Both blunt and broad, these attacks make our work more difficult. Fortunately, groups like the #KeepItOn coalition have formed to unite across sectors to push back on this trend. MORE

Deborah Doane

5 September, 2017

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

Burkhard Gnärig

22 August, 2017

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

Burkhard Gnärig

15 August, 2017

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. Here we will look at the first three strategies and in next week’s blog at the remaining four. MORE

Flora Kwong

8 August, 2017

In private sector industries, companies are set up as opaque entities, guarding their competitive advantages to ensure maximised market share and profits. In the civil society sector—despite our common values and not-for-profit goals—our setups are not so different. Our organisations are structured as completely separate entities with few avenues for knowledge sharing and collaboration. In order to change and progress we need to build a shared toolbox to tackle upcoming challenges.

One of the goals of the International Civil Society Centre is to bridge this gap, creating those avenues and platforms to build capacity and to increase efficiency. The necessity for this bridge became much clearer to me after piloting the Centre’s “Learning Abroad” scheme. Under this scheme, Miriam Niehaus and I were selected to spend a few weeks with one or numerous other organisations, taking a deep dive into a topic or theme relevant to the Centre and civil society sector. MORE

Åsa Månsson and Isabelle Buechner

1 August, 2017

IMG_5579%40025x-1024x683If describing, in one word, what the International Civil Society Centre does it could be “convening”. Its task is to bring people together to share experiences, mutually exchange ideas and solve shared problems. But simply describing the meaning of convening would not do the Centre justice in terms of its results – and especially not for the people and organisations that it brings together.

With the Global Standard for CSO Accountability the Centre took on its biggest international project so far. Over a period of 3 years we convened nine accountability initiatives from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. They started to work together by comparing their individual accountability codes, see where these overlap and identify gaps where their counterpart already had expertise they might not. Every initiative came with its own set of strengths and together they brought an enormous set of experiences from this field to the table. MORE

Helene Wolf

18 July, 2017

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

Disrupt and Innovate

27 June, 2017

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.

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Cynthia McCaffrey, James Powell and Brooke Yamakoshi

20 June, 2017

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

Duncan Cook

6 June, 2017

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