Even the most successful CSOs once started with a few volunteer activists who defined how they wanted to contribute to a better world and began working towards their mission. Due to lack of funds everybody had to work on a volunteer basis. Activist thinking determined the organisation and its activities. Later, when funding became available the first salaried staff were employed, often recruited from the organisation’s pool of activists. And, over time, many CSOs developed two separate pillars: a volunteer/activist one and a salaried/expert one. With the rapid financial growth over the past decades and the required professionalization, the gap between the pillars widened and became increasingly difficult to bridge. MORE
There is no question: international civil society organisations (ICSOs) think big. Just look at some of their vision or mission statements: WWF aims “to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature”; “Plan’s vision is of a world in which all children realise their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity”; “Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments”; and Oxfam says: “Our vision is a just world without poverty. We want a world where people are valued and treated equally, enjoy their rights as full citizens, and can influence decisions affecting their lives.” Wonderful and highly inspiring endeavours.
If you compare this with similar statements from some of the largest global companies you will find that for once ICSOs are playing a much bigger game: MORE
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
When we started working on disruption in the civil society sector very quickly the question arose, whether the dramatic changes we observed in the outside world would eventually threaten the existence of even the most successful and prominent organisations?
Recently I was involved in a discussion about the future of our sector and we all agreed that our organisations would have to go through fundamental change in order to survive and thrive in a fast changing environment. When we reviewed the required depth and speed of change we had to undertake several colleagues voiced doubts whether their organisations would be able to undertake such extensive changes in a relatively short period of time. Suddenly the room fell quiet and one could sense the thoughts most of us struggled with: Will my organisation be able to change fast enough? Could my organisation disappear? MORE