Burkhard Gnärig

4 July, 2017

In the year of the organisation’s 10th anniversary, the International Civil Society Centre will use its Disrupt&Innovate blog to reflect on some of our activities and lessons learned.

Over the past decade, the Centre has been working on many areas such as disruptive change, innovation, and business models. With this focus, we have constantly aimed to implement some of the findings from our work into our organisation’s own development. By sharing some of our experiences we hope to inspire others and show how to engage and work with us.

We kick off this special anniversary blog series with an interview with the Centre’s founder Burkhard Gnärig:

Flora Kwong and Ben Joakim

13 June, 2017

Blockchain—it’s a term we often see in newsfeeds and articles but perhaps don’t really understand. We are however supposed to know that, despite its original incarnation as the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, it’s now the hottest technological innovation relevant to all industries and sectors—including the civil society sector.

Ben Joakim, CEO and founder of Disberse, explains that Blockchain is “in essence, a database that stores immutable [i.e. unmodifiable] transactions” on a secure and distributed network, “enabling people to exchange value peer to peer securely and transparently.” In other words, it provides us with a more secure way to interact with each other on the Internet. MORE

Megan Campbell

23 May, 2017

What do people want to make their lives better? Are we helping them get it? If not, what should we be doing differently?

These are simple questions. Sometimes, we mistake them as trivial or think that we already know the answers. When I led a water and sanitation programme in Malawi I believed that people in Malawi needed clean water. I believed I could help them get it by helping local governments build their capacity to construct and repair water infrastructure. I saw plenty of evidence that what I was offering matched what was needed and wanted. I knew about confirmation bias, knew that communities and local government officials were likely to praise my programme rather than risk losing free support, but I believed that I had strong enough relationships to be hearing the truth. MORE

Laura Sullivan and Ben Phillips

15 November, 2016

All the world’s eyes remain transfixed on the ongoing fallout following the US elections. Many European commentators have expressed grave concern about what events “over in America” mean in terms of society’s basic humanity. But how are Europeans themselves faring when measured against that old core value? With leaders like Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban keen to seal up borders, the Turkey deal sweeping the ‘problem’ of people escaping war under the proverbial carpet and the European mainstream narrative sounding increasingly similar to what the populist right have been saying for years, you do wonder, are people in Europe responding to their own Trumps?

Photo by Gage Skidmore via CC BY-SA 3.0

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Harsh Jaitli

1 November, 2016

India is known for its vibrant voluntary sector, which has contributed not only in the development and growth of India, but also to global discourse.

The existence of the voluntary sector is as old as the recorded history of the country, where it has shared responsibility with the state to provide decent life with dignity to marginalised people. The more structured form of civil society originations (CSOs) came into existence with the formation of Societies Registration Act of 1860, but the contribution of the sector has reached far beyond it. After independence, India faced the herculean task of providing basic services to the remotest corners of the country that were trying to recover from devastating draught and pains of partition. During this transitional period, Mahatma Gandhi became the inspiration for many grass-roots organisations popularly known as Gandhian Organisations. Mahatma Gandhi established that India had only achieved political freedom, and freedom from hunger and disease, and that overcoming deprivation and marginaliation was still to be achieved. He advised the freedom fighters that those who wanted to achieve this through political means could join the electoral politics, while the others should join the social service sector.

The space in which CSOs in India operate is influenced primarily by three factors: regulatory environment, availability of resources, and internal mechanisms. These elements can be targeted by the government to make the functioning of CSOs difficult. MORE

Sopheap Chak

25 October, 2016

It is within the context of a global shrinking of civil society space that Cambodia has seen its own space for civic participation quickly diminishing. This shrinking of space presents Cambodian civil society organisations (CSOs) with a very real need to adapt in order to face the challenges ahead.

In recent months, CSOs in Cambodia have felt an increased tightening of their fundamental freedoms by the government, particularly following the arbitrary arrest and detention of five human rights defenders – four senior staff members from local CSO the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and the deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee. All five have been detained in pre-trial detention since 28 April on trumped-up charges in relation to their provision of legitimate human rights assistance to a former beneficiary.

 CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 Walther Tjon Pian Gi via Flickr

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Lauren Woodman

14 June, 2016

INGO_CroppedThe 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.

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

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In the not-too-distant past, concerned people who wanted to enact change had to work a lot harder to get involved: They had to find a civil society organisation (CSO) and go to meetings – in person! – and volunteer for committees or working groups. They might mail in a cheque and hope it was used to fund their initiative of choice. To reach others, they might canvas a neighborhood, petition in hand, knocking on doors and collecting signatures.

These types of actions are still valuable, to be sure. But thanks to the internet, the barrier of entry for activism is much, much lower. Online tools have created opportunities for an ever-increasing number of people to get involved in issues that matter to them. This can mean signing an online petition and sharing it on Facebook, starting a grassroots campaign on 350.org, or taking a local action to support the work of a global organisation. CSOs see the value in leveraging digital tools to connect people with information and action – not only can they mobilise and engage constituents more easily, they can benefit from the expertise and knowledge of millions of individuals. MORE

Thomas Gass

3 May, 2016

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its set of interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets resulted from the most inclusive policy dialogue the United Nations has ever organised, one in which civil society organisations (CSOs) fully participated.  This established a new benchmark for dialogue and inclusiveness at the UN. As the Secretary-General noted recently, there can be no going back.

The 17 SDGs address – in an integrated way – the most pressing economic, social and environmental challenges of our time. They are a universal and shared vision of humanity for transforming our society and projecting our planet. They form a social contract between the world’s leaders and ‘We the peoples’.

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Implementing this comprehensive and far-reaching Agenda will require all governments and decision-makers to commit to leave no one behind. It calls for adopting new approaches and breaking down silos. To begin such a transformation and place humanity on a more sustainable course, we need all hands on deck to work across borders and sectors, and move from the ‘what’ to the ‘how’.

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Diane Kingston

26 April, 2016

There has been much cause to celebrate the new 2030 Agenda; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a huge step forward when compared to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many ways. We at CBM are delighted that disability is explicitly named within the 2030 Agenda, as persons with disabilities were excluded and invisible in the MDGs. However, there is always room for improvement – persons with disabilities continue to be referred to as one of the ‘marginalised’ or ‘vulnerable’ groups. Decision-makers must continuously name us explicitly; if you do not name persons with disabilities, then our specific human rights will not be addressed.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon rightly points out, ‘the true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation’. The implementation of the new development agenda must be firmly anchored in human rights if we are to achieve its goals. Why? Because the SDGs are political goals and represent a strong political commitment, but they are voluntary, not legally binding. Human rights treaties can be used as key instruments in advancing human rights and when combined with the SDGs they provide tools to hold government accountable for both poverty elimination and upholding rights.

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Burkhard Gnärig

19 April, 2016

Co-author Peter Koblowsky, Project Officer – Convening, International Civil Society Centre

A powerful challenge, Leave no one behind, makes the difference between the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the MDGs could be fulfilled by raising the average wellbeing – which was easiest achieved by ignoring the poorest and most marginalised – the SDGs demand that everybody is included in the effort. And that means, in order to achieve the SDGs we have to place a special focus on those who are most in need, who are most severely excluded. The fact that the new goals are explicitly based on the demand to Leave no one behind is a badge of honour to millions of civil society activists, and thousands of civil society organisations (CSOs), working tirelessly over many years to secure that the SDGs would be fair and inclusive. Implementing this inspiring objective is the impressive global challenge we have to address today.
SDGs_Logo_cropAgainst this background, the International Civil Society Centre has conducted a survey among International civil society organisations (ICSOs), mapping their planned strategies and activities with regards to the implementation of the SDGs. The survey should help to identify gaps and overlaps between their approaches as a basis for a better alignment of their efforts. The Centre reached out to 30 leading ICSOs and received replies from 20 of them[i]. MORE