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

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen

2 February, 2016

The first decision I took as the new CEO of Plan International was to open my calendar so all my colleagues could see my activities and book time with me directly, without going through a gate-keeper. I encouraged all senior executives across Plan International to do the same. It was a small step on a journey to transform Plan International into one of the most transparent and trusted players in the international development community. Judging by the reaction – which ranged from horror and shock to victory dances – we still have a long way to go, both internally and externally. MORE

John Bines

12 January, 2016

Once upon a time, in the north west, lived Arrogance. One day Arrogance met Greed. Perfectly compatible, they soon conceived and Colonialism was born.  Colonialism was strong and became very powerful. However, Colonialism did much damage to others and ultimately faded away to great happiness.

Arrogance blamed Greed for Colonialism’s wrong-doings and ended the relationship. However Arrogance was still fit and well and took another lover – Benevolence. Arrogance and Benevolence were not well suited; they were virtually incompatible. Despite this they too had a child called Development.

Development’s upbringing was difficult; torn by the conflicting demands of its parents. Because of this, Development struggled to build sustainable relationships and had a number of fleeting romances. As a result of one of these, Ingo [1] was born. Later and after an awkward courtship, Development settled down with Globalisation and, soon after, Collaboration was born.

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Kumi Naidoo

15 December, 2015

Co-author Daniel Mittler, Political Director, Greenpeace International

That the Paris climate agreement for the first time sets its eyes on limiting global warming to a safer level of 1.5 degrees and sends a clear signal that the fossil fuel era is ending, is the result of real leadership from the most vulnerable countries combined with unprecedented levels of climate mobilisation over the last years, months and days. What is good in the Paris agreement is there because of people power. What is bad, and there is plenty, is where people power now, going forward, needs to be directed.

Let’s be honest: Photo by Elizabeth Stillwell, creative commons image via FlickrAfter Copenhagen six years ago, the climate movement was depressed. We tried not to let that happen (at Greenpeace, for example, we had a fresh team taking over early in 2010 to keep momentum going). But the mood was too dark, so it took months before we, as a movement, recovered. Looking back now, though, we can say that the strategic roads taken after Copenhagen were vindicated over the past few days. The climate movement’s new focus since 2010 on winning national battles had already resulted in key steps forward: Coal demand is now in terminal decline worldwide, after a dramatic – if not complete – change of course in China. This year alone Shell had to retreat from the Alaskan Arctic, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline and Alberta put a cap on tar sands oil. Combine this bad news for fossil fuels with new players – from cities to companies – coming on board with the vision of a 100% renewable future and the ground shifts. It has worked to change – from the grassroots up – the global conversation around climate change. MORE

Caroline Harper

10 November, 2015

This is the final post in our 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 Caroline Harper, Chief Executive Officer of Sightsavers, relates to the book section “Turning ‘once-a-year accountability’ into ‘real-time transparency’” (pp.167-178).


Trust in international civil society organisations (ICSOs) in the UK is at a low ebb. Media are repeatedly attacking charitable organisations – from CEO salaries to fundraising methods, to administration costs and exhortations that we must ‘stick to our knitting’ and drop advocacy work.

A number of organisations have gone under – the spectacular bankruptcy of Kids Company after receiving millions of pounds from the government is still reverberating. Our sector is not immune. We have seen others (eg. Merlin) disappear for want of working capital. Kids Company had virtually no reserves, but the death knell came from accusations of child abuse – something which strikes fear into the heart of any ICSO working with children. And I now have nightmares that hackers currently attacking mobile phone companies will decide that the charity sector is a soft target… 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

Cobus de Swardt

14 July, 2015

Corruption is usually seen as a problem that is pervasive in government and the public sector as well as in finance and business or when both of them interact. However, civil society is arguably no more immune to potential corruption than companies or governments.

According to a Transparency International (TI) survey 28 per cent of people globally think that civil society organisations (CSOs) are corrupt or extremely corrupt. In some countries, such as Lebanon, Serbia, Sudan, Venezuela, the percentage is even above fifty. What is going wrong in our sector? MORE