Karenina Schröder

28 July, 2015

Digital Accountability

Trust and accountability for INGOs

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. Greenpeace has created a global Mobilisation Lab actively inviting allies to use it; Transparency International focuses on People Engagement with a view of “connecting agents of change”; Oxfam is building a Worldwide Influencing Network; and Amnesty wants to “…grow a global human rights movement in flexible, decentralized and enabling ways with stakeholders”. The list could be continued. Web-based campaign organisations like 350.org, Avaaz or 38 Degrees have been founded on this very operating model. A shift from an ownership to a platform model, however, entails huge changes. Among others they include:

Ownership vs. platform model table NGOs

The platform model evidently brings great opportunities as well as tough challenges to manage. Opportunities include: greater reach, broader knowledge, enhanced network, more creativity and agency, faster and more versatile adaptation to changes in a dynamic world, and ample room for contextualisation. Challenges include: managing a great multitude of different expectations, staying focused and decisive, protecting data, ensuring sufficient quality controls, remaining a reliable partner, and ensuring security of activists, supporters and staff.

Our sector needs to find collective answers to some of these challenges to ensure we remain credible, trusted and accountable in a way that is attuned to the digital networked world. And we should learn from each other how to best reap the benefits of this new model in order to increase the sector’s overall (and each organisation’s individual) impact or stakeholder value.

Together with a group of thought leaders from international CSOs such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Transparency, along with online-campaign organisations such as 350.org, 38 Degrees, Campact and Purpose, the INGO Accountability Charter is planning to develop a very practical guide on how to best navigate the opportunities and challenges of creating optimal Stakeholder Value in the Digital Age.

Questions we will ask ourselves include:

  • How to feed constant, real-time, two-way communication with manifold stakeholders into effective decision making?
  • Where to let go of control to allow for dispersed ownership, while managing quality control and reputational risk?
  • How to secure transparency and accountability in a light-touch way that is informative without hampering innovation?

If you want to participate, have answers, further questions or suggestions – please share them here!

  1. Samu20 August, 2015

    It may be of use to examine examples from the disaster / emergency services http://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/7571/ as there are parallel issues of digital governance and multi-stakeholder needs. Certainly establishing a framework, that can be tested, in the first instance would be wise.

    In my experience of engaging people in policy development there has to be opportunities for face-to-face meetings. Digital community management brings about its own issues, which can diminish significantly when there are opportunities for live facilitation when meeting.

    If I can provide any assistance during these initial stages I will.

    Best wishes Nicholas
    Samu Communications

    1. Karenina Schröder25 August, 2015

      Hi Samu,
      Thanks for the interesting study!
      I agree that we need online and face to face communication. Digitisation is not the silver bullet – but a great additional way to actively engage with a large number of stakeholders in real time.
      Great if you can support us. We will keep you informed.
      Best Karenina Schröder

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