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. Hedgehogs survived because they learned just in time that they had to diversify their defensive strategies and that the right strategy to cope with cars was to run rather than roll up. I recently read somewhere that, when crossing roads, hedgehogs run faster the wider the road is: they have learned a lot.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) today face a similar situation to the one the hedgehog was confronted with: technological change threatens successful strategies of the past. In such a situation, focusing on the one thing you have been successful with over a long time can be fatal:
• In the face of climate change and other planetary boundaries traditional development policies do no longer make sense
• Digital communication threatens to replace much, if not all of the intermediary role many civil society organisations play between donors in the global North and recipients in the global South and
• Social networks increasingly serve as effective platforms for campaigning, questioning the future role of traditional campaigning organisations.
Reacting to these and other fundamental changes with “business as usual” does not look like an effective strategy.New challenges and opportunities require new and more appropriate replies.In order to remain relevant and deliver important contributions many CSOs will need to go through an in-depth transformation at the end of which they will have found a vastly modified or completely new way of striving for their mission.
The book The Hedgehog and the Beetle and this platform aim to encourage CSO leaders, employees and activists to take their guidance from the hedgehog and come up with new and more effective strategies to navigate change and fulfil their mission. Please join us and #BeTheHedgehog – contribute to transforming your organisation and our sector as a whole.
We invite you to
• Read the book The Hedgehog and the Beetle and leave your comments on this website
• Enter into the discussion on this blog post and on the new ones we will publish weekly
• Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and share your views with friends and colleagues
We all dream of a peaceful, just and sustainable world. Together we can make it happen. Please join the debate and contribute your experience, knowledge and commitment. The book concludes: Let’s learn from the hedgehog: this is not the time to roll up in a defensive position – this is the time to run. So let’s get up and move.