Burkhard Gnärig

4 August, 2015

Some months ago during a discussion about the role of CSOs I was asked whether it was OK for CSOs to threaten national security. I asked what the question meant and found out that it referred to Greenpeace challenging the Indian government on environmental destruction in the context of coal mining. I replied that I could not see how a handful of activists protesting peacefully could threaten the national security of a country as powerful as India. Shortly afterwards I found out that the very public fight against Greenpeace was only the tip of the iceberg.
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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

Burkhard Gnärig

21 July, 2015

In my book The Hedgehog and the Beetle I point to the many industries that had looked at potential disruption and decided “it won’t happen to us” – telephone utilities, stockbrokers, record companies, bookstores, travel agencies and retailers. To their surprise it happened to them, and for many well established, highly successful companies this meant bankruptcy.

The good news for civil society organisations (CSOs) is: they will hardly go bankrupt. The bad news is: if they ignore disruption they may die a very slow death, gradually fading away. 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

Miriam Niehaus

7 July, 2015

ICSC_Logo1As we talk about how political, planetary, and technological disruption affects civil society we sometimes get caught up in what we do not do well and how overwhelming the challenges we face are. So we decided to look for positive and motivating examples out there: We ran the Twitter challenge #BeTheHedgehog and asked for examples of particularly innovative projects and ideas.

To us, hedgehogs symbolise radical innovation because as curling up into a ball – their very successful defence strategy for millions of years – became ineffective when the car was invented, hedgehogs changed their strategy and learned how to run.

This is what we ask of ourselves and others: Don’t stick to what has always worked but be innovative, brave and bold like hedgehogs. Plus, share those ideas so we can all learn from each other.

Here we would like to share some of the fantastic “civil society hedgehogs” which people suggested to us and why we think they are particularly noteworthy: MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

30 June, 2015

Two years ago we ran our first major project on disruptive change in the civil society sector. We found that disruption was starting to affect the programmes, roles and incomes of international civil society organisations (ICSOs). Our sector would need new and innovative business models in order to remain relevant and deliver useful contributions to tomorrow’s world. This led us to last year’s project which explored possible new business models and the conditions for their implementation. We learned that introducing new and rather different business models would only be possible if we succeeded in changing ICSOs’ existing organisational cultures: the topic for this year’s project had been identified.

As part of our project on culture change we recently organised a workshop at the Rockefeller Foundation’s wonderful Bellagio premises. As we are working on a report about the outcomes I would like to share with you some of the findings which surprised me most: MORE

Robert Glasser

23 June, 2015

If the world’s most reputable astronomers at our most prestigious scientific institutions announced tomorrow that an enormous meteor was on a collision course with Planet Earth and that the impact would kill tens of millions of people, cause the mass extinction of at least one-fourth of the species on the planet and dislodge enough debris into the atmosphere to alter the climate for centuries to come, it would trigger an overwhelming public outcry for immediate action.  Nations would join forces to destroy the comet before it reached Earth, and urgent steps would be taken to prepare communities, in the unthinkable event that these efforts failed.

Ironically, this is precisely the threat we face today from climate change.   Our best scientists have confirmed that we are changing the climate, that rising global temperatures, which are already causing enormous damage, will in a matter of decades devastate life as we know it— MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

16 June, 2015

In last week’s blog I identified leading by vision as one of the key components of transformative change. Today I would like to reflect about the meaning of this component.

Over the past decades many CSOs have learned a lot from business. They have brought in business consultants; they adopted management techniques, auditing standards and strategy processes; and they employed a number of leaders with a business background. Altogether, they have benefited from opening up to a business perspective. Today, many CSOs are larger, more professional and more efficient than they used to be. At the same time, CSOs are in danger of forgetting the single biggest sector specific asset they have: their vision of a better world and their mission which shapes their specific contribution to achieving such a world. Neither business nor government have a vision or mission of a comparable quality, and both have to work hard to motivate their staff. CSOs can count on the intrinsic motivation of staff and activists; they only need to make sure not to damage or destroy this motivation. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

9 June, 2015

The conditions under which most civil society organisations (CSOs) work are changing fast: persistent poverty requires new approaches, rising inequality generates conflicts, fast growing middle classes increase the pressure on scarce planetary resources, climate change progresses unabatedly and biodiversity is under threat; shrinking political space limits CSOs’ room for manoeuvre, the Internet disrupts traditional forms of communication and digitisation in general affects most aspects of their work; aging supporters and changing expectations of the younger ones challenge CSOs’ financial basis. These and many other changes occurring in parallel mean that CSOs need to change fast and fundamentally in order to stay relevant and attain their missions. MORE

May Boeve

2 June, 2015

The leading international civil society organisations (CSOs) are not always (or even often!) seen as movement actors or leaders, and this has always puzzled me. How can organisations that exist to further the public good and create social change not be?

As a student activist I assumed all CSOs were comprised of people who were, first and foremost, part of movements, and the staff all comprised as activists first and foremost.

It was only much later, when I had the opportunity to participate in the fascinating Network Leadership Innovation Lab, that I began to understand why that may not be the case. 350.org, the climate change advocacy campaign where I currently serve as Executive Director, was selected to be a part of this learning group because we are at once an organisation, existing within a network, existing with a movement.

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