Rebecca Masisak

24 November, 2015

Be_The_Change_Report_Large_UploadIn early 2015 the International Civil Society Centre launched the Building an Organisational Culture of Change working group, bringing together 23 civil society leaders and experts for an exciting research project. Exploring the transformation that international civil society organisations (ICSOs) must undertake to adapt to disruption, the group developed an outline of a culture that embraces change and identified concrete steps towards establishing such a culture specifically in ICSOs. The results appear in the recently released Be the Change report. Rebecca Masisak was a member of the working group, and writes below about how the report’s messaging relates to her experience as CEO of TechSoup.

Disruption in society, business and government circles creates new opportunities for civil society organisations (CSOs) to look for innovative ways to meet their mission objectives. MORE

Alexia Skok

17 November, 2015

Technological, political and planetary disruptions are threats to ICSOs’ existence. At the same time they entail brilliant opportunities to deliver our mission. We have to welcome change in order to reap these opportunities – Be the Change.

Throughout the past year, the International Civil Society Centre undertook an exciting and enriching project that brought together a group of civil society leaders and experts to explore the cultural organisational change that international civil society organisations (ICSOs) must undertake to adapt to disruption; The Building an Organisational Culture of Change working group was born. 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

Claudia Juech

3 November, 2015

This is the third 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 is by Claudia Juech, Associate Vice President, Managing Director Strategic Insights, The Rockefeller Foundation.


Disruptive innovations are ‘wild cards’. Their influence is unpredictable. They change how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new, more efficient and worthwhile.

What’s confusing is that we already know most technologies that could prove disruptive in future such as wearables, augmented reality or the driverless vehicle – yet many organizations will still be surprised when they affect their way of doing things. MORE

Philip Goodwin

27 October, 2015

This is the second post in a 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 Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive of VSO International, relates to the book section “An organisational culture of change” (pp.140-155).

Photo: Philip Goodwin visiting one of the worst hit districts during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal (Credit: Suaj Shakya/VSO).


The challenges facing society seem increasingly complex. This is the nature of a globalised world in which our very connectedness “scales up” the problems we face whilst simultaneously obscuring the levers that we can pull to change the course of events positively. In his book, Burkhard writes, “change will be fast and furious” and we should not expect it to slow down in the near future.

Ending global poverty and inequality cannot be achieved by hierarchical or technocratic models of leadership, management or knowledge creation. Instead, it requires knowledge and action to be developed across boundaries and in all directions. MORE

Kevin Jenkins

20 October, 2015

This is the first post in a 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 Kevin J. Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of World Vision International, draws inspiration from the Beetle in the book’s title.

Photo: Kevin Jenkins gets to grips with the mechanics of development, with Sheyara, a young friend in Sri Lanka.


Every few years, a book comes along that captures the mood of the aid sector. Stiglitz’s Globalization and Its Discontents, Collier’s Bottom Billion, Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics – each gave us something to think about, provoked debate about issues of real concern, and even dared to propose solutions knowing that the prescriptions would be controversial.

Whether The Hedgehog and the Beetle will have the same sector-focusing impact remains to be seen. It may be too much of an ‘insider story’ for mass appeal – but that could also be an advantage. Burkhard gets ‘under the hood’ with his toolkit and exposes the hidden parts which aren’t working the way we’d like. He wants us to think about adjustments we must make – and the cost of the labour and parts.

This is not a routine service. We need to do a major overhaul … while the engine is running. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

13 October, 2015

The world has several million civil society organisations, from local self-help groups to large national organisations, and from volunteer-based outfits to highly professional specialist agencies. However, there are only about 50 international civil society organisations (ICSOs) which are active around the globe. About half of these carry widely known and respected names such as Amnesty International, Oxfam or WWF. At a time when more and more of the challenges humanity is confronted with can only be successfully addressed at a global level these organisations carry a special responsibility.

Whether we look at climate change or migration, the pollution of the oceans or the destruction of tropical forests, the control of weapons of mass destruction or the fight against international crime: success can only be achieved by approaches which include many, if not all, of the countries and regions of our planet. But while a rapidly growing number of our challenges are global the world is still organised in national terms. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

6 October, 2015

In the workshops and conferences of the International Civil Society Centre I hear so many stories illustrating how difficult it is to change civil society organisations (CSOs). Most who work in our sector will not be surprised about such complaints, on the contrary, they will have their own stories to add. But shouldn’t we be surprised about our difficulties with change? Isn’t change the very DNA of our sector?

If we look at the vision and mission statements of some of the best known CSOs globally we find change at the very core: MORE

George McLaughlin

29 September, 2015

It’s been a busy summer! Since our Secretary of State, Justine Greening, launched the DFID Civil Society Partnership Review in July we’ve been listening to the views of civil society organisations: those we fund; those we don’t; those we talk with regularly; and even some we hadn’t heard of before. The Review will establish how DFID can have a more effective, strategic relationship with civil society and will define our future objectives, approaches and instruments for our partnership with civil society. Engagement so far has focused on our five lines of enquiry. I am grateful to the International Civil Society Centre for providing this opportunity to share with you some of the emerging themes from our discussions over the summer with civil society. I also want to acknowledge the fantastic work Bond have done in supporting engagement in the review.

The Review’s outcome won’t be business as usual. We want to build on what we do well together, but we also want to incentivise real, sustainable transformational change in the development sector. The Review is not yet finished, so it would be premature to fully predict the outcome, however, what we do know is how we work with civil society in the future will change. And it needs to change to respond to the issues the International Civil Society Centre and others have been highlighting for some time. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

22 September, 2015

In our most recent posts we discussed the “burning platform” as a leadership tool, looking at hope and fear as opposite drivers of change. I believe that hope is the much more effective driver and that civil society organisations (CSOs) need to become much better at using hope to drive the change they want to see.

Hope feels so much better than fear. When scanning my Twitter account last Wednesday, the day after we launched the video of the discussion with Daryl Conner, I was excited to find three positive messages on the issue of Planetary Boundaries. One referred to the 98% reduction in ozone depleting chemicals as an inspiration for the climate negotiations, another one reported about US and Chinese cities committing to ambitious climate protection goals, and another one shared the decision of the world’s largest PR firm to no longer work with coal producers and climate change deniers. Reading and retweeting these made me feel optimistic and invigorated: progress at so many different levels bodes well for the climate negotiations which will take place in Paris in a few weeks’ time. MORE