Burkhard Gnärig

28 April, 2015

In his reply to last week’s blog post Ken Caldwell asks for a debate on how and when – and whether at all – digital communications will dispense with ICSOs’ traditional role of intermediary between donors and recipients. I agree with Ken: having this debate is both urgent and important. Many ICSOs bring donors from the Global North and recipients of aid from the Global South together and charge a percentage of the donation or grant to cover 07_Disintermediationtheir overheads. As the revenue from intermediary services is the main source of income for many of the largest ICSOs, I am surprised that so far no major debate about the risk of disintermediation seems to take place.

Ken raises important questions concerning donors’ abilities and preferences such as: “Does the donor feel confident in their own ability to assess and prioritise the projects they wish to support, and have the time to do so?” The answer for most donors will probably be: “no”. And if that is the case, this means that some involvement of a third party may be required. But let’s leave the donor for a moment. Let’s look at the situation from the recipients’ perspective. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

21 April, 2015

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.  MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

14 April, 2015

During the latest WEF in Davos I participated in a meeting of heads of leading international civil society organisations (CSOs) and business discussing “Sustainable Development & Climate CollaborateJustice: Working together to advance the Post-2015 Agenda”. On the civil society side we counted about 15 CEOs from organisations such as Amnesty International, the Red Cross and Plan. Business was represented only by a handful of CEOs while some companies had sent their leaders of Corporate Social Responsibility – their CEOs probably in one of the hotels nearby, engaged in meetings they considered more important. Our discussion showed that progressive voices in business and civil society leaders feel similar degrees of urgency in addressing climate change and poverty and that they have similar expectations concerning the outcomes of the UN negotiation processes on Post-2015 and Climate.

This was a good first step towards better cooperation but clearly not enough given the challenges we face: accelerating climate change on the one hand and desperate poverty and rising inequality on the other threaten the foundations of our civilization and possibly our future existence. Therefore we need to turn our growing sense of urgency into bold and transformative action. There are two dimensions in which we have to act: MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

7 April, 2015

When we started working on disruption in the civil society sector very quickly the question arose, whether the dramatic changes we observed in the outside world would eventually threaten the existence of even the most successful and prominent organisations?

Recently I was involved in a discussion about the future of our sector and we all agreed that our organisations would have to go through fundamental change in order to survive and thrive in a fast changing environment. When we reviewed the required depth and speed of change we had to undertake several colleagues voiced doubts whether their organisations would be able to undertake such extensive changes in a relatively short period of time. Suddenly the room fell quiet and one could sense the thoughts most of us struggled with: Will my organisation be able to change fast enough? Could my organisation disappear? MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

31 March, 2015

A blog – and a book – about “Disruption and Innovation in the Civil Society Sector”, why is this an important issue? To date, disruption has not happened in our sector. Yes, we know about disruption in the commercial world: book shops, newspapers, manufacturers of photographic films and analogue cameras, retail stores and travel shops are all examples we have heard of. But who can report about a case of disruption among civil society organisations (CSOs)?

So far, CSOs have not had to struggle with disruption. On the contrary, if we look at our sector over the last 10 or 20 years we will find impressive growth and expansion at the global level. A comparison of the incomes of a number of major international CSOs in 1999 with the funds they raised in 2011/12 shows an average growth of 323%.

Disruption hasn’t happened yet and innovation is certainly not one of the hallmarks of our sector:  MORE