Wolfgang Jamann

20 March, 2018

Today, huge inequalities are contributing to divided and segregated societies and have created antagonising governments riding the waves of populism. Space for civic action, freedom of speech and assembly, and human and civil rights are drastically limited, through both open and opaque government measures. Millions of refugees and war victims need solidarity and services at highest levels of excellence. And the planet’s environmental boundaries are fragile and almost exhausted.

External and internal challenges to the work of Civil Society Organisations are greater than ever. The current climate in which ICSOs operate is difficult and precarious. Plotting the right course will be essential for civil society to survive and thrive. Current internal challenges to our sector, sometimes threaten to override the purpose of work. For example, the moral basis and public trust for ICSOs work are challenged and sometimes eroded through ethical wrongdoings (as exposed by the cases of sexual misconduct). Likewise, through the questioning of the current aid system, and by the legitimate claims for power shifts to the global South.

As I have been entrusted to move the International Civil Society Centre (ICSC) into its second decade, there is a great need for the sector of organised civil society institutions to be modernised, just as more established institutions like UN Security Council or international treaties. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

19 September, 2017

In April and May of 2017, the International Civil Society Centre distributed a governance questionnaire to the leaders of 32 of the world’s best known international civil society organisations (ICSOs). This is the picture CEOs and Board Chairs paint of their organisations: MORE

Kevin Jenkins

12 September, 2017

This era of rapid and accelerating change affects World Vision and our peers in the non-profit sector as much as anyone else.

The explosion of ‘big’ data, the pervasiveness of mobile technology, the increasing vacuum of political leadership, the ascendency of fear over hope – all affect our work.

Even the face of poverty is morphing. In a generation, populations once defined as ‘poor’ are now making progress, while those in fragile states and conflict-affected regions are slipping behind.

Some global trends affect those with the least resources more severely, including the negative aspects of urbanisation, the dramatic increase of climate-related emergencies, and rising inequality between the hyper-rich and the unreached poor.

Confronting this requires a transformation in our sector. But change is never abstract. It’s always personal … and that’s why it’s so difficult. MORE

Deborah Doane

5 September, 2017

A well-known global human rights activist working on the enabling space for civil society recently said to me: “to do this work, you need to prepare to be arrested.” Though I’m fairly comfortable with activism, having been a long-time campaigner – this came as a bit of a shock, especially as I work in a comfortable western environment. As it happened, shortly after we spoke, he was threatened with arrest in his own country.

My colleague’s response to the threat wasn’t what most would do. Rather than going undercover, he went into a press conference and said: “I’m here. Arrest me.”  Fortunately, they have yet to do so. MORE

Ed Boswell and Daryl Conner

29 August, 2017

This blog is a summary of the full report, you can find it here.

For years, senior leaders in the private sector have grappled with disruptive forces that have fundamentally reshaped not only their organizations, but their entire industries. These upheavals have created winners—often new entrants who are on the cutting edge of change within an industry—and losers—often incumbents who did not change quickly or dramatically enough to keep up. However, some incumbents did recognize the need to transform early on: they exercised creativity and courage in envisioning a dramatically different future for their organizations, and were quick and effective in executing strategic transformation. In the end, these are the organizations that succeeded in staying relevant, profitable, and, ultimately, in business.

Currently, the civil society sector – especially the international non-governmental organization (INGO) space – is experiencing similarly disruptive forces and the urgent need for transformation. Despite having made dramatic progress in reducing poverty as well as in improving health, education, and human rights for tens of millions over the past seven decades, INGOs are experiencing a set of tectonic shifts that now threaten their relevance and viability. Leaders of these institutions are concerned that the volume, velocity, and complexity of these disruptive forces are straining their organization’s capacity to adapt to them quickly and effectively. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

22 August, 2017

In so many posts this blog has documented how the civil society sector is increasingly affected by a whole range of disruptions, many of which have the potential to undermine if not destroy the work of local, national and international civil society organisations (CSOs). In order to survive and thrive in a disruptive environment CSOs will have to continuously transform themselves, adapting to fundamental changes, overcoming critical challenges and seizing new opportunities.

CSOs’ need for continuous transformation demands a very different leadership style. While traditional leaders had to stand for stability and consistency, transformational leadership has to stand for flexibility and adaptability. While traditional leaders embody continuity, transformational leaders embody change.

Over the past few years the Centre has supported many CSOs with coming to terms with disruption. In the course of our work we have identified seven key strategies used by transformational leaders. Last week we presented three of these strategies. Here you will find the remaining four: MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

15 August, 2017

In so many posts this blog has documented how the civil society sector is increasingly affected by a whole range of disruptions, many of which have the potential to undermine if not destroy the work of local, national and international civil society organisations (CSOs). In order to survive and thrive in a disruptive environment CSOs will have to continuously transform themselves, adapting to fundamental changes, overcoming critical challenges and seizing new opportunities.

CSOs’ need for continuous transformation demands a very different leadership style. While traditional leaders had to stand for stability and consistency, transformational leadership has to stand for flexibility and adaptability. While traditional leaders embody continuity, transformational leaders embody change.

Over the past few years the Centre has supported many CSOs with coming to terms with disruption. In the course of our work we have identified seven key strategies used by transformational leaders. Here we will look at the first three strategies and in next week’s blog at the remaining four. MORE

Flora Kwong

8 August, 2017

In private sector industries, companies are set up as opaque entities, guarding their competitive advantages to ensure maximised market share and profits. In the civil society sector—despite our common values and not-for-profit goals—our setups are not so different. Our organisations are structured as completely separate entities with few avenues for knowledge sharing and collaboration. In order to change and progress we need to build a shared toolbox to tackle upcoming challenges.

One of the goals of the International Civil Society Centre is to bridge this gap, creating those avenues and platforms to build capacity and to increase efficiency. The necessity for this bridge became much clearer to me after piloting the Centre’s “Learning Abroad” scheme. Under this scheme, Miriam Niehaus and I were selected to spend a few weeks with one or numerous other organisations, taking a deep dive into a topic or theme relevant to the Centre and civil society sector. MORE

Åsa Månsson and Isabelle Buechner

1 August, 2017

IMG_5579%40025x-1024x683If describing, in one word, what the International Civil Society Centre does it could be “convening”. Its task is to bring people together to share experiences, mutually exchange ideas and solve shared problems. But simply describing the meaning of convening would not do the Centre justice in terms of its results – and especially not for the people and organisations that it brings together.

With the Global Standard for CSO Accountability the Centre took on its biggest international project so far. Over a period of 3 years we convened nine accountability initiatives from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. They started to work together by comparing their individual accountability codes, see where these overlap and identify gaps where their counterpart already had expertise they might not. Every initiative came with its own set of strengths and together they brought an enormous set of experiences from this field to the table. MORE

Helene Wolf

18 July, 2017

One of the first things I did after taking on the role of Deputy Executive Director was to review the Centre’s progress against its first 5-year strategic framework that would end roughly two years later. We came to two major conclusions: firstly, we had more or less achieved our objectives, even though we still had 2 years left until the “deadline”. Secondly, we were already focusing on completely different challenges, and our working environment had changed significantly in a way no one had foreseen when writing the original strategic framework. For example, some of the activities we had started in the meantime, might not even fit with the original framework and would have to be stopped if we were to stick to our original plan seriously. MORE