Ellie Stephens and Katie Mattern

2 May, 2017

We’ve all heard it repeated multiple times in our lives:  we all work better together. The work we do is greater than one individual, and together we can solve the challenges our world and communities face. We’ve also heard this refrain multiple times in our sector, it’s not a revolutionary idea but it’s one that’s seemingly harder and harder to take ownership of in our work.

This adage has never been more important than it is today, as civil society faces an increasing challenge of legitimacy in an evolving world too often dominated by political and financial elites. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, only 3 percent of the world currently lives in countries where fundamental civic rights are respected and enforced, leaving 6 billion people living in countries where freedom of association, assembly, and speech are curtailed. MORE

Alexia Skok

25 April, 2017

In the civil society sector, it could be argued that the only thing we can accurately predict is the unpredictability of today’s world. The changes we are facing come fast and hard, and organisations must do everything in their power to be prepared to ensure their ability to deliver. Yet from climate change, to populism, to the power of social media, being ready for the future is possible; Scanning the Horizon helps civil society organisations (CSOs) detect early signs of upcoming changes, allowing them to anticipate for disruption, and turn potential challenges into advantages.

Over the last month, innovators and leaders from UNICEF, the International Civil Society Centre, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), and OECD have been sharing their successes in, and tips for, Horizon Scanning.

Share your Scanning the Horizon insights and victories in the comments section below. MORE

Katell Le Goulven and Eva Kaplan

11 April, 2017

Our current blog series looks into the ways different organisations use foresight and Horizon Scanning within their current projects. To learn about the International Civil Society Centre’s foresight platform, visit the Scanning the Horizon page.


In early 2015, as Ebola was still ravaging West Africa, and markets experienced high volatility, our unit at UNICEF began our annual predications blog by announcing an end to predictability.  At least in this we were correct: volatility has only amplified since and, in retrospect, 2015 seems like a more stable time.

In reaction to this context of rapid change, UNICEF’s Policy Planning Unit sought to systematise our use of methodologies to anticipate emerging trends—both those with negative and positive potential. One such methodology is Horizon Scanning, which involves scanning a wide variety of information sources for trends and clustering them according to predefined categories.  At UNICEF, we use STEEP + H categories (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, Political + Humanitarian). Horizon Scanning allows us to pick up on so-called weak signals that might be pointing to the next mega-trend. However, identification of emerging trends is not the same as taking action.  Indeed, a classic bottleneck of Horizon Scanning work in large organisations is the “and-then-what?” phase. Using concrete illustrations where our scanning exercises had impact and helped spur innovation, here are a few lessons that we hope can initiate a discussion with other organisations developing similar functions: MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

21 March, 2017

Our current blog series looks into the ways different organisations use foresight and horizon scanning within their current projects. To learn about the International Civil Society Centre’s foresight platform, visit the Scanning the Horizon page.


If you look around yourself – or if you look at the range of contributions here on Disrupt&Innovate – there cannot be the slightest doubt that the world around us is changing fast and fundamentally. And if civil society organisations (CSOs) want to remain relevant and impactful we need to respond by reinventing ourselves. Neither our past successes nor our established routines will secure their survival. Only if we are courageous and bold in discarding much of our past and embracing an uncertain future will we stand a chance to develop relevance and effectiveness under completely different circumstances. CSOs’ change agenda should rest on four pillars: Scan – Disrupt – Innovate – Transform. MORE

Jessie Brunner

14 March, 2017

This blog first appeared on the IntLawGrrls blog.

Around the world on 8 March, thousands took action in various forms to highlight the ongoing struggle for gender equality while marking the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. These demonstrations in recognition of International Women’s Day served as one positive indication of the sustained collective action that will be necessary to define, build, and carry on the legacy of January’s Women’s March on Washington. Let us not forget that just two months ago three to four million people, about one percent of the U.S. population, participated in the largest demonstration in American history. We are a new and growing one percent, defined not by the power we derive from material wealth, but from the power of the people, of democracy in action.

IMG_6561

As evidenced during the International Women’s Day marches, many have continued to use protests and demonstrations as a core method for promoting a progressive agenda that upholds core American tenets of equality, freedom, and human dignity, views we see in direct contrast to the priorities of our 45th President. Despite this very active form of engagement, a growing disaffection is palpable among a subset of this population, which struggles to articulate a platform beyond mere “resistance.” After all, we have seen other young movements languish when they were unable to articulate an action-oriented platform motivated by specific policy goals. MORE

Moses Isooba

22 November, 2016

© Africans Rising: 2016 Participants at the Africans Rising conference, Arusha, Tanzania, August 2016The liberation era struggles of the 1950s on the African continent has seen the move from colonial era and one-party dictatorships to a semblance of multiparty democracy and regular free and fair elections in many countries. Accompanying this has been the emergence of relatively vibrant and organised civil society formations, acting as the vanguard for accountability and activism, trying to hold governments accountable for their actions or the lack of them.

The growth of vibrant civil society has been against the backdrop of failed neoliberal economic policies and, an increase in foreign funded transnational criminal activity such as Boko Haram in West Africa and Al Shabab in the Horn of Africa. These conditions together with the uprisings and insurrections in the Maghreb that dislodged long time dictators, have sent shock waves and fear into many African Big Men whose regimes are bent on, and preoccupied with, survival and regime consolidation. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

19 July, 2016

Disruption is happening all around us: Leading at times of disruptionthe recent arrival of over one million refugees in Europe; the dramatic cuts in some of the most generous donors’ aid budgets; and the fact that each of the last twelve months has been the hottest on record globally. These are just some of the most obvious examples. When disruptions like these occur, civil society organisations (CSOs) are nearly always affected. The International Civil Society Centre tries to support CSOs with:

  1. spotting disruption early so that they have enough time to come to terms with expected changes;
  2. preparing themselves for disruption, strengthening their adaptability and resilience;
  3. managing disruption once it strikes.

In the best case we will spot disruption early, be well prepared, and thus increase our chances to navigate disruption successfully. Let’s briefly look at the leadership challenges these three aspects – or you could also say “phases” – of disruption entail. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

22 March, 2016

A few months ago I wrote the blog We Need to Defend Citizens’ Space for Participation in which I looked at India and other countries where civil society was under threat. Since then, no day has gone by without news about government actions restricting citizens’ space to participate in shaping and developing their own societies. Meanwhile, a number of deeply worrying developments have become blatantly obvious:

  • Shrinking civic space is a global 25phenomenon. Citizens on all continents, in developing and developed societies, are suffering from the curtailing of their rights. Recent political initiatives in countries such as Hungary, Poland and the UK show that no society can be certain to escape this trend.
  • Governments are learning from each other how best to keep “their” citizens under control – rather than being controlled by citizens as should be the case. For instance, the Russian strategy to oppress any civic dissent to the government’s policies has been, and is being, copied in many countries globally.
  • In a world of mounting competition for dwindling natural resources, persisting terrorism, and a rising number of refugees crossing national borders, more and more citizens are willing to accept restrictions to their rights as a price for securing their own safety and wellbeing. They follow their governments’ arguments that limitations to citizens’ rights – e.g. to free speech, peaceful assembly, political participation – are necessary to preserve political stability, maintain economic growth, control terrorism, secure national sovereignty, and keep foreigners out.
  • Centuries of experience with authoritarian regimes have shown that once citizens have lost any rights over their governments, it will take a long time of painful struggle to claim them back. Therefore, the large scale disempowerment of citizens world-wide is a scary development, which requires a concerted approach of all who are willing to defend civic rights.

MORE

Alexia Skok

15 March, 2016

06_ChangeChangedWhat do the civil society sector’s leading changemakers have to share about their experiences of leading change in their organisations?

Over the past seven weeks, we invited a number of guest bloggers to tackle this question, reflecting from within her or his own organisation. Although the challenges, threats, observations, and methods around driving change came from different standpoints with distinct histories, one thread that connected each voice is that transformation in the sector is needed and there is a responsibility for each civil society organisation (CSO) to push for it.

We have shared some of the key insights from each blog below, and encourage you to comment and share your own thoughts on managing change within CSOs! MORE

Toby Porter

16 February, 2016

I am writing this blog at Zurich airport, on my way back from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting at Davos. Extreme global inequality was rightly a recurrent, prominent theme throughout the four-day meeting, again galvanised by the skilful publication by Oxfam of their calculations regarding the proportion of the world’s overall wealth held by the richest very few.

What is becoming clear, however, is that many civil society organisations (CSOs), working at national level, perceive a not dissimilar inequality in the global development and humanitarian system. Take the figure quoted in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit in May – a mere 10 CSOs are said to deliver 90% of the overall CSO share of global humanitarian assistance. Not surprisingly, there are a great many voices starting to say that this too is highly inequitable, and needs to change.

Older campaigners march in Haiti © Josph Jn-Florley/HelpAge International

In a recent blog for Devex I suggested that it was time for us CSOs to look at merging or outsourcing many of their functions at country level. Partly this is a matter of basic efficiency, starting to eliminate the obvious and widespread duplication in the current collective operational footprints in the countries and regions where we operate. MORE