Digitalisation is having an enormous influence on the new infrastructure of global society in the 21st century. It is changing the playing field as we speak and forcing us to adapt quickly to new circumstances, changing the way we see ourselves and our organisations. The World Economic Forum talks about the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” when describing the current digital revolution. MORE
When civil society organisations (CSOs) speak about power they usually refer to the power of others, and they refer to power in negative terms: power is used to oppress and exploit, power corrupts. However, such a simplistic and prejudiced understanding of power is an obstacle to CSOs’ endeavours to achieve their missions. Our sector needs to change its understanding of power in order to increase its effectiveness.
Embracing POWER as a positive concept
When looking up the definition of power in a dictionary we find that power is simply “the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way”. Power as such is neither positive nor negative. It is necessary in order “to do something”, be it good or bad. This means CSOs need power to achieve the positive aims they are working for. They are part of the eternal power struggle between good and bad, egotism and altruism, short-term gains and long-term sustainability, etc. In this context it is not only necessary for CSOs to strive for maximum power, it is ethically desirable, as long as CSOs use their power consistently and effectively to attain their mission. MORE
A brief review of Paul Raskin’s essay Journey to Earthland
In Journey to Earthland, Paul Raskin, the founding President of the Tellus Institute and founding Director of the Great Transition Initiative, charts the way to a peaceful, just and sustainable world, which he hopes we will have achieved by 2084.
As we start our journey we find ourselves as passengers on a plane that has lost its direction and cannot determine its location: “Zombie ideologies—territorial chauvinism, unbridled consumerism, and the illusion of endless growth—inhabit the brains of the living. Coherent responses to systemic risks of climate change, economic instability, population displacement, and global terrorism […] lie beyond the grasp of a myopic and disputatious political order.” MORE
The vicious spirit is out of the box. By now we – those of us who read this blog – all recognise that countries will not stop imposing restrictions on civil society in the foreseeable future; to the contrary, those restrictions are growing by the year. Just in 2015, over 30 countries proposed or passed 45 laws to constrain civil society organisations (CSOs) and rights of CSOs and activists have been violated in over 100 countries.
But what is this ‘vicious spirit’ and who let it out? Who’s to blame? Is it the newly budding populist and authoritarian leaders of this century? Or the masses of voters who elect such leaders and agree with their worldviews, including those on civil society? Democracies that weaken under the threats of terrorism, war and humanitarian crisis?
It is all of those and more; the phenomenon of shrinking civic space is complex and its root causes are difficult to tackle. As the problem has grown, more and more players became aware and got on board to address it: over the past couple of years, several dozen CSOs, donors, networks and international organisations launched ‘civic space’ projects, strategies and initiatives at the country, regional and global levels. Yet the negative trend remains. What are we doing wrong? MORE