Wolfgang Jamann

24 April, 2018

Would you rather lead us into famine response in South Sudan, or into the jungle of digitalisation? This hypothetical question to international civil society leaders (CEOs and Chairs) was looming over last week’s annual retreat organised by the Centre, and the active attendance confirmed their courage and curiosity to engage in uncovering what this megatrend means, not just for civil society organisations, but also to their top brass.

Getting an understanding of what digitalisation means for our sector is always a good starting point. In most recent surveys, the high level of importance of digitalisation for our work is coupled with an extremely low readiness to understand and embrace this development.

You get, however, very quickly that this is not something that one can ‘compartmentalise’, or delegate down to the Chief Information Officer or the Head of IT. Every aspect of our work, from fundraising and communications to better participation in program decisions, and finding new solutions to problems of poverty, marginalisation and environmental issues, can ideally benefit from digital tools, and requires a basic understanding at the level of decision makers. MORE

Eric Gordon

12 July, 2016

The current blog theme is Digital Accountability, and our guest authors – digital experts from within the civil society sector – recently took part in a four-day CSO Accountability in the Digital Age workshop, facilitated by the INGO Accountability Charter.

INGO_CroppedHere they share the issues explored and outcomes established during this hands-on event. Today’s blog is the final in a series of five.


Individuals, especially young people, tend to interact with other people, mediated by systems or platforms, while being less conscious of the organisation or institution they represent. Likewise, people, again, especially young people, are more commonly motivated to act in the world by personal sharing, rather than collective action taking. I explore these ideas in my recent edited volume, with Paul Mihailidis, called Civic Media, which we define as “the technologies, designs, and practices that produce and reproduce the sense of being in the world with others toward common good.” Civic media comprise all the ways in which people make meaning and take action together, while mostly transcending individual outlets and organisations. Today, the individual actor is likely to see the organisation as facilitator rather than creator of meaning.

P1000125The medium, not the organisational onus, is the message. People care about getting things done and getting feedback about progress. The individual organisation and its reputation matters a great deal until it gets in the way. Then it doesn’t matter at all. The range of activities that comprise civil society, when labeled as media rather than a sector, can and should be imminently flexible. Digital social networks have blurred the lines between business operations and social assembly, customer and citizen, as billions use online social networks to advocate and connect across borders and technologies. At the same time, governments around the world monitor online activity both to enhance services and to suppress speech and facilitate violence, obviating the need for mediating practices. The actions of an ICSO, an activist group with a Twitter account, or a conscientious government minister, seeking to end poverty in India, are more similar than not. MORE

Virginie Coulloudon and Jed Miller

21 June, 2016

The current blog theme is Digital Accountability, and our guest authors – digital experts from within the civil society sector – recently took part in a four-day CSO Accountability in the Digital Age workshop, facilitated by the INGO Accountability Charter.

INGO_CroppedHere they share the issues explored and outcomes established during this hands-on event. Today’s blog is the second in a series of five.


As citizens in many democracies seek greater participation in public debate, international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are seeking a new model for advocacy: one where supporters become fuller participants in priority-setting and tactics, and where leadership demonstrates accountability to those participants on an ongoing basis.

“People power”, unleashed and expedited by newer technologies, can help ICSOs scale their impact – through crowdsourcing projects, for instance, that harness the input of thousands of unconnected individuals, or through networked campaigns that disseminate not only information but also campaign leadership across hundreds of small groups and thousands of miles.

People power enables ICSOs to augment or even replace traditional tools of advocacy. But many ICSOs – like the governments they work to persuade – remain too bureaucratic to pivot quickly, and too mired in hierarchy to convert grassroots ideas into programming decisions. Civil society leaders struggle to adjust, even when change can yield inspiration and a heightened sense of community.  MORE

Lauren Woodman

14 June, 2016

INGO_CroppedThe current blog theme is Digital Accountability, and our guest authors – digital experts from within the civil society sector – recently took part in a four-day CSO Accountability in the Digital Age workshop, facilitated by the INGO Accountability Charter.

Here they share the issues explored and outcomes established during this hands-on event. Today’s blog is the first in a series of five.

Digital_Accountability


In the not-too-distant past, concerned people who wanted to enact change had to work a lot harder to get involved: They had to find a civil society organisation (CSO) and go to meetings – in person! – and volunteer for committees or working groups. They might mail in a cheque and hope it was used to fund their initiative of choice. To reach others, they might canvas a neighborhood, petition in hand, knocking on doors and collecting signatures.

These types of actions are still valuable, to be sure. But thanks to the internet, the barrier of entry for activism is much, much lower. Online tools have created opportunities for an ever-increasing number of people to get involved in issues that matter to them. This can mean signing an online petition and sharing it on Facebook, starting a grassroots campaign on 350.org, or taking a local action to support the work of a global organisation. CSOs see the value in leveraging digital tools to connect people with information and action – not only can they mobilise and engage constituents more easily, they can benefit from the expertise and knowledge of millions of individuals. 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

Karenina Schröder

28 July, 2015

Creating Stakeholder Value in a Networked World

Corporates maximise shareholder value. Civil society organisations (CSOs) maximise stakeholder value. That’s what we are ultimately accountable for. But while this concept used to be focused on creating value for stakeholders it now moves towards creating it with their active engagement. Two developments drive this shift: Digitization brought instantaneous global connectivity at minimal cost, and rising levels of income and literacy have increased the agency and capacity of large populations to actively engage. For the first time in history, stakeholders can truly take the driver’s or co-pilot’s seat in achieving the impact they want to see.

Many CSOs are changing their operating model to capitalize on these developments. They move from a focus on ownership and control towards a networked platform approach. This means they let go of some control over staff, operations or campaigns and provide a platform that facilitates the inputs of activists, supporters and partners to advance the common cause. MORE