Marianne Henkel

18 April, 2017

Do you like outdoor shops? I do. When setting out to get equipped for a trip, I can take hours marvelling at all those gadgets. And by the time I head toward the checkout counter, I have thought through all possible challenges and surprises I may encounter on my travels and their likelihood, and prioritised what to put in my basket (alright, except where fads and good marketing get the better of me … ).

09_ResponsiveSimilarly, Horizon Scanning and innovation together are a survival kit for agents of change in an age of change. The four contributions in this series have done a great job of pinpointing and structuring the different dimensions of the nexus between Horizon Scanning and innovation, leaving to me only to flesh out some key insights that emerge from their synopsis.  The key message in which they all concur is that:

Horizon Scanning and innovation enable us to deliver on our missions in a changing environment – all the more if they are well-linked. Given today’s urgent priorities, Horizon Scanning (and innovation) can easily be perceived as of second-order importance, anything between nuisance and luxury. However, both are about securing impact and relevance (Gnärig), about being able to fulfil your mission when the world – for which your organisation and strategy were built – changes fundamentally; About the challenge of hitting a moving target. Or, as Roberts puts it, Scanning and innovation are “fundamentally about purpose and intent”, in that they serve to reassert one’s agency instead of “simply responding to change with what seems appropriate at the time”. Le Goulven and Kaplan provide several instructive examples of how Horizon Scanning has “made the needle move” and led UNICEF to innovation – taking new approaches in response to new opportunities and challenges, opening new avenues to impact. 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

Robin Bourgeois

6 September, 2016

09_ResponsiveThere is a wide recognition today that international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are currently facing challenges that might as well mean their disappearance[1]. This would not be necessarily bad news if that disappearance meant that ICSOs had been successful in “working their way out of business”, having solved the issues which justified their creation. But this would be bad news if it resulted from a lack of anticipation about the constantly evolving environment under which they operate, and the constantly evolving nature of the issues they deal with. It would be bad if ICSOs have to walk out of business because they fail to understand how their business evolves.

This constant evolution of environment and issues can be characterised by a combination of trends and disruptions leading to increasingly uncertain futures. ICSOs are aware of this and have started to act. Indeed, the relationships ICSOs need to establish with the future are specific to their essence. Firstly because freedom, power and will, all characterise some of the core values of ICSOs. This is exactly what the future is about, as French futurist Hughues de Jouvenel once wrote: The future is a domain of freedom, a domain of power, a domain of will (FR). There is thus a natural bound between ICSOs and foresight. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

23 August, 2016

Over the past few months a number of unexpected events such as the refugee crisis, Brexit, and the failed coup in Turkey – followed by increasing repression – have been telling examples of the challenges of disruption. To be better prepared for unexpected and often abrupt changes, civil society organisations (CSOs) must strengthen their efforts to detect disruption early. Working together across the sector and cooperating with other sectors can save costs and, at the same time, improve the quality of findings. Based on this understanding, we initiated the Scanning the Horizon project twelve months ago. In a blog post on 18 August 2015 I wrote:

“The International Civil Society Centre aims to bring together the specialists in strategic foresight from the different CSOs in order to update each other on their activities and to discuss how they can improve the quality of their work by cooperating across sector boundaries. The Scanning the Horizon project’s vision is to build a sustainable structure which continuously scans the horizon for potential disruption.”

Where are we twelve months later and what’s next on our to-do-list? MORE

Alexia Skok

16 August, 2016

In 2016, disruptive factors are being whirled04_Certain around civil society in what can feel like a ceaseless tornado of governmental crackdowns, natural disasters, digital revolutions, and global human movement – just to name a few.

So how can civil society organisations (CSOs) prepare for – and overcome – these ever-changing obstacles that affect both their internal and external operations?

Over the past month, leaders and innovators from within the sector responded to this very question in a series of blog entries, covering topics including: preparedness and leadership; business involvement in the sector; the pressing need for Northern CSOs to learn from the South; and paving the way for development mutants. Here are some highlights from our blog series on Managing Disruption: MORE

Lila Buckley and Halina Ward

2 August, 2016

Caption: Women from Paraguay’s Ita Guasu indigenous community discuss their community development plan. (Photo: USAID, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Mulugeta Gebru, Chief Executive of the Ethiopian civil society organisation (CSO) Jerusalem Children and Community Development Organisation (JeCCDO), was in a candid mood when we spoke to him about his rich leadership experience. Twenty years ago, he led JeCCDO through a challenging organisational shift from running orphanages to promoting community engagement. Today, like so many other Southern CSOs, JeCCDO faces new challenges, and the imperative to find new ways of doing things is as strong as ever.

“We have such deep experience, strong engagement, and good learning and processes … Big donors are telling us they want us to sustain ourselves, but no one is willing to invest in helping us stand by ourselves.” (Mulugeta Gebru, JeCCDO, Ethiopia)

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

Richard Pichler

10 May, 2016

What a joy it was last September for the international civil society sector: Pope Francis’ address touching many of today’s challenges; Presidents  of small and big nations giving their supportive views to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Malala conveying essential voices of young people; and the plenary of the General Assembly endorsing and applauding the SDGs.

UNSustainableDevelopmentGoals_w_logo-e1442391056454As civil society organisations (CSOs) we have come a long way in the development process of the SDGs; at the beginning, we were not at all sure if our arguments would be considered. Thanks to our joint efforts, and the clear message that we must have a seat at the table, we have harvested fruits. Many of the needs and the rights of the people we represent have become a priority. Just in time, we – smaller and bigger organisations alike – understood how much was at stake if we didn’t work together. We realised that our responsibility had to go beyond our organisational interests. This put healthy pressure on us, and we managed well under strict time constraints. But can we maintain this spirit in the implementation?

Even more energy is needed during the implementation process; now it’s about action. We know the goals, but what is the right approach to achieving them? We can’t allow ourselves to run off with great intensity into different – or even opposite – directions. We can’t think that we are faster alone, and that we can achieve quick, sustainable results without collaboration. My wish is to see us act in the spirit of cooperation that made us succeed in the advocacy phase.  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

Joanna Maycock

8 March, 2016

At the European Women’s Lobby, we unite women’s organisations from across Europe fighting for a Feminist Europe in which gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving the well-being of all people and the planet. As part of our campaigning platform, we call for women to be at the heart of decision-making in politics, government, business, institutions, and in civil society.

EWL Young Feminist Summer School 2015 © Isabella Borelli

There has been increasing public attention to the lack of women in political and economic decision making overall: more than 75% of national parliamentarians and more than 80% of members of corporate boards are men. However, very little attention has been paid to the failure of our own sector to address gender inequality in leadership. Most of the evidence I have seen suggests that around 75% of all the staff employed in civil society organisations (CSOs) are women, but less than 30% of the leaders of the largest CSOs are women. But this is not only about having more women operating within a system, it is also about transforming the nature of the systems of decision-making to ensure they are more inclusive, diverse and effective. At its core it is about reconsidering what leadership skills and attributes, and what institutions and structures, are needed for transformative leadership in the 21st century. MORE