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

Burkhard Gnärig

10 January, 2017

“We urgently need to come together in a powerful global movement to defend tolerance against the intolerant, pluralism and the rule of law against authoritarianism, and our future as a global community against chauvinism and xenophobia.” This appeal at the end of my most recent post demands action – and it demands a plan: What do we have to do?

  1. We need to take the rise of xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, and authoritarian government seriously

For years, a small number of individuals and organisations have warned of rising intolerance and shrinking civic space, but still too many of us think that this worrying trend will not affect us directly, eventually passing by. I recently discussed this phenomenon with a friend who is part of the German political establishment. His comments: “This is democracy. There is not much we can do. It will turn worse before it gets better”. I don’t think we can afford such fatalism. We have seen democracies turning into nasty dictatorships before, Germany being a case in point. We have left the stable political environment where two or three moderate parties replaced each other in government from time to time and arrived at a point where intolerance, racism, chauvinism, and authoritarian leadership are entering the mainstream. Democracy allows us to elect representatives of these nasty ideologies – but will we have enough democracy left to kick them out once we recognise that they are doing a terrible job? If we truly value democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law, we must act now, and with determination.

A Jones CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr

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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

Sarah Ralston

13 September, 2016

Futurism is all the rage these days, and it seems to be spreading to the development sector.  I was initially fairly skeptical, and in a recent discussion on this topic with change leaders from a range of different international civil society organisations (ICSOs), it turns out I wasn’t alone. Some were cynical about the latest fad and buzz word, seeing it as a re-brand of something we have always done in how we design programs and develop strategies. Others saw it as an unnecessary theoretical exercise that, no matter how stimulating or robust, will not bring concrete changes or improvements to our work and the impact we are able to have on poverty and injustice.rachelvoorhees via flickr CC https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

To an extent both are true. No amount of analysis or scenario planning in Egypt, for example, could have prepared civil society for the various political shifts over the past several years and the resulting implications on development. But while I still have my doubts about futurism as a discipline, I have become an advocate for instituting a regular, intentional process of what is increasing being referred to as horizon scanning. For one, I do think it can inform what we do and how we do it in a way that may not be radically different from the past, but does have some important new dimensions.  Mostly, however, I have become a believer in using it as an important lever for organisational culture change. 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

Lars Gustavsson

30 August, 2016

We need a new type of civil society organisation (CSO), one that is free of the constraints, mindsets, limitations and compromise of today’s norm. The prevalent ‘charity/aid’ model is clearly creaking; it’s failing both to capture the imagination of the emerging generations, and to enable sustainable transformation for people in poverty. The co-dependency between donor and aid organisation stifles innovation and creativity. Yet, we’ll never ignite the new from within the old; we need to start over with a clean slate.

Architects and entrepreneurs must convene to frame the new: naming, connecting, nourishing, and illuminating the required elements of the ‘beyond aid’ CSO. We’re fairly sure we know what some of the ingredients are: market-based mechanisms; long term capital; donors becoming investors; voices of the poor in the driving seat; disciplined and transparent intermediation spending; and real impact measurement that has meaning to front-line communities and investors alike. Other ingredients are still to be uncovered.[1] 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

Jeremy Osborn

28 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 third in a series of five.


New approaches to digital campaigning and awareness-raising are enabling two-way dialogue between organisations and their supporters and volunteers, in turn strengthening both impact and accountability.

In 2016, two-way dialogue with members is the norm, so what does it mean to continue to ‘disrupt and innovate’ in this space? One important new frontier 350.org is working in is how to use the digital tools we have come to rely on for two-way supporter communication to enable accountability laterally across social movements.

350.org

These types of movement accountability are structured through relationships with individuals, networks, grassroots organisations, or other international civil society organisations (ICSOs), and in our experience can often spike around a tragedy or news headline that focuses attention across civil society. Some of the more pointed ‘disruptions’ that 350.org has made, breaking from the standard ICSO mode of operation, have been in response to these kind of major events, on issues that are typically defined outside of the climate movement. Staff who work at the intersection of issues have been able to draw out the interlinkages between different fights for change at important moments, demonstrate solidarity with other struggles, and ultimately contribute to building stronger impact for us all.
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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