Wolfgang Jamann

20 March, 2018

Today, huge inequalities are contributing to divided and segregated societies and have created antagonising governments riding the waves of populism. Space for civic action, freedom of speech and assembly, and human and civil rights are drastically limited, through both open and opaque government measures. Millions of refugees and war victims need solidarity and services at highest levels of excellence. And the planet’s environmental boundaries are fragile and almost exhausted.

External and internal challenges to the work of Civil Society Organisations are greater than ever. The current climate in which ICSOs operate is difficult and precarious. Plotting the right course will be essential for civil society to survive and thrive. Current internal challenges to our sector, sometimes threaten to override the purpose of work. For example, the moral basis and public trust for ICSOs work are challenged and sometimes eroded through ethical wrongdoings (as exposed by the cases of sexual misconduct). Likewise, through the questioning of the current aid system, and by the legitimate claims for power shifts to the global South.

As I have been entrusted to move the International Civil Society Centre (ICSC) into its second decade, there is a great need for the sector of organised civil society institutions to be modernised, just as more established institutions like UN Security Council or international treaties. MORE

Flora Kwong and Ben Joakim

13 June, 2017

Blockchain—it’s a term we often see in newsfeeds and articles but perhaps don’t really understand. We are however supposed to know that, despite its original incarnation as the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, it’s now the hottest technological innovation relevant to all industries and sectors—including the civil society sector.

Ben Joakim, CEO and founder of Disberse, explains that Blockchain is “in essence, a database that stores immutable [i.e. unmodifiable] transactions” on a secure and distributed network, “enabling people to exchange value peer to peer securely and transparently.” In other words, it provides us with a more secure way to interact with each other on the Internet. 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

Burkhard Gnärig

27 September, 2016

Global Perspectives conference 2016The last time we discussed the issue of shrinking civic space was in March – April when we described the increasing challenges civil society activists around the world are facing when making their voices heard. We ended our series of blogs with a report about the Civic Charter – the Global Framework for People’s Participation which will “serve as an international reference point for civil society to allocate our rights within the complexity of international law.” We asked readers to contribute to shaping the Civic Charter by raising the issues they felt were most relevant in the fight for civic rights. Meanwhile, several extensive global consultations have been concluded and the final text has been approved. The Civic Charter will be launched nationally in the week of 17 October and globally one week later on 26 October at our Global Perspectives conference in Berlin. 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

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