Ellie Stephens and Katie Mattern

2 May, 2017

We’ve all heard it repeated multiple times in our lives:  we all work better together. The work we do is greater than one individual, and together we can solve the challenges our world and communities face. We’ve also heard this refrain multiple times in our sector, it’s not a revolutionary idea but it’s one that’s seemingly harder and harder to take ownership of in our work.

This adage has never been more important than it is today, as civil society faces an increasing challenge of legitimacy in an evolving world too often dominated by political and financial elites. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, only 3 percent of the world currently lives in countries where fundamental civic rights are respected and enforced, leaving 6 billion people living in countries where freedom of association, assembly, and speech are curtailed. 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

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

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

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

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

Salil Shetty

23 February, 2016

Amnesty International’s Global Transition Programme (GTP) is our process of moving closer to the ground to ensure we have significantly greater impact by becoming a more global movement. By distributing our teams to 15 Regional Offices in key capitals we will be empowered to act with greater legitimacy, speed, capacity and relevance as we stand alongside those whose rights are violated, and join with others to build rights-respecting societies. The reorganisation enables us to work in a more integrated, efficient and effective way across functions and across geographies as well as with greater accountability to our local partners.

The genesis of this change can be © Amnesty International (Photo: Amin/Drik)traced to the International Board’s decision in mid-2010 to recommend a new organisational model to best deliver Amnesty’s Integrated Strategic Plan. Developing the case for change (the “Blueprint”) took a further 12 months of consultation. The subsequent period saw the whole organisation wrestling with the implications of this case for change and there were unquestionably real periods of unrest. The GTP was implemented to address this. This was a Programme of work to determine the practical implications of the proposals, and to develop a challenging implementation process balancing the need for change with achieving buy-in and acceptance from a complex range of stakeholders. All this was to take place at the same time of maintaining the core programmes of work, reactive and planned, when dealing with the very real impact on colleague’s lives. MORE

Toby Porter

16 February, 2016

I am writing this blog at Zurich airport, on my way back from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting at Davos. Extreme global inequality was rightly a recurrent, prominent theme throughout the four-day meeting, again galvanised by the skilful publication by Oxfam of their calculations regarding the proportion of the world’s overall wealth held by the richest very few.

What is becoming clear, however, is that many civil society organisations (CSOs), working at national level, perceive a not dissimilar inequality in the global development and humanitarian system. Take the figure quoted in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit in May – a mere 10 CSOs are said to deliver 90% of the overall CSO share of global humanitarian assistance. Not surprisingly, there are a great many voices starting to say that this too is highly inequitable, and needs to change.

Older campaigners march in Haiti © Josph Jn-Florley/HelpAge International

In a recent blog for Devex I suggested that it was time for us CSOs to look at merging or outsourcing many of their functions at country level. Partly this is a matter of basic efficiency, starting to eliminate the obvious and widespread duplication in the current collective operational footprints in the countries and regions where we operate. MORE