Burkhard Gnärig

12 December, 2017

When civil society organisations (CSOs) speak about power they usually refer to the power of others, and they refer to power in negative terms: power is used to oppress and exploit, power corrupts. However, such a simplistic and prejudiced understanding of power is an obstacle to CSOs’ endeavours to achieve their missions. Our sector needs to change its understanding of power in order to increase its effectiveness.

Embracing POWER as a positive concept

When looking up the definition of power in a dictionary we find that power is simply “the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way”[1]. Power as such is neither positive nor negative. It is necessary in order “to do something”, be it good or bad. This means CSOs need power to achieve the positive aims they are working for. They are part of the eternal power struggle between good and bad, egotism and altruism, short-term gains and long-term sustainability, etc. In this context it is not only necessary for CSOs to strive for maximum power, it is ethically desirable, as long as CSOs use their power consistently and effectively to attain their mission. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

22 September, 2015

In our most recent posts we discussed the “burning platform” as a leadership tool, looking at hope and fear as opposite drivers of change. I believe that hope is the much more effective driver and that civil society organisations (CSOs) need to become much better at using hope to drive the change they want to see.

Hope feels so much better than fear. When scanning my Twitter account last Wednesday, the day after we launched the video of the discussion with Daryl Conner, I was excited to find three positive messages on the issue of Planetary Boundaries. One referred to the 98% reduction in ozone depleting chemicals as an inspiration for the climate negotiations, another one reported about US and Chinese cities committing to ambitious climate protection goals, and another one shared the decision of the world’s largest PR firm to no longer work with coal producers and climate change deniers. Reading and retweeting these made me feel optimistic and invigorated: progress at so many different levels bodes well for the climate negotiations which will take place in Paris in a few weeks’ time. MORE