Call for Applications, Project Consultant Tender

23rd February 2021 by Elizabeth Parsons

The International Civil Society Centre is looking for a project consultant to support the Civil Society Collaborative: Inclusive COVID-19 Data.

The goal of the collaboration is to bring together CSOs and use their data to understand and amplify the needs of marginalised people, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, 15 partner organisations from the international civil society have signed up to the project, including key actors like Plan International, Sightsavers, Development Initiatives, Restless Development and CIVICUS.

The key output of the collaboration will be a joint report to be launched and presented at the UN High-Level Political Forum, taking place in early July. Further presentations are planned for the UN World Data Forum in October and potentially other occasions. The report’s main content will be an analysis of the data, learnings, and insights that partner organisations have jointly contributed, focusing on COVID-19 and its impact on marginalised people. 

The Centre and GPSDD are currently conducting a survey across the participating partner organisations, collecting their relevant insights, learnings and available data. For the next steps of project implementation, the Centre is commissioning a consultant to:

  • Utilise the landscape survey and analysis conducted across the project partners to develop a report structure and outline;
  • Author of the advocacy report (10,000-12,000 words) to influence global leaders;
  • Identify case studies and impact stories to be promoted; and,
  • Work in close collaboration with the Centre, GPSDD and the project Steering Committee throughout the entire process to reconcile the report development with the interests of all participating parties. 

Find the full tender and how to apply here

If you meet the selection criteria, please submit your application to including:

  • A brief description of the Offeror’s experience and expertise in the field that illustrates overall qualifications and capabilities;
  • A brief description of the Offeror’s understanding of the scope of services and proposed methodology for the work;
  • Resume or CV of individual or principals, in the case of a consulting firm; 
  • List of Past and Current Clients; and,
  • Cost Requirements. 

Proposals, including any attachments, should be sent electronically in PDF format by Thursday, 4 March 2021. Please include the subject line: “Call for tenders – COVID-19 Data Collaborative”. 

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

To Remain Relevant, CSOs Need to Fix the Architecture

19th February 2021 by George E. Mitchell and Hans Peter Schmitz

This is the first of two guest blogs and an upcoming podcast interview which will explore longstanding challenges and new dimensions of deep drivers of change for international civil society organisations (ICSOs), from a group of academics and practitioners who have long explored the questions of power and relevance that influence the future of these organisations. 

In this first blog, the authors explore the major long-term trends and questions already challenging the sector before the new complexities highlighted and surfaced by the big developments of 2020.

Long before COVID-19 disrupted the lives of billions and raised new, urgent challenges for the sector, many ICSOs were already grappling with existential questions about their futures. In many ways, the global pandemic is amplifying a longstanding need for change, not just for future-looking ICSOs but for the whole sector more broadly.

Geopolitical shifts, increasing demands for accountability, and growing competition have been driving the need for change within the sector for decades. ICSOs have been responding with specific initiatives intended to secure their future effectiveness and relevance, but their efforts have been constrained by institutional and cultural legacies—forms and norms—that inhibit their ability to successfully adapt. As ICSOs confront unprecedented challenges to their survival and future relevance, leaders and change managers must keep the long-term future in sight while addressing the immediate needs of their organisations and stakeholders.

New agency within old architecture

The longstanding problem facing ICSOs is that over the past half-century they have evolved into new kinds of organisations, while the architecture in which they operate has remained largely unchanged. Most ICSOs today do more than alleviate the symptoms of deprivation and injustice, seeking instead to address root causes through fundamental social and political transformations. As such, they are no longer conventional charities and instead agents of transformation focused on achieving long-term sustainable impact.

But ICSOs still operate within a legacy architecture designed for conventional charities, not for contemporary change agents. The resulting tensions underlie many of the challenges long debated throughout the sector, including aid localisation, downward accountability, and shifting power. Missing in these discussions is an acknowledgement that ICSOs need to do more than embrace internal reforms; they also need to work collectively to change the architecture in which they are embedded.

The legacy of the architecture and its accountability framework

The architecture consists of the forms and norms that have historically defined the sector. In the United States, ICSOs typically incorporate in charity form with self-perpetuating boards and transnational federated governance structures often dominated by their wealthiest member organisations. These forms tend to privilege ‘upward’ financial accountability to donors in the Global North, with a focus on preventing financial integrity failures, such as embezzlement or fraud, rather than focusing on ‘downward’ accountability and sustainable impact for intended local constituents.

The charity model assumes that the impact ICSOs create is often unknowable or too difficult to measure, so accountability is instead fixated on financial reporting and monitoring. In general, ICSOs are supposed to spend all of their available resources as quickly as possible on whatever is easiest to measure and most satisfying to donors. This is not conducive for organisations explicitly committed to being accountable to those they claim to serve, truly empowering stakeholders, and achieving long-term sustainable impact. The traditional charity model works well for conventional charities, but fails for ICSOs seeking to inhabit new roles as agents and facilitators of fundamental change.

Manifestations of dysfunctional architecture and cultural norms

The dysfunctional role of this architecture is today particularly apparent when ICSOs attempt to break the rules to increase their effectiveness; for instance, when activists seek to address global issues through advocacy “at home,” rather than through traditional aid transfers from the Global North to the South. In Germany, groups such as Attac and Campact had their tax-exempt status revoked because of tax laws prohibiting political activities. In Switzerland, a recent campaign by ICSOs in support of greater corporate accountability for human rights violations abroad has led to accusations of engaging in illegal domestic political activities. As the strategies of ICSOs continuously evolve based on changing understandings of global problems, the existing charity laws and regulations regularly fail the sector.       

Alongside issues of law and governance, powerful cultural sector norms have also emerged that influence how stakeholders think and act. Many of these represent the sector’s virtuous character and should be maintained and celebrated, but others hold it back. For example, ICSO staff and supporters may acknowledge a need for reform throughout the sector, but at the same time consider their own organisations exempt because of some perceived unique difference. These ‘excessive cultures of uniqueness’ can also lead to problematic behaviours by individuals claiming a commitment to values as a substitute for a true culture of transparency and openness.

Transforming the architecture together

Of course, what ultimately matters most is the lives of the billions of people who stand to gain by a more successful sector. The architecture has ensured that ICSOs can survive, and even thrive, mainly by satisfying resource providers. But this system is outdated and fails to serve the needs of ICSOs and their local constituents today.

To ensure their future relevance, ICSOs need to collectively organise to transform the legal and cultural frameworks holding the sector back. They need to decide what kind of organisations they want to be and then help create a new architecture that facilitates, rather than impedes, success in these desired future roles.

George E. Mitchell and Hans Peter Schmitz, alongside Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, are co-authors of the recently published book Between Power and Irrelevance: the Future of Transnational NGOs. You can discover more details about it here.

George E. Mitchell

Associate Professor

Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, City University of New York

Prior to joining the Marxe School, he was Assistant Professor at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York. He received his PhD from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University (USA), where he was cofounder of the Transnational NGO Initiative at the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs. George’s research examines topics in NGO and non-profit management, leadership, and strategy.

Hans Peter Schmitz

Associate Professor of Leadership Studies

University of San Diego

He received his PhD in Social and Political Sciences from the European University Institute in San Domenico di Fiesole, Italy. He is the cofounder of the Transnational NGO Initiative at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs/Syracuse University. His research interests include international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), human rights advocacy, digital activism, philanthropy, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as global health issues.

Open Letter to States on Universal Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

8th February 2021 by Elizabeth Parsons

This open letter from leaders of CSO platforms calls on States and UN Secretary-General to meet their obligations to protect the most marginalised groups during the Covid-19 crisis and ensure that all people worldwide, without distinction of any kind, have access to an effective vaccine in a timely manner.

8 February 2021

Permanent Missions in Geneva and to the United Nations Secretary-General Office

In these early months of 2021, our common SDG pledge to leaving no-one behind is as critical as ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit indiscriminately both high-and low-income countries, threatening lives and aggravating existing inequalities and vulnerabilities, it is high time for international solidarity.

We are conveners of influential civil society networks and platforms.  Our constituency entails thousands of civil society organisations and their partners which work with, and on behalf of millions of people who are being marginalised and deprived of their human and civic rights.

We highly value the long-standing partnership with States and UN agencies. We are determined to mobilise and lead collectively, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the rights of those left furthest behind.

Together we have been able to move forward on crucial agendas such as peace and human rights, disaster response and development goals. Although, across these topics, serious challenges still exist, we remain committed to addressing them jointly. This is key to our success.

Regretfully, today we note a lack of collective actions in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and are seriously concerned by the increased competition on access to vaccines. While we recognise States’ responsibility to respect, protect and promote the right to adequate health care for all those living on their territory, we would like to highlight that this pandemic knows no borders and demands global solutions.  With new variants of the virus developing in various locations in the globe, it has become clear that universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine is the only solution to end the pandemic and mitigate the deepening socio-economic inequalities.  All people worldwide, without distinction of any kind, must have access to an effective vaccine in a timely manner.

Thereby we call upon States to step up multilateral efforts and lead a truthy global response. We call for a global allocation framework that puts humanity at the centre. It is in our common interest to ensure that priority in access to vaccine at a global level is given to those at a higher risk of infection and/or developing a serious disease. Other priority considerations at national and global level will be counterproductive, leading to a perpetual spiral of new, vaccine-resistant variants of the virus.

We urge States, pharmaceutical companies and all other private actors in the supply and production chain to undertake concrete steps to rapidly step up the production of vaccines’ and at a price that will be affordable for all. In these life-threatening times, more than ever, we need full transparency from our governments and accountability on invested public money.

As civil society organisations we stand ready to work hand in hand with States, UN Agencies and the private sector to ensure that this truly becomes a people’s vaccines. We have valuable knowledge, expertise and capacities to concretely support the roll out of effective and all-inclusive national vaccines programmes. We strongly believe that only by working together we can defeat this pandemic and successfully stand against future ones.


Abdirashiid Hirsi, Acting Director, Somalia NGO Consortium

Abby Maxman, Chair of SCHR

Colin Rajah, Coordinator, Civil Society Action Committee

Daniel Eriksson, Interim Managing Director, Transparency International 

Ignacio Packer, Executive Director, ICVA

Samuel A. Worthington, Chief Executive Officer, InterAction

Sarah Strack, Director, Forus

Stephanie Draper, Chief Executive, Bond

Wolfgang Jamann, Executive Director, International Civil Society Centre


Open Letter to States on Universal Access to Covid-19 Vaccines (PDF).


For further information on this letter contact the co-signatories or email:

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Explore: ‘Civil Society Innovation and Urban Inclusion’ report

2nd February 2021 by Elizabeth Parsons

Civil society organisations are innovators. They test new approaches to both traditional and emerging problems. One of today’s most prominent and influential global megatrends is the rapid but unplanned urbanisation taking place around the world, which risks excluding the priorities of many groups of people living in cities from formal planning and decision-making processes. While civil society organisations have achieved some success in addressing these challenges, there is a significant opportunity for organisations to learn and benefit from the lessons others have encountered.

In this report, we’ve collected some samples of successful innovations in complex urban contexts that deliver inclusive solutions for marginalised communities. Get inspired by real-life examples of new approaches:

School Area Road Safety Assessments and Improvements (SARSAI) 

Built for Zero

Ageing and Urbanisation

Safer Cities for Girls

Urban Refugees Incubation Program (URIP)


Listen to our Futures and Innovation Podcast – an audio series streaming on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Soundcloud designed to explore new ways of working and thinking in complex urban contexts.

Visit our Innovation Website to find out more about the aims of the report and all the case study content:

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre