New ICSO Business Models

New ICSO Business Models

Diversify, Adapt and Innovate - Changing ICSO Business Models identifies what changes likely need to be made to existing ICSO business models to remain viable and identifies other business models that are likely to become much more widely adopted in our sector. It concludes with key recommendations for ICSO leaders seeking to adapt their business models to this changing global context. Diversify, Adapt and Innovate - Changing ICSO Business Models is one of the outcomes of a project initiated by the International Civil Society Centre on New ICSO Business Models.

The project was guided by a working group of 30 experts from ICSOs and their key stakeholders. The group has worked together over the course of one year, including a three-day workshop in June exploring new ICSO business models and developing recommendations to the sector.

Diversify, Adapt and Innovate - Changing ICSO Business Models was officially launched at the Centre’s conference Global Perspectives on 29-31 October 2014 in Paris.

The project was kindly supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.



For decades, business models of international civil society organisations (ICSOs) have been highly successful and fairly uncontested: ICSOs’ services for millions of people worldwide have achieved impressive impact, their advocacy has been influential and many have turned their names into valuable global brands. However, the world is changing with increasing speed and depth - and often in unforeseeable directions.

As a result, a growing number of disruptive changes can be observed, which question well-established ways of thinking and operating. Signs have been emerging that disruption is affecting the civil society sector, in particular – and possibly quite prominently – the largest, well-established ICSOs.

With its project Riding the Wave in 2013 the Centre explored threats and opportunities disruption brings to the sector. The findings from the project imply that the two main business models ICSOs have so successfully applied over the last few decades are seriously threatened by disruptive change:

  • the service delivery model is challenged by internet based “virtual” platforms, which offer a more direct link between donor and recipient at much lower overhead costs; and
  • the campaigning model faces increasing competition from virtual campaigning platforms, which have a wider reach and can mobilise faster than the traditional ICSO.




Rockefeller Foundation