Global Perspectives 2020 and Delegate Connect

7th July 2020 by Thomas Howie

We are excited to announce a new partnership between the International Civil Society Centre and Delegate Connect to deliver Global Perspectives 2020 virtually in November.

We chose Delegate Connect for its exciting and user friendly platform which provides a space for participants to network, operate on a low bandwidth making it accessible around the world, and for their excellent customer support. Delegate Connect also understands that this event will generate social good and is the flagship event for civil society. As such they are supporting us to put on the best Global Perspectives ever.


Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Join Making Voices Heard and Count at the UN’s High Level Political Forum

6th July 2020 by Peter Koblowsky

Event Title: Community-driven data as transformative means for accelerated action and SDG delivery
Call link:
Date: 9 July 2020
Time: 8.00-10.00am (EDT)
Facilitation: Wolfgang Jamann, International Civil Society Centre

Download the Agenda

We will record this event! Room capacity is limited to 300! We advise our audience to arrive at the virtual room before the official starting time. Moderators will be online in the room as of 7.45am.

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Peter Koblowsky

Project Manager - Leave No One Behind

International Civil Society Centre

Peter joined the Centre in January 2013, back then as a trainee. He completed the traineeship in the advocacy & campaigning office of World Vision Germany. Peter now coordinates the Leave No One Behind project and contributes to the development and implementation of various other strategic formats. Before joining the Centre, Peter worked for various organisations and think tanks in the development sector, being an expert in multi-stakeholder processes. He studied at the University of Bonn and graduated with an MA in Political Science with a focus on multi-actor advocacy for climate policy.

We need your help to collect post-Covid 19 signals for the civil society sector

2nd July 2020 by Thomas Howie

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King

Callling all civil society scanners! We are glad to announce that our work for 2020 is entering its second phase. This includes getting your ‘signals for the sector’. We would like to have your signals for an emerging post-COVID 19 World in our shared database. This might include an article, a conversation, video or podcast (see how below).

At the annual Scanning the Horizon meeting in May 2020, futures-focused colleagues from across the civil society sector  gather and agreed to share key emerging points for a post-COVID 19 world from June to August. Catch up here:

Outcomes from Scanning the Horizon Annual Meeting



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Subsequently, we have launched an ambitious networked approach to horizon scanning to capture ‘signals of change’ on a range of key uncertainties facing our sector after the pandemic.  Sharing signals around 9 critical uncertainties, including COVID-19 and:


Why this process?

We want to harvest the power of a networked approach to horizon scanning and collective thinking to see what clues exist regarding the emergence of possible futures. We want your help in this process with these guiding questions in mind:

What might the new normal look like? Might it:

  • Exacerbate existing inequalities?
  • Accelerate pre-existing trends?
  • Transform things in new and dynamic ways?
  • Bring about paradigm shifts?

How might we as CSOs need to behave in the face of COVID-19?

  • Reaction – short-term
  • Management – medium-term
  • Influence – long-term

How can you take part in this process? 

We invite you to join in with three comprehensive steps:

1. Watch our short introductory video

2. Log relevant signals related to one of the nine uncertainties above in our open online database

3. Look at what others are sharing and encourage other organisations in your networks to also take part, so we have diverse global inputs.

Sources of signals

As a guideline for spotting a signal, here are some selected sources of inspiration you might want to consider:

  • Media articles
  • Opinion polls
  • Conversations with ICSOs

 Timeline for this process

Scanning in a nutshell

Initiated in 2015 with seed funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, Scanning the Horizon is a growing global platform for (I)CSOs, cross-sector community of experts and practitioners to share insights, explore key trends and develop relevant collaborative future adaptive strategies. The platform also enables peer learning and the pooling of resources.

For further information, please contact Vicky Tongue – Programme Manager – Futures and Innovation.


Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Anti-racism in the aid sector: A call for all of us to act and accelerate change as individuals, organisations and as a sector 

30th June 2020 by Andres Gomez De La Torre

Recent developments have rightly brought back old calls for structural change in the aid sector, and for taking anti-racist action individually and as organisations. CARE International’s Andres Gomez de la Torre Barrera makes a compelling personal case that we can either remain tone deaf (again) to these calls or take the opportunity to listen, reflect and act with a renewed sense of urgency.

The pandemic is exposing deep inequalities in our world, and our sector is not immune

It’s difficult to sum up how I’ve felt in the last few weeks. I’ve gone from frustration to excitement, sadness to hope and, at points, rage. It’s been heart-breaking to witness people in my home country, Peru, dying due to COVID-19. But even more than the virus itself, the real killers are years of oppression, inequality, corruption and gender-based violence, underpinned by structural racism, indifference and patriarchy. All around the world, the pandemic is exposing the deep inequalities in our world in the most brutal way.

Protests and reactions around the world are also refocusing attention to how racism is structural and embedded into all aspects of our society. It’s inevitable the aid sector is also deeply marked by it, despite the ideals it embraces of humanity, equality and empathy. Nearly everyone has a story, as highlighted in this recent Bond blog, “from overt experiences of racial discrimination, to everyday micro-aggressions and unsafe workplace cultures”. Passionate and thought-provoking statements from within seem to be finally shaking our sector, particularly (but not exclusively) from Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), despite these same voices (and others before them) having already tried for so hard and for so long to prompt change.

A new opportunity to challenge ourselves and make our sector more equal and inclusive

We have an opportunity, with a renewed sense of urgency, to go as deep as we can and face the real underlying issue: we need to decolonise the aid sector. The level of change needed is so significant, that we can’t waste time in accelerating actions to tackle racism and colonialism in aid. It’s a call for all of us, because no one is immune – individually or as an organisation, by action or inaction – to structural racism. We need to see this as an opportunity to reflect on how racism – subtle or open – shows up inside our organisations, shaping the way we conceptualize our work, our behaviors and ways of working.

Anti-racism means learning and listening as individuals

White supremacy culture, with roots in colonialism, designed and constructed the aid system we work in and – by action or omission – we have supported this dominant power and narrative. As Stephanie Kimou, Founder of PopWorks Africa, said during last week’s #AntiRacistInAid webinar, “You don’t need to be racist or a white supremacist to support white supremacy culture.” If we feel called out, fragile, guilty or uncomfortable with this discussion, there are plenty of resources and voices that we can use to educate ourselves. They can help us start reflecting on our own privileges and how we have engaged with racism and the systems that embed them in our own lives.

Listening to inspirational and fearless leaders will challenge the way we see the world and the aid sector, while helping us to reflect on our own assumptions and privileges. I’ve been particularly drawn to Stephanie Kimou and Degan Ali, Executive Director of ADESO, in the two superb and inspirational webinars that took place last week, #AntiRacistInAid and #RethinkingHumanitarianism.

Essential reading is this fantastic piece by Vu Le on Have nonprofit and philanthropy become the “white moderate” that Dr. King warned us about? and Jennifer Lentfer’s ‘Professional do-gooders, here’s 14 ways to be in action against anti-Black racism. And if you enjoy audio, listen to Challenging the “‘White Gaze’ of Development” during COVID-19 with Liberian academic, activist and author Robtel Neajai Pailey.

Anti-racism means taking active stands, engaging in difficult conversations as leaders

If we’re in a position of leadership within an ICSO, it is key to listen, learn fast, and reflect on the role and responsibility we hold, and bring attention to the need for change. Tweeting supportive messages or publishing solidarity statements mean very little if not accompanied by reflection and concrete commitments, including taking an active anti-racist stand in our own organisations. As Degan Ali says, we need a “radical reckoning” else #BlackLivesMatter might become a trend in our sector, if structural issues are not addressed.

People in leadership positions in our sector – predominantly white men – should not run away from difficult conversations because of their political nature. The international aid system is political, as everything in it is about power relations and hierarchies. As compellingly argued by Vu Le, if sector leaders do not publicly call out white supremacy or nationalism when protesters are risking their lives in a pandemic, or ‘think it’s too political or uncomfortable to say that Black lives matter and act/fund accordingly, then…you are part of the problem.”

Leaders should promote spaces for staff to discuss racism, inclusion, gender inequality and privilege, without forcing our presence in what might need to be safe spaces. We need to support these as important and necessary ongoing investments in our staff well-being and organisational development. Our own Leadership Teams must learn and reflect about these issues, listen to the lived experience of others, and be prepared for uncomfortable conversations, at least at the beginning. If these are not making you feel uncomfortable, then you’re probably not having the right conversation.

Anti-racism means reflecting the diversity of our communities in our own people

Our leadership and teams should better reflect the diversity of our own communities. Significant changes are needed in the way we approach our own people and what we value the most – recruitment and promotion, equal pay for equal jobs, expat salaries and benefits, investment in training and support – and the promotion of an organisational culture that truly embraces gender equality and inclusion. Women, and particularly Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour must be fully represented in the most senior leadership, executive and board roles in our organisations.

Finally, and irrespective of the position we hold in our organisations, we should all reflect on our privilege and, from this point, engage in discussions with a different perspective. We should be able to recognise if (or how) we are beneficiaries of a system that discriminates BIPOC, and engage with more empathy, acting and seeking fairer practices and, why not, taking a step aside.

Anti-racism means being serious about localisation in our operating models and behaviours

All the #AntiRacistInAid panellists agreed, “we can’t be truly anti-racist in this sector if we are not serious about true localisation”, although tokenistic localisation itself is coming under question as another construct of the same system we’re trying to change. We must start by asking what is needed and who is best placed to meet that need, rather than articulating what we – as ICSOs- can offer or bring (“our expertise”). We need to properly engage with demands from national actors for a paradigm shift whereby we support and not compete with them. And we need to stop trying to justify why this is not possible yet, and instead make it happen. “As national as possible and as international as needed” is regaining momentum as a clear vision, and “leading from behind” or “speaking on behalf of the voiceless” finally starting to lose ground.

This also means taking actions to ensure we are: investing more in locally-led actions, engaging in more equitable partnerships – which recognise power imbalances but genuinely embrace the added value of each partner brings, being fully transparent on how much of the money we raise actually reaches local communities, questioning who makes the decisions on the use of the funding, and having effective exit strategies which avoid perpetuating our presence and/or harmful dependency. Everything we do must aim at complementing existing local capacities – which were there way before we arrived and will be way after we depart.

Anti-racism means rethinking our knowledge, communications and language

The aid sector has basically been built on the transfer of knowledge and resources from “givers” to “recipients”, reinforced by all actors in the system. From donors reinforcing paternalistic needs for “capacity building’ to those at the ‘receiving end’ embracing the model – for multiple reasons – white supremacy practices are not exclusively by White people or those from “the global north”. Most examples of driving progress, innovation or “out of the box thinking” seem to be “exported” by the same suspects. Communications focus should be on rethinking who is telling the stories and getting the credit for the work done, and constantly reflecting if we are behaving like “white saviours”. Simply asking for permission for photos “we take” and use in “our channels” or trying to portray communities in a dignified way is not good enough.

Last but definitively not least, language is both power and political too. Let’s start just by getting rid of all these terms I still hear: “beneficiaries”, “capacity building”, “first” and “third world”, “going on a mission” or “travelling to the field”. My colleague Tessy Cherono Maritim really gets us thinking on this: “Going to ‘the field’ is the same as saying ‘third world’ and fuels this racist and white saviour fantasy of ‘exploring in the wild’ or going somewhere dangerous to rescue people with no autonomy or initiative. We never refer to European or North American offices as ‘the field’. The term perpetuates this idea of a powerful centre and places outside this as the ‘other’. If we believe in the notion of a networked, multi-polar world, where ideas, capacities, money, power, exist in contexts outside the West/North, we should stop reference to this term. Changing language is a simple way to communicate our commitment to anti-racism.” The responsibility for changing white supremacy language is on those who constructed it.

Anti-racism means us joining together to shake the system we’re part of.

While this is obvious, sometimes it seems like we don’t want to see it: ICSOs are just one set of actors within a much broader and complex aid architecture. But we have both a right and responsibility to shake the system from within, “unlearning” from being in it for so long, and getting our act to work together in solidarity to bring about this much-needed change.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CARE International.


  1. The organisers of #AntiRacistInAid made available some free resources they are happy for us to share. Take a look.
  1. A good collection of articles, reflections and suggestions by Nadine El-Nabli and Anna Myer. It includes useful resources and suggested practical commitments on several areas. (link).

Andres Gomez De La Torre

Head of Organisational Development

Care International

Andres Gomez de la Torre Barrera is the Director of Confederation Development & Governance (Interim) at CARE International. Originally from Peru, Andres works at the CARE International Secretariat on issues such as confederation development and diversification, operating models, governance, policy and strategy. Previously, he worked for a range of organisations, including global alliances (Family for EveryChild), international INGOs (CAFOD and WomanKind) and national CSOs, government and private sector firms.  

Global Perspectives 2020: Nurturing inclusive communities

25th June 2020 by Anna Simitchieva

This year´s development definitely caught us all by surprise. The reality of Coronavirus translated into very real restrictions on our freedom to move around, meet-up or simply to sit at the office together. This woke up many of us and made even more obvious the path that is no longer a choice, but a necessity: to act together in building inclusive communities for us all. In this article, we invite you on a journey towards inclusion, which is the topic and the long-term goal of the virtual conference Global Perspectives 2020.

Inclusion has many layers and aspects, relating to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status and many more. We can argue about the success of our communities towards it, but many marginalised groups not only in the developing world, but also in cosmopolitan cities, such as Berlin, remain neglected. We still have a lot to do, especially if we truly hope to achieve at least some of the ambitious 17 SDGs[1] during the last decade for their implementation.

The urgency and the importance of the topic put it on top of the International Civil Society Centre´s agenda. We decided to offer safe space for interaction and exchange on inclusion within the community we host. At our biggest platform for exchange, Global Perspectives, participants from around the world will explore new ideas and strategies together on how to make inclusion a fundamental part of our work towards achieving the goals, outlined in the Agenda 2030.

Our aim is to open discussions on:

  • Including civil society in political processes;
  • Empowering inclusion in CSO programmes;
  • Creating and maintaining CSOs as diverse and inclusive organisations.

Global Perspectives is a dynamic place to be, with a diverse group of participants – civil society leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs, journalists and many more. The common theme between them all is their passion to co-create, connect and collaborate to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

Furthermore, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Global Perspectives will be entirely a virtual experience. We will provide both the award-winning conference mobile application Whova and an interactive software to open up the possibility to dive deep into the virtual networking. With shorter sessions scheduled to accommodate different time zones, we will enable high-levels of creativity, proactive engagement and fully inclusive discussions with participants from all over the globe.

This experience sounds exciting? It truly is, and we want to invite you to be part of it! There are many possibilities for collaboration, sponsorship and tailored support. Don´t hesitate to and discover the most suitable one.

We welcome you to support our effort for sustainable inclusion now!



Anna Simitchieva

Fundraising Officer

International Civil Society Centre

Anna joined the Centre as Fundraising Officer in November 2019. From Bulgaria, Anna has studied and worked in Germany, Spain, Colombia and Armenia. She gained previous fundraising experience at SODI e.V. in Berlin and in the Caucasus, when she was sent to Armenia by Bread for the World to support Women for Development as Communication for Development and Fundraising Officer for two years. Before entering the nonprofit sector, Anna worked for different (inter-)national TV stations for live news productions in Berlin for more than 5 years, among them RBB and Deutsche Welle. Anna holds a MA in Intercultural Communication Studies from the European University Viadrina in Frankurt Oder and a BA in Journalism and Communication Studies and Spanish from the Free University Berlin.

Solidarity Playbook Case Study

18th June 2020 by Eva Gondorová

Think you might have a case study to share?

Then let us know what your case study is about by answering the questions below. Brief answers to all questions – also not required ones – would be very helpful for us to get a better idea of your case. After submitting this form, we will get in touch with you.

Case Study Submission Form

e.g. legal restrictions, bureaucratic clampdowns, financial constraints, media and misinformation/disinformation attacks or digital and cybersecurity risks.

Got a question?

Then get in touch with Project Manager Eva Gondorová.


Eva Gondorová

Project Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Eva coordinates the project Solidarity Action Network (SANE) which aims at strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors.

Call for Solidarity Playbook Case Studies

18th June 2020 by Eva Gondorová

The Solidarity Action Network (SANE) is looking for case studies to include in its Solidarity Playbook, to be published later this year. We are looking for examples of strategies and resilience mechanisms of international civil society organisations (ICSOs) and coalition responses to civic space restrictions that demonstrate how solidarity can work in practice. These strategies and responses may have come as a result of an undue threat or attack, equally they relate to the operating environment, for example a new law making it harder for CSOs to operate.

Continue reading if you are interested to learn more or have an example to share.

Solidarity Action Network and Solidarity Playbook

The Solidarity Action Network (SANE) brings together international civil society organisations (ICSOs) and their local partners to support each other when faced with undue threats and challenges to their operations or civic space restrictions more broadly. The network collects and shares knowledge and best practices, inspires collaborative actions and explores new solidarity mechanisms beyond public statements of solidarity.  

The Solidarity Playbook is an integral part of the Solidarity Action Network. It collects case studies and best practices to help other civil society organisations respond to undue scrutiny and challenges, and to enable learning on how to act in solidarity with civil society actors, particularly local partners. A set of six initial Solidarity Playbook case studies has already been published and we would like your help in building this collection.  

Show solidarity – share your case study with peers!

We are looking for more examples that capture best practices on:  

1) Strategies and resilience mechanisms of ICSOs 

We want to hear about strategies and resilience mechanisms of different ICSOs developed to respond to undue scrutiny and attacks such as legal restrictions, bureaucratic clampdowns, financial constraints, media and misinformation/disinformation attacks or digital and cybersecurity risks. We are particularly interested in learning from ICSOs which might not be an obvious target but have had to adapt their strategies due to the consequences of civic space restrictions. 

2) Coalition responses to civic space restrictions that demonstrate how solidarity can work in practice

We want to look at coalition responses at different levels (local/national/regional/global level) and map how civil society organisations support each other, show solidarity and respond to threats and challenges with a unified voice. We are particularly interested in looking at connectivity between these levels, coalitions uniting different kinds of civil society organisations and cross-sector collaborations. 

Got a question?

Then get in touch with Project Manager Eva Gondorová.

Think you might have a case study to share?

Then let us know what your case study is about by answering the questions below. Brief answers to all questions – also not required ones – would be very helpful for us to get a better idea of your case. After submitting this form, we will get in touch with you.

Case Study Submission Form

e.g. legal restrictions, bureaucratic clampdowns, financial constraints, media and misinformation/disinformation attacks or digital and cybersecurity risks.


Eva Gondorová

Project Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Eva coordinates the project Solidarity Action Network (SANE) which aims at strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors.

COVID-19, European Cities and Climate Action – How Participation Makes Our Cities Clean and Healthy

17th June 2020 by Nadja Nickel and Aleksandar Brezar

Following on from their recent guest blog on populism and civic engagement, linking to the themes of our 2019 Innovation Report, the Democratic Society shares their experiences of another exciting project looking at climate action in European cities, as we look ahead to our upcoming 2020 version of the Innovation Report looking at urban inclusion.

By inviting and empowering residents to take informed decisions, we can ensure a collective responsibility around challenges that affect our communities, and we are able to strengthen the democratic foundation of the places we live in. 

Demand is growing for climate action that matches the scale and urgency of one of the biggest challenges of our generation. We need to ensure that this transformation process is adaptive, democratic and fair for everyone, but particularly marginalised groups in societies. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a need for new ways of working and a different angle on existing climate action endeavours. These huge challenges require response structures within our democracies that are agile, local and informed by evidence. However, these are of risk of being eroded within a state of emergency.

At the Democratic Society (Demsoc), we already knew we needed a longer-term, more conversational approach for changes to be planned and delivered with people, and a stronger civic infrastructure to allow this to happen. We are fully engaged in making sure that everyone in Europe – not just the eloquent and the sharp-elbowed – can access those opportunities, and that their voices are heard in a fair balance.

This is where our work together with EIT Climate KIC, called ‘Healthy, Clean Cities’ – Deep Demonstration’, comes to the fore. With 15 of the most ambitious mayors, municipalities and city communities in Europe, we are designing joined-up innovations to unlock wholesale transformation across all city systems – from mobility to waste to energy to health and the built environment.

As a design partner, the Democratic Society is set to bring participative methods into play in order to make sure that changes are made with people at the centre of the process in these 15 European cities, each with its own specific challenges and goals.

Experimentation builds long-term democratic and participatory capacity where we are working 

Our experiments in each place support both grassroots- and government-led efforts to ensure cities are becoming healthy, clean places to live, with methods that allow everyone’s voices to be expressed and heard. This has the underlying goal of building up the long-term democratic and participatory capacity and structures in the places where we’re working. In each city, our Local Connectors invest in localised and long-term efforts to empower residents and civil society. Here, we share some experiences from three cities: Kraków, Vienna and Madrid.

  1. Kraków, Poland

The role of residents in climate action is acknowledged by the city of Kraków as a high priority topic. Our Local Connector, Aleksandra Ziętek, sees the transition to a post-Covid-19 ‘new normal’ as an ”…unexpected experience which should benefit the whole process in the long run”. It is creating opportunities for us to use and build on the city’s existing public participation mechanisms to implement innovative and coherent working methods with communities. “COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown shed a light on the city’s resilience issues,” says Aleksandra, which sparked conversations around how residents use the city – how they travel, work and play – and how this resonates with the existing models and whether they live up to people’s current and future needs.

It also touches upon questions on how residents participate in the city’s life and how we can shape its future: “These issues led us to come up with five potential Kraków missions to pursue, one of them being a ‘flexible and responsive society’ which directly addresses the new circumstances we have experienced,” Aleksandra concluded.

  1. Vienna, Austria

Vienna has only recently added resident participation to its main strategy for sustainable development. Our Local Connector there, Daniela Amann, also sees the opportunity to build on the city’s existing capacities by identifying how participation can be better embedded in the city’s structure to enable governance learning, improved collaboration between city departments and – as a result – better participatory processes.

Daniela explains, “While some city departments have high standards in participation and experiment with innovative actions, others are still taking their first steps in public participation. In particular, city departments whose responsibility include climate action, such as energy, are lacking personal and financial resources to develop strategies to conduct participatory processes.”

Sarah Haas, the City of Vienna’s Deep Demonstrations Programme Manager, explains that: “Decarbonising Vienna – the aim of the Deep Demonstrations programme – is impossible without ensuring a just transition. [Demsoc brings] new perspectives and their years-long expertise in participation and social inclusion.”

  1. Madrid, Spain

Our work in Madrid is moving in two directions:

  1. Focus on existing community initiatives, which Local Connector Juan López-Aranguren explains as: “we want to check how…local initiatives link with each other, how flexible they are and how they could be escalated to a more ecosystemic approach.”
  2. Focus on city government and its needs, which Juan describes as “Sometimes the administration and private sector have really good programmes but they don’t know how to link these resources with [the work done by the] civic society… We can find a lot of creative solutions, research, etc. in informal proposals, such as civic action. Our role is to connect the needs with the responses and facilitate the connection and a good understanding to establish protocols or methodologies.”

One of these is the design of a ‘learning by doing’ methodology called “Communities in Practice” for a group of civic experts working on big issues, such as mobility or zero waste, to take an ecosystem approach to design their response. The city is now looking into how mobility can be reduced by learning from the current pandemic measures, and allowing for more teleworking and community workspace engagement.

Promoting ‘climate neutrality in collaboration’

In these cities and beyond, we are keen to promote ‘climate neutrality in collaboration’ to improve the quality of local projects, increase trust in government institutions and create local jobs and positive economic impacts. Holistic and sustainable changes in these cities will only be achieved if done together and with everyone in mind, with the residents being the ones to gain the most.

Follow the Democratic Society on Twitter and Facebook (@demsoc) to find out more about the project or visit to sign up for our newsletter and stay updated.

Nadja Nickel

Director for Climate

Democratic Society

Nadja Nickel is the Director for Climate of the Democratic Society, Europe’s leading democracy non-for-profit. Previously, Nadja was the Managing Director of WithoutViolence, a non-profit communications and advocacy agency for the social sector. At WithoutViolence, she applied lessons learned from research and from existing behavioral science insights to solutions-focused advocacy on the issue of ending violence against women and children. In past positions at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), she advised former Federal President Horst Köhler in his role on the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Nadja holds an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Aleksandar Brezar

Western Balkans Network Lead/Communications

Democratic Society

Aleksandar Brezar joined the Democratic Society in 2019. His work with the Democratic Society involves finding novel ways of approaching democratic governance and citizen engagement in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership areas of Europe, while addressing a variety of key topics, from climate change to European membership perspectives. Coming from a background in media and culture prior to joining Demsoc, Aleksandar worked on projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider Western Balkans area, with partners including USAID, TI, OSF, the European Commission and British Council.

Solidarity in Times of Scrutiny: Key Learnings for Civil Society Coalitions

9th June 2020 by Eva Gondorová

Presented below are key learnings for civil society coalitions from our Solidarity Playbook pilot case studies, authored by Deborah Doane and Sarah Pugh.  The case studies review best practices, challenges, and lessons learned from three ICSOs’ internal mechanisms and three coalition’s responses to scrutiny and attacks. The key learnings for coalitions focus on best practices and challenges. You can also view the key learnings for international civil society organisations. 

The civil society coalition case studies analysed in Solidarity Playbook pilot case studies show clear patterns of challenges and lessons to consider when working in coalition:


  • Trust – CSOs are, in some contexts, coming together for the first time to act in coalition across thematic sectors. There are differences in approach, agenda, appetite and attitude, and it takes time to overcome those differences and learn to work together. Principles such as ‘one member – one vote’ and ‘everyone contributes according to their capacity’ can help in allowing for organisations of all size and style to feel comfortable within a coalition, and can help to build trust and good working relationships.
  • Clear governance and structures – setting out the protocols, processes, membership criteria and mandate of the coalition helps groups to work together. For example, having clear guidelines on how decisions are made helps to maintain trust.
  • Coordination – information-sharing is useful in and of itself, but it is vastly elevated when there is a coordination function that can synthesise information and identify gaps and opportunities. A dedicated coordination mechanism, whether that entails staff within an independent entity or dedicated staff time from member organisations, drives the work of a coalition forwards. Good coordination can enable bi-lateral connections between members and enable formalised joint work and projects.
  • Common ownership – individual organisations can struggle to feel comfortable signing up to ‘someone else’s coalition’; suspicion and concerns that the work will not align with their own mandate stalls collaboration. Avoiding the language of leadership, and instead working hard to find the common ground and concerns that resonate across organisations can create a sense of common ownership and buy-in that ensure the sustainability of the collaboration.


  • Maintaining collaboration – civil society coalitions have crystallised in the face of direct attacks and restrictions, giving groups something concrete to coordinate around. Maintaining that coordination and collaboration during relatively quieter periods, when there is not a direct and immediate threat to resist, can be difficult. How can coalitions continue to shift between short term priorities of resistance and longer-term priorities for resilience, and ‘plan for peace times’?
  • Opening civic space – civil society is experienced in resisting restrictions and fighting back against scrutiny and attacks; however, it is less clear on how to coordinate a response to opening’ civic space. When a country has been closed for some time and there is a sudden opening for civic action, how can ICSOs coordinate to support civil society in that context, to ensure space remains open and that opportunities are taken?

Eva Gondorová

Project Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Eva coordinates the project Solidarity Action Network (SANE) which aims at strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors.

Solidarity in Times of Scrutiny: Key Learnings for International Civil Society Organisations

9th June 2020 by Eva Gondorová

Presented below are key learnings for international civil society organisations (ICSOs) from our Solidarity Playbook pilot case studies, authored by Deborah Doane and Sarah Pugh. The case studies review best practices, challenges, and lessons learned from three ICSOs’ internal mechanisms and three coalition’s responses to scrutiny and attacks. The key learnings for ICSOs focus on three layers, The Individual, The Organisation and The System. You can also view the key learnings for civil society coalitions.

Drawing out the common themes from Solidarity Playbook pilot case studies, we see that ICSOs must consider strategies across three linked layers when building their resilience in the face of increasing scrutiny.

  • The Individual – individual staff members and activists need safeguarding and capacity building. This requires:
    • Training in order to better understand the civic space context that they are in;
    • Information about what risks they may face and what protocols have been developed to mitigate those risks;
    • Effective internal communication during times of crisis, to reassure staff and keep them safe;
    • Support and coordination from international offices to national or regional offices.
  • The Organisation – the organisation’s resilience must be strengthened. Strategies for this include:
    • Ensuring compliancy with all relevant legislation to avoid ‘back-door’ attacks to legitimacy and scrutiny over operations;
    • Scenario-planning in order to understand organisational risks, so that contingencies can be mapped out;
    • Ensuring that the infrastructure and resources required are available to enable any necessary contingencies, for example budgeting for rapid legal and lobbyist support;
    • Mapping key stakeholders and investing in engagement, so that the organisation has good relationships with those individuals and groups who can in turn strengthen their resilience and act in solidarity.
  • The System – the systemic resilience of broader civil society, whether that be local, national, regional or international, must be strengthened. Strategies for this could include:
    • Working collectively to create a unified sector voice, and to increase the reputational cost to those seeking to restrict CSOs;
    • Adding a civic space lens or focus to programmatic work, for example by earmarking resources for supporting partners, activists or constituents targeted by restrictions, and factoring in coordination to bring different actors together on this topic;
    • Ensuring that the organisation or sector’s mandate is relevant to society and to people’s needs, in order to build legitimacy and support;
    • Raising awareness of the importance of civil and political space, and of why it should be defended and expanded;
    • Mapping the risks that organisations cannot mitigate in isolation, and working in coalition with others to address those risks, e.g. bank de-risking and ALM measures.

Eva Gondorová

Project Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Eva coordinates the project Solidarity Action Network (SANE) which aims at strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors.