A few weeks ago I recruited a new colleague to our small Centre secretariat team. The pattern of many previous rounds was repeated: We reviewed a number of very qualified and competent young female candidates, struggled to invite equally impressive male applicants for an interview and in the end offered the position to a very dedicated, ambitious and talented woman who wants to develop a long-term career in the civil society sector. I have met and worked with many women like her over the years at the Centre and in the civil society organisations (CSOs) we work with.
But very few of them advance to the senior management positions they aspired to take on when they start their career in the CSO sector. Looking at the leadership of the majority of large CSOs, these women never make it there. According to data from 2012, the Women Count report, women make up 68% of the workforce of the 100 CSOs with the highest income in the UK but only 25% of the most senior positions. In Germany, about 75% of the workforce are female; in CSOs providing social and care services the number even goes up to 83%. However, only about 42% of CEOs are women, sometimes only in co-leadership with a man. Of the roughly 30 leading international CSOs we work with at the Centre, only one third have a female global CEO. The representation in boards is by no means more gender balanced.
So what happens on the way to formal leadership positions? The very few studies that focus on the CSO sector suggest the “typical” explanations: Women can’t or don’t want to work full-time because of family responsibilities and therefore remain in the operational low to mid-level positions; male Board and CEOs recruit and promote “look-a-likes” to work with them or succeed them and women themselves hesitate to take on formal leadership roles because of their own prejudices and doubts whether they are ready or well-equipped enough.
Our sector is leading the way on gender balance and gender justice in programming, advocacy and research. Most large CSOs have mainstreamed gender issues across all their work with very impressive results for women’s empowerment worldwide. But when it comes to our own organisations we lag behind many other sectors who have systematically started to increase female leadership, sometimes only under pressure from governments who introduce quota, but also because they understand that gender balanced management achieves better results (and profit) and that it simply does not make sense to leave a large part of their talent pool untapped.
The gender imbalance in our own organisations’ leadership should no longer be acceptable for us. How do we systematically support women in their career development so that they acquire the skills and qualifications but also the confidence to apply for and accept formal leadership roles? What can our organisations do to provide the work conditions and culture in which women thrive just as much as men? How can we change our recruitment, retention and promotion processes in a way to increase gender balance within our top leadership and governance?
These and many more questions have to become a much stronger part of the current discussions in our sector around governance, power shift and legitimacy. I will start by talking to the women I know, some of them who are in leadership roles in the sector (or elsewhere) and the many who aren’t (yet) – so that together we can develop ideas how to achieve gender balance at the top. To the many women I don’t know: Please let me know what you think at email@example.com
This is the second of two blogs on Data Collaboratives by Stefaan G. Verhulst of The Governance Lab (GovLab) at New York University. Stefaan explains the 5 specific value propositions of Data Collaboratives identified by the Gov Lab. In addition, he tackles the issue of data security. Specifically, how organisations need to professionalise the responsible use of data. To do this, organisations need to embrace the creation of Data Stewardship job roles. (Read Part II here)
At a broad level, data collaboratives offer the possibility of unlocking insights and solutions from vast, untapped stores of private-sector data. But what does this mean in practice? GovLab’s research indicates five specific public value propositions arising from cross-sector data-collaboration. These include:
Disaster Maps provide another tool in the humanitarian response toolkit to fill any gaps in traditional data sources and to inform more targeted relief efforts from responders on the ground.
These value propositions offer a compelling case for greater use of private data through data collaboratives to solve complex public problems. However, a variety of concerns still exist. Some of these concerns (e.g. fears over privacy) involve public fears, while others (e.g. worries over a potential erosion of competitive advantage) are more internal oriented. Nonetheless, all of these concerns need to be addressed in order to foster greater trust and appreciation of the potential of data collaborative.
That is why there is a need to develop a framework that would guide the responsible use of data. GovLab has looked at these issues in a recent report, The Potential of Social Media Intelligence to Improve People’s Lives: Social Media Data for Good. Responsible data use has many aspects, and there are various degrees of responsibility. At the very least, it means having core (written) principles, and well-defined policies and practices for how data is collected, stored, analysed, shared and used (across the data lifecycle).
In addition, it is essential to conduct regular risk assessments that consider the balance between the potential value and dangers inherent at every stage of the data lifecycle. Such risk assessments can help data stakeholders decide when data sharing can be truly beneficial (or what the opportunity cost may be of not sharing the data). Several ICSOs have already started developing such responsible data frameworks such as Oxfam (Responsible Data Policy) and World Vision (Data Protection, Privacy & Security (DPP&S) framework). Increased awareness, further coordination (toward perhaps an ICSO Responsible Data Framework) and translation of these policies into decision trees may be required.
Yet not only do ICSOs and other private actors lack the frameworks to determine how to responsibly share and use data for the public good, they often lack a well-defined, professionalised concept of “Data Stewardship.” Today, each attempt to establish a cross-sector partnership built on the analysis of data requires significant and time-consuming efforts. ICSOs rarely have personnel tasked with undertaking such efforts and making such decisions.
The process of establishing “Data Collaboratives” and leveraging privately-held data for evidence-based policy making is onerous. Also, it is generally a one-off process and not informed by best practices or any shared knowledge base. Thus it is prone to dissolution when the champions involved move on to other functions.
By establishing “Data Stewardship” as a job function in organisations alongside methods and tools for responsible data-sharing, we can free data sharing for development from its stuck dynamic, and turn it into a regularised, predictable, and de-risked activity. Only then can ICSOs use and share their own data and that of others – including private companies – through data collaboratives to help transform how they achieve their missions while improving people’s lives.
This is the first of two blogs on Data Collaboratives by Stefaan G. Verhulst of The Governance Lab. Data Collaboratives are an emerging public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors come together to exchange data and pool analytical expertise. Their potential is great, offering new solutions to old problems and making International Civil Society Organisations more effective. (Read Part II here)
The need for innovation is clear: The twenty-first century is shaping up to be one of the most challenging in recent history. From climate change to income inequality to geopolitical upheaval and terrorism: the difficulties confronting international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are unprecedented not only in their variety but also in their complexity. At the same time, today’s practices and tools used by ICSOs seem stale and outdated. Increasingly, it is clear, we need not only new solutions but new methods for arriving at solutions.
Data will likely become more central to meeting these challenges. We live in a quantified era. It is estimated that 90% of the world’s data was generated in just the last two years. We know that this data can help us understand the world in new ways and help us meet the challenges mentioned above. However, we need new data collaboration methods to help us extract the insights from that data.
For all of data’s potential to address public challenges, the truth remains that most data generated today is in fact collected by the private sector – including ICSOs who are often collecting a vast amount of data – such as, for instance, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which generates various (often sensitive) data related to humanitarian activities. This data, typically ensconced in tightly held databases toward maintaining competitive advantage or protecting from harmful intrusion, contains tremendous possible insights and avenues for innovation in how we solve public problems. But because of access restrictions and often limited data science capacity, its vast potential often goes untapped.
Data Collaboratives offer a way around this limitation. They represent an emerging public-private partnership model, in which participants from different areas — including the private sector, government, and civil society — come together to exchange data and pool analytical expertise.
While still an emerging practice, examples of such partnerships now exist around the world, across sectors and public policy domains. Importantly several ICSOs have started to collaborate with others around their own data and that of the private and public sector. For example:
These are a few examples of Data Collaboratives that ICSOs are participating in. Yet, the potential for collaboration goes beyond these examples. Likewise, so do the concerns regarding data protection and privacy.
At The Governance Lab (GovLab) at New York University, we have researched in depth the potential of Data Collaboratives, and have identified five specific public value propositions. We are also clear in the need for organisations in Data Collaboratives to embrace establishing “Data Stewardship” roles to ensure responsible data management.
In the next blog, I will go into greater detail about GovLab’s work and explain how ICSOs could use Data Collaboratives to their benefit more, and how they can manage data responsibly.