With COVID-19 pushing up to150 million people into extreme poverty by the end of 2021, the urgency to understand and meet the needs of the world’s most marginalised people has never been greater. However, pervasive gaps in official data and statistics are hindering efforts to protect and support those being left behind. To address this, over 15 civil society organisations (CSOs) are coming together and launching a collaborative that will combine their data-driven insights to create a more intersectional understanding of the pandemic’s effects.
From women to persons with disabilities to refugees, the pandemic has highlighted and deepened long-standing inequalities. But the true scale of the pandemic’s effects is obscured by data gaps. Many millions of people are invisible in official data and statistics, their lives and needs uncounted in policy decisions. An equitable recovery from COVID-19 requires better data on the lives of marginalised people, collected with their knowledge, consent, and participation.
Civil society is uniquely positioned to generate data and insights with marginalised people that can complement official statistics and fill data gaps. From citizen-generated data to rapid needs assessments to programmatic data, the collaborative is harnessing existing data collected by CSOs over the past year.
The collaborative will work with communities and activists to develop a data-driven report and advocacy campaign, launching in July this year at the United Nations High Level Political Forum.
Alongside new insights on the effects of COVID-19, the report will highlight CSOs and citizens’ learnings on inclusive and participatory data collection methods, and offer recommendations for improving collaboration and coordination between official data producers, civil society, and citizens.
The collaborative is led by a Steering Group, involving Action Aid (Denmark), Christian Aid, Development Initiatives, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, International Civil Society Centre, Plan International, Restless Development, and Sightsavers.
A diverse and growing range of CSOs are engaged as partners, including Africa’s Voices Foundation, CBM, CIVICUS, Consortium for Street Children, HelpAge, Institute for Global Homelessness, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Save the Children, VSO, and World Vision.
The collaborative is an open platform for civil society, communities, and activists. If you would like to learn more about engaging, please contact Kate Richards, Inclusive Data Charter Outreach Manager.
The collaborative is made possible by the Steering Group’s contributions and convened by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the International Civil Society Centre.
Kate Richards is the Outreach Manager for the Inclusive Data Charter, an initiative of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. She leads on engaging new Inclusive Data Champions, as well as developing and implementing communications and advocacy strategies that catalyze action on disaggregated and inclusive data. She previously worked at Dalberg, advising leading foundations, multilaterals, and NGOs on strategic communications and advocacy, and at Oxford University. Kate has an MPA from the London School of Economics and is based in London.
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.
Tools for inclusive futures: Reflections on ‘Imagining Feminist Futures after COVID-19’
5th March 2021 by Vicky Tongue
In 2021, the Centre’s Scanning the Horizon futures community is working on ‘inclusive and equitable futures’, exploring and sharing models, analysis and collaborative opportunities for feminist, racially just futures. One key part is sharing practical and accessible tools, particularly open source methods which do not require significant specialist knowledge or skills to implement and, increasingly, virtual delivery options.
We want to explore new opportunities to either use these tools for our own community or group collaborations, or exchange experiences as we use shared techniques with our own audiences. These tools ‘meet the author’ tools workshops are a new kind of online community offering this year.
Tools for inclusive futures: Bringing you the best of what is ‘out there’
Common barriers to introducing or strengthening futures thinking in organisations include time-consuming workshops, not being able to bring diverse groups together (especially in-person) or the need for consultants or specialists to lead this work. So in 2021, we want to find the best of what is ‘out there’ to address these challenges, and bring them back into our community to help democratise futures practice beyond a smaller group of organisational strategic thinkers.
So we were very excited to find the new ‘Imagining Feminist Futures after COVID-19’ workshop methodology developed by the Australian CSO International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) in 2020. This is a 3-hour online methodology which can bring new, diverse audiences together without expert external facilitation. And we partnered with IWDA to deliver a combined familiarisation and training of trainers session on 23-24 February for ten organisations from the Scanning the Horizon community.
A way to bring futures thinking to feminist thinkers, and feminist thinking to futures thinkers
Imagining Feminist Futures After COVID-19 is a project IWDA with support from a steering group of actors across the feminist movement. The project aims to enable feminist organisations and networks to think through the ways in which the COVID-19 crisis is changing the future trajectories – both positive and negative – for feminist social change towards the year 2030.
IWDA commissioned a consortium of feminist futurists, led by Changeist, to design this adaptable workshop methodology based on futures thinking approaches to support diverse feminist activists, organisations and networks to come together virtually (or in person where possible) and apply their own futures thinking and scenario building. For many participants, it may be their first experience of structured futures thinking, and as such, the tools have been designed for use by an audience which is totally new to the concepts.
A core objective of the project is to make the workshop methodology available for anyone to run with their own organisation, network or community. In return, they ask that participants share the findings from these different workshops. IWDA, along with project steering group members, plan to bring their own analysis and visioning to these outcomes and develop a range of creative outputs to add to the rich discussions happening across feminist movements.
IWDA has been holding feminist futures workshops with participants in Australia and across Asia and the Pacific. This workshop with our Scanning the Horizon community was IWDA’s first time with a group of more generalist futures thinkers, rather than strongly feminist-focused organisations and individuals.
The short summaries of (i) principles and frameworks that support and enable a feminist future and (ii) privileging forces/established power structures within society that hinder equal progress towards feminist futures help bring about different and deeper types of conversation. With more generalist audiences, we recommend including these as additional pre-reading, and to increase the amount of time in the agenda allocated to discussing the lens of privileging forces.
And actually, just a great entry point for different and dynamic conversations
Participants felt the workshop methodology can be used both to inform strategic thinking and also as a tool for personal formation and training minds to think in more inclusive and equitable ways about the future. Its full trends list includes STEEP + V – incorporating values into a standard social, technological, economic, environmental and political assessment – which makes this a more holistic and interesting process.
We wanted our particular group to work on a broad range of trends, so included 18 from the full list of 20 (three teams with six trends). For groups with a specific aim or audience, focusing down on a smaller set of more relevant or influential trends may work better for more focused futures conversations.
Interestingly, of the trends provided, our three breakout teams independently decided to focus on: (i) ‘new faces of change’, (ii) ‘refocus on community’ and (iii) ‘sharing and peer economies’. This may reflect interest in exploring some of the new decentralised and power and leadership models which have become more prominent since COVID-19.
You can see the outcomes of our conversations here. They show that the method is great at enabling dynamic and interesting exchanges which can shift thinking and explore new possibilities in the group you’re working with. It also documents a range of insights which can be compared and contrasted with other groups also using the tool.
You don’t need expert knowledge, but you do need well-prepared facilitation
Key factors for facilitation are who you have in the virtual ‘room’ (see below), how you capture different perspectives, and how you support participation and share the findings.
IWDA have really made the toolkit as ready to use as possible, with a clear, well-illustrated facilitation guide and pre-populated Miro board for your use. After our session, nearly all participants felt ready to run a workshop themselves, with proper preparation time. This included participants relatively new to futures thinking, feminist thinking or even both, which reiterates just how accessible it is and does not require significant pre-existing knowledge, experience or expertise.
It does, however, require careful thought on facilitation, and time to ensure in advance that participants have sufficient basic skills and familiarisation with Miro. This may be easier for digital natives and require more preparation time for others (note that participation does not require a paid account. You should offer advance familiarisation sessions to people who have not Miro before, and share a practice ‘play’ board. The workshop board layout is a very intuitive design, with arrows to guide people through the navigation. If you take this time and care, the technology should not be alienating or prevent people from taking part.
And you do need to stress fully with participants how important it is for them to take the time for the pre-reading so that they will get the most out of the group conversations.
You also need to think through how to organise the group documentation of dynamic conversations to fit the time available – as you will feel the pressure to get things down! The beauty of Miro allows everyone to write down and share their ideas individually, in an open way aligned to the aims of the method. But a designated scribe may also be needed to help summarise the collective sense-making conversations for report back in plenary, at the risk of simplifying or even silencing some of other strands, to report back to the others.
Ensuring diversity in the virtual room and breakout teams
When asked who they planned to run the workshop with, there was a real mix of audiences, both internally within our own organisations, externally with partners, networks and stakeholders, and in social circles with family and friends. And also with a range of people – activists and young changemakers, advocates, leadership/management teams, gender team/community of practice – but ideally with a broad mix of perspectives and roles to keep the explorations as diverse and dynamic as possible.
The workshop is designed for 5-20 participants. Breakout groups of around four people feels optimal to both generate ideas and keep documenting of conversations manageable. But ensuring diversity of groups is most critical – experience/knowledge/roles (futures/feminist/other), gender and geographic diversity, and a mix of optimists/pessimists (which could be identified by icebreakers).
Building a base of practice and knowledge
Half the organisations who took part are already planning to run workshops with their networks. The Centre itself will run another session in May at an Americas/Europe/Africa-friendly time for organisations. We want to contribute to a community of worldwide practitioners using this method, and share both content findings and facilitation experiences or tips with IWDA. This blog is our first contribution, so watch this space for more updates from us and the other participants-turned-practitioners, over the coming months!
Let us know if you are interested in joining or running an upcoming workshop on ‘Imagining Feminist Futures after COVID-19’.
Our next community methods/tools workshop will be with ParEvo on 29 April 2021 – see more here.
Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, leading our core initiatives on future trends, horizon scanning and civil society innovation. Vicky has more than 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.
New – 2021 events and programme flyer, find out what’s on and what we are doing
15th January 2021 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez
Welcome to our 2021 flyer. You can download the flyer below to find out about what we plan to do this year and how you can get involved.
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 collectscase studies and best practicesto 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 andcross-sector collaborations.
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.
On this page, you will find links to readings, podcasts and videos related to the latest COVID-19 news and analysis. If you have a recommendation or a suggestion,let us know. Many thanks to our volunteer researcher Ineke Stemmet.
The sections are:
Staying up-to-date: Links to sites that will keep you abreast of important developments related to our sector and the latest news.
Strategic: We look at the impact and responses to COVID-19 in a general and intersectional way (i.e. impacts on human rights, climate change, etc).
Policy: Civil society’s policies that respond to challenges posed by COVID-19.
Operational: A list of what your organisation can do now to navigate these unprecedented times.
How to talk about COVID-19: insights from the British public(Bond) How should international NGOs connect with the current public mindset? New research from the Development Engagement Lab (DEL) sheds light on the British public’s receptivity to development cooperation in the context of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The political economy of the fight against COVID-19 in Africa(Democracy in Africa) In spite of the lack of evidence of rapid spread, African governments have been accused of copy/pasting strategies used in the global north, creating a double burden of economic and political crisis. This paper reviews how African countries are responding to the pandemic, and reflects on the opportunities/threats the virus represents for policy and practice.
What are citizens saying during the COVID-19 crisis?(Inter-American Development Bank) IDB’s tool shows the perceptions and concerns expressed online by citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean on the COVID-19 pandemic. This data enables better listening and understanding of various categories of information related to civic needs, related to dignity, trust, security and visibility.
Aggravating circumstances: How coronavirus impacts human trafficking(Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime) Poverty, lack of social or economic opportunity and limited labour protections are the main root causes and drivers that render people vulnerable or cause them to fall victim to human trafficking. This unprecedented crisis will likely exacerbate all of those factors and result in developments that must be noted by anti-human-trafficking communities and stakeholders.
COVID-19 and the politics of the year of the nurse(The South African Institute of International Affairs) The challenges critical medical personnel are currently facing all lead back to a central question of care. There are three main challenges these critical workers face: insufficient supply of necessary protective equipment on a global scale; growing hostility towards them; and difficulties with access to childcare.
OECD Economic Outlook: The world economy on a tightrope(OECD) COVID-19 has triggered the most severe economic recession in nearly a century and is causing enormous damage to people’s health, jobs and well-being. The Outlook focuses on two equally probable scenarios – one in which a second wave of infections, with renewed lock-downs, hits before the end of 2020, and one in which another major outbreak is avoided.
Future shock: 25 Education trends post COVID-19(Foresight for Development) School closures carry high social and economic costs for people across communities, with a particularly severe for the most vulnerable and marginalised families. The resulting disruptions exacerbate already existing disparities within the education system but also in other aspects of their lives. This blog summarises 25 related trends from UNESCO analysis.
COVID-19 recovery is a chance to improve the African food system(The Conversation) What we see happening as a result of actions to contain COVID-19 is like a global natural disaster. It’s also an opportunity for a different kind of recovery. Going back to “business as usual” investments in agriculture and food systems could reproduce those systems’ inequities. Instead, recovery efforts should be geared towards creating a better future.
Global poverty: coronavirus could drive it up for the first time since the 1990s(The Conversation) 75% of new COVID-19 cases detected each day are now in developing countries. Governments face juggling the health consequences with economic ones. Our research shows that the poverty impact of the crisis will soon be felt in three key ways. There is likely to be more poverty. It is likely to become more severe. And as a consequence, the location of global poverty will also change.
COVID-19: “Who is Skilled and Who is Unskilled in this Pandemic Moment?”(Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) In this article, Cynthia Enloe realises that there are so many times in life when one finds one lacks the relevant skills to make sense of, and to grapple effectively with a pressing condition. That repeated realisation has made her think about skills – and what “counts” as a skill, and who gets to do the “counting.”
COVID-19: Making our Recovery Green and Feminist(Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom) This article explores the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment and advises that the recovery from the pandemic should be feminist and green in nature.
This global pandemic could transform humanitarianism forever. Here’s how(The New Humanitarian) As the crisis born of this global pandemic has evolved, some of the promises of deep transformation in a humanitarian aid sector that has long resisted reform have proven overly optimistic – at least so far. Here are 13 ways the pandemic may change the future of humanitarianism – and the forces of resistance that may get in the way.
Multilateralism and international cooperation
COVID-19 responses expose gaps in global governance(The South African Institute of International Affairs) This report analyses the effectiveness of the WHO and explores the ways in which the pandemic has exposed not only how far the world is from effective and unified global governance, but also a crisis of confidence in the institutions expected to guide international action and cooperation.
Tackling COVID-19 as a Grand Challenge(Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society) How does the COVID-19 crisis relate to other grand challenges and how should we deal with, such as climate change?
Pandemic Specific Consequences and Responses (economic, health & social impacts)
Epidemics and Social Observation: Why Africa Needs a Different Approach to COVID-19(African Arguments) In the absence of a vaccine, the main tool for control of COVID-19 is human behavioural change. Social scientists are not fully agreed on what determines behavioural change, but there is a broad consensus that individual agency is influenced by social factors. It matters what your family, friends and neighbours think.
Will Patents stop COVID drugs from saving lives?(From Poverty to Power) The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a global race of public- and private-led research to develop vaccines and treatments. Will patents hinder access to the products it generates? Comparison with HIV/AIDS indicated access problems may mainly affect middle-income countries facing higher prices. Low-income countries will likely receive drugs at discounted prices, and with governments and philanthropic donors covering the costs.
6 experts on how capitalism will emerge after COVID-19(Fast Company) We have an unprecedented opportunity to rein in capitalism’s excesses and reshape our democracy. Here’s how business leaders and experts from MIT, Harvard, and more would tackle the biggest problems. What’s been lost—and what could be gained—in the new world order?
Ensuring women’s representation in COVID-19 policymaking (Online event) (Devex) This 1-hour virtual event discussed why there’s an urgent need to integrate women in COVID-19 policymaking and highlight some of the work that has already been done to advance their voices in not only the response to this pandemic, but also long-term recovery efforts.
Mining industry profits from pandemic(The Ecologist) More than 300 organisations from around the world have released an open-statement condemning the ways that the mining industry and numerous governments are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to manufacture new mining opportunities and enhance their damaged reputations.
NGOs call for continued support for transparency and accountability This letter calls on providers of development assistance to continue to support transparency, accountability and open government during COVID-19 and the global economic crisis. The aim is to have it published in the media and to distribute widely through our online tools and networks once published. NGOs working on transparency, accountability and open government can sign here.
Listen to people who experience racism. Follow Black and PoC influencers on social media. Being racist isn’t always intentional – reflect on yourself and acknowledge your unearned white privilege – it can get uncomfortable but don’t get defensive, instead, we should learn from our past mistakes.
2. Educate yourself
Why saying “All lives matter” is an inappropriate response to “Black lives matter”? Why can’t I use the N-word? What is white privilege? Actively look for answers on your own. Google these questions, read articles and books from Black authors, watch videos about systemic racism and listen to podcasts about colonialism and slavery.
3. Initiate change
Take action, go to protests if you can. Sign petitions, donate money, inquire your legislators, amplify Black voices and give them space. Be actively anti-racist – don’t overlook racist behaviour in your family, among your friends, at your work, in public transport – speak up. And be persistent.
One month of WHO-declared pandemic has meant one month of crisis mitigation for civil society leaders. Ensuring staff care and safety and maintaining the continuity of operations was and is a priority task for any leader these days. In addition, staying healthy, looking after family and friends, is more than an activity on the side. We are grateful for all the efforts that have been undertaken to stay as safe as possible in the sector.
Civil society organisations (CSOs), big and small, global and local, are ‘system-relevant’ – it matters to millions of people that we remain operational and support the most vulnerable and their environment. It comes as no surprise that the SDG principle to ‘Leave no one behind’ has become a unifying theme of solidarity in response to the Coronavirus around the world, mirroring what our organisations stand for.
For CSOs to remain operational in the future will mean refocusing on the potential and foreseeable impacts of the crisis in countries of the global South – a humanitarian, health and food security crisis yet in the making. If we have learned anything from past disasters – man-made or so-called ‘natural’: it is always the most marginalised, the poorest and the least protected who will bear the highest burden.
We cannot yet foresee whether direct or indirect consequences of Coronavirus will affect livelihoods most. For example, the indirect ones on the horizon might be much graver in the medium to long term – such as re-direction of aid flows towards domestic issues, dwindling global solidarity and growing nationalism, scarcity of economic resources, to name but a few.
Four weeks into the crisis and civil society leaders are strategising and planning for mid-term and longer-term implications. Information (and opinion) overload still need to be interpreted, but there are some valuable resources that are useful for thinking and planning ahead. The Centre has collected a number of pieces that will help navigate the immediate and longer-term future, and so have other civil society networks.
Already, numerous valuable advocacy initiatives are kicking in. They are occurring in order of urgency rather than priority, such as:
As more advocacy statements and initiatives are being rolled-out, we need to make sure that there is not a competition of concerns and mandates, but that we remain connected over the aims that we all share.
Further ahead is scenario planning. Futurists and foresighters are looking at weak and strong signals on post-Coronavirus situation. The most unlikely scenario will be “business as before”, once a vaccine or treatments are found. The biggest questions appear around so-called ‘systems changes’ – is the globalist, capitalist, financial and political system good enough in times of increasing global challenges? Where will our societies drift – back into nationalist and inward-looking behaviours, or forward towards global solidarity, interconnected actions and multilateral governance? And how will the current experience affect our dealing with ‘the other’ large global crisis around climate change?
Highly relevant to these future systems will be the role of organised civil society, whether it is around aid, social discourse, political decision-making or framing the narratives that hold our societies together. Civil society in the ‘sector’ (of development, social justice, environment and human rights) has undergone continuous transformations over the past decades, but it is challenged to keep pace with the current crisis, its responsibilities, and yes, the opportunities that come with it. We should not let others define the future of the values and systems that matter for civil society around the world.
Our most significant contribution to overcoming this crisis will be working in collaboration, focusing on the solidarity and empathy. Our humanistic values that bind us and the societies we work in demand that we are forward-looking and strategic in our actions, irrespective of the high operational pressures out there. Putting people, unorganised and organised civil society at the centre of post-Coronavirus planning is the task we need to unite behind and show collective leadership.
Dr. Wolfgang Jamann is Executive Director of the International Civil Society Centre. Until January 2018 he was Secretary General and CEO of CARE International (Geneva). Before that he led NGO Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and the Alliance 2015, a partnership of 7 European aid organisations. From 2004-2009 he was CEO & Board member of CARE Deutschland-Luxemburg and President of the CARE Foundation. Previously, he worked for World Vision International as a regional representative in East Africa (Kenya) & Head of Humanitarian Assistance at WV Germany. After his Ph.D. dissertation in 1990 he started his career in development work at the German Foundation for International Development, later for the UNDP in Zambia. As a researcher and academic, he has published books and articles on East & Southeast Asia contributing to international studies on complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict management.
COVID-19 Resources for Civil Society
30th March 2020 by Thomas Howie
This page is part of a series of COVID-19 resource pages that we are creating frequently to help civil society actors.
On this page, you will find links to readings, podcasts and videos related to the latest Coronavirus news and analysis. This selection is based on what the International Civil Society Centre and its staff find useful. If you have a recommendation or a suggestion, let us know.
There are three sections to this page:
Staying up-to-date: Links to sites that will keep you abreast of important developments related to our sector and the wider context
Strategic Analysis: We look at the impact and responses to Coronavirus in a general and intersectional way (i.e. impacts on human rights, climate change etc).
Operational and Leadership: A list of what your organisation can do now to navigate these unprecedented times
Are pandemics increasing and what do they cost? and COVID-19 Virtual Summit(Singularity University) – Videos. In the first video Robert Muggah shares insights into the spread and impact of pandemics, why they are becoming more common, and how cities can help minimise threats now and into the future. The second link presents all presentation and discussions from Singulairities virtual summit on COVID-19,
Planning for the World After the Coronavirus Pandemic(World Politics Review). Second-order effects and unpredictable interactions of the pandemic with other global issues are still unclear. International cooperation is needed for these, and the urgency of a public health emergency should not crowd out the need for slower-moving but still important priorities.
How the Pandemic Will End(The Atlantic). Recommended – US-focused but clear global relevance and endgame scenarios. The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus (Financial Times). We face two particularly important choices during this crisis which could change our lives for years to come: between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment, and between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.
After this pandemic we can do better(Amnesty International). David Griffiths, Director of the Office of the Secretary-General at Amnesty International, on what we can choose to differently as a result of coronavirus’ impacts throwing into sharp relief what our renewed priorities should be.
COVID-19 – The Low-Carbon Crisis(Michael Liebreich). Climate-positive shifts in societal behaviour, policy, technology and business processes during the crisis may sustain for lower carbon emissions in the longer term.
Cities and Urbanisation
Coronavirus threat looms large for low-income cities(International Institute for Environment and Development). Weak infrastructure and lack of basic services mean urban settlements in low-income countries are highly vulnerable, and handwashing and isolation responses to the virus are not possible.
Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response (Human Rights Watch). A comprehensive summary of human rights concerns posed by the coronavirus outbreak, drawing on examples of government responses to date, and recommends ways governments and other actors can respect human rights in their response.
The rise of the bio-surveillance state (New Statesman America). States can only achieve two out of three in the ‘coronavirus trilemma’ of limiting deaths, gradually lifting lockdowns, or upholding cherished civil liberties, and bio-surveillance may outlive the immediate crisis, even in liberal states with strong pluralist institutions.
How Will COVID-19 Impact China’s Belt & Road Initiative?(The China Africa Project) – Podcast. COVID-19 is the single greatest challenge to China’s Belt and Road Initiative since its launch in 2013, as its interconnectedness once widely regarded as a huge opportunity is might now be seen as the potentially dangerous liability of dependence on China.
Is China a Safe Haven? (Matthews Asia). China may become the global economic and financial haven, as consumer demand is healthy (buffered by deep household savings) and it has domestic COVID-19 infections under control.
Thomas joined the Centre in June 2017 as the Communications Coordinator. He is responsible for developing and implementing the Centre’s global communication strategy, as well as the Disrupt & Innovate platform – a place for civil society professionals and activists to discuss current innovations and future trends in the civil society sector. Prior to the Centre, Thomas worked for 5 years in the European Parliament firstly as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator for the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, and then, after the 2014 European elections, for Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen as Head of Communications, where he worked on issues such as the EU-US trade deal, issues around Brexit and as a specialist on the Petitions Committee. Thomas graduated from Bristol University with BSci in Geographical Sciences and holds an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford, where he completed research into the role of civil society in the post war peace settlement in northern Uganda.
Why ICSOs need to make more sense of the city in our urban century
3rd February 2020 by Aline Rahbany
Aline Rahbany, Director for Urban Programming at World Vision International, explains that in this “urban century” it is paramount for international civil society organisations to rise to the complex and interconnected challenges presented by cities in order to improve people’s lives. She suggests several different ways for ICSOs to do “things differently” in order to meet this challenge. Aline will be out or networking event at the World Urban Forum on 10 February, please join her and us if you are there.
Around us, people are continuously moving to cities, towns and other rapidly urbanising areas. Due to innovation in technology and infrastructure, the world is connected in a way as never before. Cities are providing opportunities for improved wellbeing, happiness and productivity. But not everyone is entitled or able to access these opportunities. Inequality is on the rise. The face of poverty has changed. Urban residents and communities are grappling with increased fragility. Violence, wars and conflicts are increasingly occurring in cities. For the first time in history, a stand-alone goal exists to make “cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” – livable for all. While this commitment should be celebrated, fundamentally the international community continues to fail at producing cities that serve everyone equally.
Making sense of the city
Like other international civil society organisations (ICSOs), World Vision has been investing in alleviating poverty and responding to emerging disasters and crises, mostly in rural, stable communities. Over the past 10 years, as an organisation, we have been forced to direct our attention to understanding the new trends of poverty and humanitarian crises, not least because children are the first casualties. Urban contexts are complex and challenging: there are multiple layers of governance; inequity can be seen with informality and extreme poverty present at very close proximity to high-rise buildings and rich financial institutions; the number of key urban players and influencers is massive.
In such settings:
understanding context, needs and opportunities takes time and requires intentional engagement at the local level;
partnering is simply not optional, but absolutely essential for the effectiveness and survival of the organisation;
showing the impact of our interventions is not easy.
Over the past 10 years implementing urban programming, World Vision has learned that we need to be doing things differently. It takes a whole-organisation approach to comprehensively address the issues faced by the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in urban contexts. It is not only about innovation in programming, but also taking steps toward more structural, organisational change to increase agility, flexibility and responsiveness to a fast-changing environment.
We need to do things differently
The city provides opportunities to work differently. Population density means we can reach more people living in the same geographic area than with our rural interventions. Infrastructure and mobility allow for faster response. Functional markets present opportunities to boost the local economy. Cities often have financial resources that CSOs can tap into.
There is still, however, so much more to learn about working effectively in urban areas affected by poverty, violence, conflicts and fragility:
We need to invest more in integrated programming that empowers people. As CSOs, we are still used to developing sectoral interventions; but people do not see their wellbeing in such siloed terms.
We need to learn to navigate the complex layers of urban governance and work effectively with the formal and informal actors who influence the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. This means stepping out of our comfort zone to connect with actors we have never had relationships with before but who can deepen our impact in these contexts. We cannot let our organizational bureaucracy risk limiting our ability to maximise these critical partnership opportunities.
We need to look to the city as a system where challenges are interconnected and recognize that we simply cannot achieve our desired impact if we work alone. This means letting go of organisational egos and being transparent about the investment we are making and the change it is contributing to.
We need to revamp staff skillsets to ensure they are able to connect as meaningfully with the children in the public spaces we help rehabilitate as they can with the local mayor providing support from the local municipality, and the bank investing in the intervention. Versatility in local capacities is key.
Finally, we need to learn more about how to institutionalise our efforts, and how to support and capacitate municipalities and other local and citywide actors who will continue to be there after international organizations leave.
I am very excited to be part of the upcoming World Urban Forum 10 Networking Event on “Civil Society Innovation and Urban Inclusion” where I will join peers from other CSOs to discuss how our organizations have been working differently to address the issues and needs of excluded groups in cities and other urban areas. Visit our website to find out more about World Vision’s work in cities.
Aline Rahbany is the Director for Urban Programming at World Vision International, based out of Toronto, Canada. Aline currently holds a global portfolio at WVI, with previous roles with its offices in Lebanon and the Middle East and Eastern Europe regions. Aline has more than ten years’ experience in the international humanitarian and development field, working on research and learning, strategy development, program innovation and technical support in urban contexts, including fragile cities. Aline advocated on behalf of World Vision for the adoption of urban SDG11 and influenced the development of the New Urban Agenda to be inclusive of children and youth at Habitat 3. She is passionate about inclusive cities and advocating for groups who are “deliberately silenced or preferably unheard”.
In 2020, we will ‘go urban’ with our Innovation Report. The Centre’s track record as a sector convenor and innovation accelerator places us perfectly to build a diverse group of innovators and thinkers. The aim is to gather and share your stories to benefit others in our 2020 Innovation Report. We kick off our 2020 Innovation Report discussions at a networking event at the World Urban Forum. If you are there, we welcome you to join us next month. Alternatively, get in touch to register your interest (bottom of page) in being part of the report.
About us as a sector convenor
As anyone who works in the civil society sector knows, finding time to collaborate with partners is difficult. Throw in the resources required to complete a shared project, then it does not matter how excellent your idea is, it is going to be a struggle to achieve your objectives. This is where the Centre’s expertise and experience as a sector convenor comes in.
We’re used to finding the right people and creating an environment for them to share insights and innovations. We play this role for a broad range of actors, from Board members and CEOs to innovation managers and global strategists. This year, we’re bringing our convening expertise to a new community of global urban leads. We want to help bring your innovations to benefit a wide civil society audience.
Innovation is the name of our game
Innovations can be game changers for civil society organisations. But what if they haven’t heard about the latest innovations of others, or don’t know how to apply them in the world?
Our aim is to highlight and explain how innovations can benefit the civil society sector and be used to tackle common challenges. In 2019, we looked at populism, and how civil society tools and tactics are evolving and innovating in response. We included a huge diversity of organisational missions, profiles and experiences from across our events and networks and around the world, highlighting universal practical tips and inspiring insights.
These diverse organisations and people may never have had the time or the resources to bring to a wide audience their stories of innovation. Yet the wealth of diverse experience generated a fantastic resource for the civil society sector.
In 2020, we’re turning our attention to the complex landscape of working in cities, where there are many common challenges…
In 2016, a report we produced, ‘Exploring the Future’,highlighted that for international CSOs, working on urban issues or at the city level was not as big a priority or area of expertise, as poverty alleviation experience in rural settings or national-level focused advocacy.
Arguably, not much has visibly changed since then in terms of focus or resourcing. However, urban settings and actors are central to the changing nature and locales of poverty and inequality. They also hold the key to solving the climate crisis. The speed and complexity of change in urban contexts is faster than ICSOs can currently keep up with. The interplay with other trends is also multi-directional and unpredictable, requiring greater agility and speed to shift operational modes.
Urban contexts pose additional complexities requiring ICSOs to innovate, including:
Multiple levels, powerful actors and competing agendas requiring simultaneous engagement and multi-stakeholder approaches, from community mobilisation to city-wide sector, market, policy and institutional capacity-building;
Several different roles may be necessary: community mobiliser, programme broker, strategic facilitator and convenor, service providers, and/or institutional capacity builder;
Proximity to resources and services does not necessarily mean access for urban poor residents to structures and spaces, due to informality and marginalisation of some groups;
Proactive city administrations may outpace national governments, more quickly adopting climate positive policies, or emerging technologies (including for social control).
Our 2020 Innovation Report will collate and contrast roles and approaches to co-produce new insights, provide a common learning agenda, and communicate effectively to wider audiences about the important urban impacts these organisations are achieving
Join the Centre and our partners at the World Urban Forum (WUF) on 10 February!
Where better than the world’s foremost meeting of leaders shaping the agenda of our urban future, to begin our journey to develop our 2020 Innovation Report, build our community of civil society collaborators and supporters for this project, and shape plans for our future sector convening.
If you’re coming to WUF10 in Abu Dhabi next month, get in touch and come to our networking event with Habitat for Humanity, World Vision and Slum Dwellers International. Or if you can’t, but still keen to join this journey, get in touch anyway!
Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, leading our core initiatives on future trends, horizon scanning and civil society innovation. Vicky has more than 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.