Innovation Report

Innovation Report

The International Civil Society Centre’s 2019–2021 strategy includes a key aim; to bring into focus innovations that can benefit international civil society organisations (ICSOs). We believe our role is to create an understanding of which innovations can be applied to tackle common challenges.

To do this we will seek out the most promising innovations, from inside and outside the sector, and share them in our new annual Innovation Report from 2019. It will be built on information and experience garnered from our unique convenings of ICSO leaders, innovative foresighting communities and several case studies from our owner and collaborative partner CSOs’ work.

The report will:
• Discuss, analyse and appraise original and effective solutions, tools and resources,
• Look at new ways of working across the sector, in relation to a specific topic,
• Draw conclusions about what is and is not working, and
• Analyse the evolving external environment which will influence future ICSO innovation.

2019’s Theme

In partnership with JustLabs, the title of our inaugural 2019 edition is: ‘Civil Society Innovation and Populism in a Digital Era’.

Civil society organisations are innovators. They try new approaches to old and emerging problems. A current emerging problem for civil society organisations is populism. To their credit, civil society organisations have taken up the challenges presented by this. However, there is a significant opportunity for organisations to benefit more from the lessons others have learned or are in the process of addressing. That is what our report aims to do.

The report will highlight the most promising innovations to tackle populist tendencies, build shared solidarity and promote new emerging narratives and public engagement around civic priorities, space and action. It will analyse the opportunities and challenges CSOs are encountering, as online spaces and technologies can both mobilise public support towards their globalised goals, but also facilitate false information attacks by interests opposed to these aims. It will review how both international and national CSOs and other civic actors are innovating to both capitalise on these opportunities and counter these challenges.

Leveraging the subject matter expertise of JustLabs, the project will apply an analytical framework to categorise the effectiveness of these different approaches, and identify key trends or common enabling factors which have supported the design and implementation of innovation. It will also highlight innovation case studies from across a range of international and national civil society sector actors and countries/contexts.

The three main focus areas of the report will be:
1. Reflecting the ‘license to operate’: Innovative and adaptive steps to reshape CSO’s operational legitimacy, advance accountability towards communities, and strengthen resilience towards challenges of perceived elitism, privilege, or disconnection from grassroots interests.
2. Reframing the narrative: examples of powerful narratives and positive visions aiming to reopen spaces for constructive dialogue on social change and democratic actions. This includes compelling new communication, outreach and engagement approaches/campaigns which connect with new public audiences.
3. Countering attacks on civil society: examples of robust mechanisms, mobilisation and collaboration tactics and strategies which have been developed to counter attacks on humanistic values, civic rights and civil actors and to hold repressive actors to account.