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Six takeaways for action from Global Perspectives 2021 – Let’s Talk About Power!

15th November 2021 by Vicky Tongue, Miriam Niehaus, Wolfgang Jamann

We have spent the last two weeks around the world – in Colombia, Kenya and Indonesia and online – talking about power in many different forms – from de-concentrating data and digitalisation, to decolonising aid and organisational structures, and embracing new power. Global Perspectives 2021 again gave the Centre’s communities the opportunity to immerse themselves in themes and workshops, discussing strategies to address key trends, challenges and opportunities to shift power across the civil society sector.  

We’re still digesting everything we heard throughout two intense, thought-provoking weeks, but here are some key takeaways we can all put into practice immediately: 

1. Collaborate to be better champions of digital and data equity for others

Information and communications technology has a huge role to play as an empowerment tool in power shift and decolonisation for civil society to generate its own solutions, knowledge and information transfer. Building both grassroots and organisational digital skills and security and championing data privacy and equity in advocacy and programming work is essential. But to do this better, civil society organisations (CSOs) need to establish a basic understanding of emerging technological developments and their implications for digital rights and equity across all parts of an organisation. They also need to build stronger networks and work closely with expert tech/rights CSOs, academia and researchers to understand these issues and laws, and challenge big tech narratives about the magic of emerging technologies, and promote and develop more local- or regionalised research and bodies of knowledge on digital developments.

As our opening keynote speaker for Day 4, Nanjira Sambuli of the UNSG’s High-Level Panel For Digital Cooperation compellingly reminded us, civil society has a collective moral responsibility to understand and sound the alarm on the adverse social harms and outcomes of unproven technologies. After all, algorithms are ‘opinions embedded in code’, fashioned in the image of their creators rather than the hyperlocal actors around the world who live the complex realities of these ‘unintended consequences’ further down the line.

2. Engage new mindsets – centralise care not charity and learn to walk behind 

We heard calls to abandon charity mindsets and appreciate the agency of communities, and an inspiring challenge to ‘centralise care as the major currency’ to redistribute power. We heard experiences from other sectors which are decolonising – research, architecture and local government – on the need to learn to walk behind and be led by the communities we work with before we can even properly understand how to walk alongside them. We heard from ActionAid how we can change fundraising imagery and narratives from emphasising difference – with single stories that stereotype people and invoke pity – to making a difference. They shared Development Engagement Lab’s compelling evidence that positive and negative funding appeals raise the same amount of money, but positive appeals inspire efficacy and higher emotional engagement from the feeling that one can make a difference.  

3. Assess what it means to be locally led and what changes organisations can make to embrace new power values 

Many CSOs see themselves as embracing new power values, but as being stuck in hierarchical, linear, old power models. Some international CSOs shared how deep engagement with their constituencies have challenged questions around legitimacy and led to reflections on the power of their organisations, their own expectations, the difficulty of giving up control and the need to consider and change linear paths of thinking and decision-making. We heard calls for how local organisations should push back on donor demands and also say no to international CSO partnership interest where these mean too much compromise in their delivery of people-driven solutions. All organisations should assess what being locally led means to them and the realities of the changes, compromises and constraints they are able and willing to bring about or have to accept. 

4. Ask ourselves and others ‘who is we?’ when offering solutions

Shannon Paige of Peace Direct, Casey Harden from World YWCA and Stella Agara from YouLead Africa all highlighted in different ways this simple but profound self-challenge which we can all put into practice immediately in our work. What does it mean if your organisation is recognised internationally and regionally, but communities around the area where you work don’t think you’re legitimate? How are CSOs tapping into the spaces of community knowledge and indigenous solutions and ensuring that the activities they are funding are promoting these solutions which already work, and not erasing them or compromising the problem? Like World YWCA, ‘who is we?’ is a fundamental question for everyone – local CSOs, international CSOs and donors alike – to constantly ask themselves and each other. This will help organisations to truly understand both their identity and integrity as a solution grower with their community, on whose behalf they may be managing external resources ‘in trust’ to bring those solutions about.  

5. Seek, share and offer solutions to shift power  

In her closing speech, Stella Agara reminded us that decolonisation is also about content and not just process – are fundamental equity issues like climate justice and tax justice making their way into these conversations? We need to be sure that we are really solving problems and root causes through our work, rather than running programmes which are just maintaining a resourced and running civil society sector.  

We also need to acknowledge that there are different framings of these issues – for instance, concepts of ‘decolonising aid’ did not resonate with participants in the Latin American and Caribbean workshop, who preferred the term ‘deconstructing’. But for others, the experience of colonisation is still very present in the international civil society sector. Accepting these contextual differences is important, while still sharing ideas and ambitions, and build collective wisdom and practical ways forward to truly challenge and change power systems, structures and narratives. 

When it comes to offering solutions to shifting power, ‘who is we?’ is clearly everyone. 

6. Join or promote these inspiring calls to action right away 

Our workshops focused on how civil society organisations can shift power. At the end of the conference, we heard ten inspiring ‘calls to action’ of collaborative projects that aim to do just that. We encourage you to check them out, even if you didn’t attend: 

Access Now – #WhyID, a global coalition of CSOs, activists, technologists, researchers, lawyers, and other digital identity experts, to fight back against the dangerous wave of centralised digital identity systems appearing around the world, and to advocate for rights-respecting approaches to identity management. Sign the #WhyID open letter 

<A+> Alliance for Inclusive Algorithms is a global and multidisciplinary feminist coalition of academics, activists and technologists prototyping the future of AI. Call to Action on decolonising tech and creating new models of equality and systems change. Submit your paper. 

Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN) is a Community of Practice and action learning network for people with an interest and commitment to leveraging the nexus between technology and civic activism. Learn more about the network. 

CIVICUS Grassroots Revolution and the Shift The Power UK Funders Collective are strategic streams of work aimed at improving funder relations, ways of work and power dynamics with grassroots activists and movements left behind, marginalised and most impacted by structural inequities. Join the grassroots-led movement and learn more about the Youth Action Lab. 

Connect Humanity supports, catalyses, and scales holistic solutions providing people with the internet access and means needed to participate fully in a digital society. Learn more about the support they provide. 

Purposeful is a feminist hub for girls activism, rooted in Africa and working worldwide, calling all girls groups and collectives interested in funding opportunities and connecting with other girl activists in their region. Submit your profile. 

Red S.O.S Aldeas Infantiles: The initiative was created to promote and support spaces for participation, mobilisation and citizenship for young people in Bogota. Learn more. 

Rights CoLab advances human rights by fostering collaboration among experts across the fields of civil society, technology, business, and finance. Fill out the Google form to express interest in engaging with the ‘RINGO‘ project. 

“Stopping As Success: Locally Led Transitions in Development” (SAS+)  seek to learn how to facilitate responsible development transitions from international to local actors. Explore SAS+ resources. 

TechSoup’s Hive Mind is a cutting-edge online harbour and community of practice gathering activists, journalists, CSOs, teachers, university students, and a wider community interested in learning more about improving media literacy skills online countering disinformation, digital safety and security, and creating positive narratives. Get inspired. 

Read the full outcome from our six days of convening here. 

We hope everyone enjoyed Global Perspectives 2021. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Vicky Tongue

Vicky Tongue was the Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation/Scanning the Horizon project manager from 2018-2022, leading the Centre’s futures strategy and collaborative trends scanning community. In this role, Vicky wrote and edited many of the Centre’s Scanning Sector Guides and Civil Society Innovation reports.

Miriam Niehaus

Head of Programmes

International Civil Society Centre

Miriam leads the Centre’s programmes. She started at the Centre as Executive Assistant in 2014 and then, as Project Manager, developed and implemented the Centre’s projects on civic space between 2016 and 2019. Prior to joining the Centre Miriam worked for VSO International and GIZ in the Palestinian Territories. She holds a BA in Islamic Studies and Social Anthropology from the University of Freiburg and an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Wolfgang Jamann

Executive Director

International Civil Society Centre

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.

Call for Global Perspectives Speakers and Workshop Hosts

21st May 2021 by Elizabeth Parsons

We are looking for inspiring people to contribute to Global Perspectives 2021 – Let’s Talk About Power

Global Perspectives is an annual conference bringing together leaders of civil society organisations (CSOs) with high-level representatives from governmental, inter-governmental, corporate, philanthropic and academic sectors. Every year around 150 participants engage in interactive formats, discussions and co-creation sessions to analyse the world’s most pressing challenges and devise strategies to bring civil society forward in pursuit of solutions.

Who are we looking for?

Leaders who want to talk about Power Shift and have an inspiring idea or work from the civil society, governmental, inter-governmental, corporate, philanthropic and academic field.

How can you contribute?

We are looking for leaders happy to host a workshop or panel or be part of a panel. Workshops and panels last between 1 and 1.5 hours. There are three pillars to our conference on which you can focus your contribution: De-concentrating Data and Digitalisation, Decolonising Aid and Organisational Structures and Embracing New Power. Please read the concept note

How can one express an interest?

Fill out the form below!

Where is it?

This year’s event is hybrid. We will have a unique interactive format of up to 150 participants. In addition, we will be providing global and regional perspectives – holding in-person meetings in three regional hubs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and online broadcasting their discussions throughout the week, delivering insights and identifying new connections.  

When is it?

Global Perspectives will be held from 25 October to 04 November 2021.

When is the deadline for submitting my application?

30 July 2021.

Got a question?

Email the Knowledge and Communities Manager, Nihal Helmy


Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

6 Good Resources on Blockchain for Social Good

18th March 2019 by Thomas Howie

From 19 – 20 March 2019, the Centre will hold its Blockchain For Social Good Summit in New York. We want to share 6 important and relevant readings with you on the potential of blockchain.

1. Blockchain for social impact moving beyond the hype – This report encompasses analysis of 193 organisations, initiatives, and projects that are leveraging blockchain to drive social impact.

2. Blockchain ethical design framework for social impact – This paper addresses why intentionality of design matters, identifies the key questions that should be asked and provides a framework to approach the use of blockchain, especially as it relates to social impact.

3. Seven design principles for using blockchain for social impact – seven design principles that can guide individuals or organisations considering the use of blockchain for social impact. We call these the Genesis principles, and they are outlined at the end of this article.

4. Blockchain for International Development: Using a Learning Agenda to Address Knowledge Gaps – Find out how MERL practitioners gauge the value of blockchain technology for development programming.

5. A Revolution in Trust: Distributed Ledger Technology in Relief &
–  This article explains how blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT)  is poised to revolutionise our industries and the benefits of trusting them.

6. Block by Block – This report compares nine distributed ledger platforms on nearly 30 metrics related to the capabilities and the health of each project.








Thomas Howie

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

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.

Disrupt and Innovate in a Data-Driven World

13th February 2018 by Claudia Juech

If you do an internet search for ‘data-driven disruption’ you can find articles about almost every industry being disrupted by digitalisation and new applications of data. Banking, transportation, healthcare, retail, and real estate, all have seen the emergence of new business models fundamentally changing how customers use their services. While there are instances of data-driven efforts in the nonprofit sector, they are not as widespread as they can be. Bridgespan Group estimated in 2015 that only 6% of nonprofits use data to drive improvements in their work.  

At the same time, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have set a very ambitious global change agenda and we won’t be able to meet their targets by doing business as usual. To achieve the SDGs requires new ideas across the board: new solutions, new sources of funding, new ways of delivering services and new approaches to collaborating within and across social, public and private sectors.  

The private sector already very successfully uses data analytics and machine learning not only to realise efficiency gains but also – even more importantly – to create completely new services and business models. For example, applying machine learning to wind forecasting is expected to reduce uncertainty in wind energy production by more than 45% and will allow utilities to integrate wind more easily with traditional forms of power supply. And entirely new utility start-ups such as Drift use machine learning technologies to provide customers with cheaper wholesale energy prices by more accurately predicting consumption. 

In the nonprofit sector, early applications of data analytics and machine learning have mostly focused on improving fundraising and marketing. In a next step, the broader adoption of data analysis techniques and tools has the potential to help nonprofits increase their programmatic impact as well as identify completely new ways of achieving their mission.  

  1. Gain improved intelligence on operating context and needs through expanded use of descriptive analytics techniques. On the program side, teams largely tend to use descriptive analytics – statistical techniques that provide insight into the past and answer: “What has happened?” – on survey data, sometimes complemented by samples from larger raw datasets, e.g. Facebook posts or tweets. In many settings this is the best information available. However, it presents obvious drawbacks: given the expense and time required to conduct surveys we frequently operate based on information that is years old. Also, surveys are often run to confirm or refute certain hypotheses making it challenging to utilise existing survey data to answer new sets of questions. The more we can directly analyse raw data, such as today’s internet searches, the more we will be able to obtain a close to real-time picture of the situation on the ground. Applying data analytics and machine learning to large raw datasets will likely also yield us new and unexpected insights as these techniques and tools allow us to unearth patterns and seek potential explanations for those in contrast to responding to a predefined set of questions.
  2. Identify those most at risk or most affected by a problem more accurately by using predictive analytics. For example, a County Department of Human Services in Pennsylvania recently implemented a predictive risk model designed to improve screening decision-making in the county’s child welfare system. The model integrates and analyses hundreds of data elements. The resulting score predicts the long-term likelihood of home removal and provides a recommendation on whether a follow-up investigation is warranted. The model has been shown to be effective in preventing the screening-out of at-risk children. It has also lowered the number of investigations with potential disruptive effects on low-risk families. One could imagine similar models being applied to screening cases of domestic violence or abuse of domestic migrant workers.
  3. Achieve best possible outcomes for individuals through the application of prescriptive analytics. In healthcare, some hospitals are now generating predictions of a patient’s readmission risk at the time of diagnosis. Patients with a higher likelihood of returning to the hospital within a month receive additional care and supports such as home visits. This has reduced the readmission rates and freed up resources that can be used to treat additional patients. There are many possible use cases for prescriptive analytics in the development sector, particularly in health where we have much existing data on what works in light of specific risk factors. Tools that incorporate these models could assist community health workers in triaging cases and prioritising their workload. They could also be applied to people suffering from addictions or people with learning challenges to prescribe individualised treatment and support plans.   

As these approaches become more mature and wide-spread in their application their impact will go much beyond making workflows more efficient. They have the potential to fundamentally disrupt how we work and what we define as our core competencies. Today, it may seem challenging to move towards a future where recommending who to support and how could be largely automated. I also don’t want to minimise the challenges in this scenario: the availability of required data and the privacy issues involved.  

However, I want to encourage us to actively embrace and shape this future as its potential for positive impact is immense. We need to work together to ensure that the automation involved in these techniques and tools will provide valuable insights that support humans in making thoughtful and effective decisions, free up our valuable and constrained resources and focus them on those parts of our work that truly make a difference in people’s lives.  

Claudia Juech

Executive Director

The Cloudera Foundation

Claudia Juech is the founding Executive Director of the Cloudera Foundation, which will use Cloudera’s expertise in data analytics and machine learning to change people’s lives for the better. Previously, Claudia was an Associate Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation, leading the organisation’s Strategic Insights division. Working with grantees and partners around the globe, she and her team used data and information to identify large-scale opportunities to address economic inequality and critical challenges in the areas of health, the environment, and in cities. Prior to joining the Rockefeller Foundation in 2007, Claudia was a Vice President at DB Research, Deutsche Bank’s think tank for trends in business, society and the financial markets. She has a degree in Information Science from Cologne University of Applied Sciences and an International MBA from the University of Cologne.