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Six quick takeaways from Global Perspectives 2019 – Legitimacy and Impact in Times of Scrutiny

4th November 2019 by Åsa Månsson and Thomas Howie

Find out more about Global Perspectives

Global Perspectives 2019 in Addis Ababa was as action-packed as you’d expect. With more than 100 participants from around the globe representing a range of international civil society organisations, community-level bodies, innovators, academics and activists, it was a place of inspiration, exchange and learning.

The theme of this year’s Global Perspectives was “Let’s make lemonade”, based on the saying if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Consequently, the underlying spirit and challenge of the conference was how do we turn our lemons – problems and challenges – into lemonade – opportunities for impact and legitimacy?


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As we are still digesting everything that we heard throughout an intense week, here are some first takeaways:

1. We can make lemonade!

In the Centre’s first ever Innovation Report, launched and presented at Global Perspectives, we have collected a number of inspiring, innovative and courageous case studies. These are all examples of civil society organisations – of different size, in different contexts and with different tools – changing the way they have worked in order to change the world. These organisations show that it is possible to reinvent yourself if the context requires – and they can serve as a great inspiration for all of us!

2. Connecting to our values and to people is a key ingredient for lemonade

We saw it in the case studies from the Innovation Report but we also heard it over and over again last week: As civil society organisations, we need to make sure we connect to our organisational values, as well as to the people we represent or who we advocate for. This is key for our legitimacy, our integrity as well as for our impact – and should be at the centre of any organisation’s approach to accountability.  

3. Ethiopia lemons and lemonade for civil society

We heard it loud and clear from several Ethiopians: This event would not have been possible just 18 months ago. The reforms that Prime Minister Mr. Abiy Ahmed and the new government have implemented have fundamentally changed the working conditions for civil society organisations. Participants noted, however, that Ethiopian organisations are now faced with the immense challenge of learning how to act and be impactful in this new context.

4. Hope can win, but only if we let it

A reoccurring theme of Global Perspectives was “hope”. Hope is an organisations best friend when it comes to communicating the world we want to see. Expressing what we want to see, rather than what we don’t, can be an infectious way of building support and affecting change. When participants unpacked this topic we saw real depth and complexity to the meaning of hope. This shows the potential challenges and opportunities of hope-based communications.

5. The value of making new connections

I’ve met people here at #GlobalPerspectives2019 who can help us get justice for our tea garden community back in West Bengal.” The words of Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Harihar. On Harihar’s first time out of India, he reported on Global Perspectives by making a short 3-minute video reportage. The report explains that he met people who want to help his community get justice. Other connections were between innovator Jane Muigai and representatives from Plan International discussing how to jointly scale education of youth in Kenya. For us, this is exactly what Global Perspectives is all about – making connections and support people to change their world for the better.

6. Next steps: Let’s keep making lemonade

Our workshops focused on how civil society organisations can increase impact and legitimacy. At the end of the conference, we heard four ‘pitches’ of collaborative projects that aim to do just that. We encourage you to check them out, even if you didn’t attend:

a) Islamic Declaration for Gender Justice

Through a collaboration with Islamic Relief Worldwide, Global Perspectives participants were all part of the preview of the first ever Islamic Gender Justice Declaration, representing a call for action to end gender injustice. For more information, please contact Shahin Ashraf at Islamic Relief Worldwide (  

b) Reimagining the INGO

To explore how INGOs can meet the needs of the 21st century, including environmental, social and economic needs, in the face of recent failings and critiques of INGOs, a group is coming together to help us re-imagine INGOs and explore what needs to change. For more information, please contact Charles Van Dyck at WACSI (

c) Solidarity Playbook

There is the need to build mechanisms to support each other in solidarity when a civil society organisation is under undue pressure from governments or others. The Centre will facilitate the shared learning between ICSOs’ response strategies and developing mechanisms to act in solidarity in critical instances. For more information, please contact Miriam Niehaus at International Civil Society Centre (

d) Ethiopian CSO Accountability Framework

In order to strengthen the legitimacy and accountability of Ethiopian civil society organization, a group has started working on establishing a national accountability framework. For more information, please contact Bilen Asrat at Ethiopian Civil Society Organisations Forum (

More formal follow up to come!

We hope everyone enjoyed Global Perspectives 2019. We will be sharing a more formal follow-up in the following weeks. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Åsa Månsson

Special Projects

Wikimedia Foundation

In May 2020 Åsa left the Centre and joined Wikimedia Germany in a role working on organisational development’. Between 2010 and 2013, Åsa acted as manager of the INGO Accountability Charter (Accountable Now). In September 2013, Åsa took up the role as Director of Development, innovating the Centre’s fundraising and communication efforts. Since October 2016, Åsa has been Director of the Global Standard and has additionally taken on the role as the Centre’s Programme Director in mid-2017. Originally from Sweden, Åsa earlier worked for a consultancy, evaluating social projects within the public and civil society sector. Åsa studied European Studies and Sociology at universities in Gothenburg and Berlin. She completed her education with a Master’s thesis on the role of civil society in European governance.

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.