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?
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 organisation’s 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:
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 (Shahin.Ashraf@irworldwide.org)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 (email@example.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
“I think my last word will be, ‘Yes!’ We need to stop saying ‘no’, we need to be positive and change the narrative. So we need to say ‘yes’ to changing things.” The words of Fouzy Mathy, a young woman from SOS Children’s Villages International at Global Perspective 2018.
Fouzy, and her ally Divine Usabase also from SOS, unexpectedly took to the stage in the final session when they swapped places with Jennifer Morgan, the Greenpeace International Executive Director, who was on the panel titled “What to do next, with who and how?”. The pair had an answer; we need to unite and make our voices and actions count. Fouzy illustrated what happens when we fail to do so.
She shared the story of a young person who took their own life because they did not feel supported. The young person in question had fled their home country due to conflict and famine caused by climate change. However, after arriving in Europe – somewhere they thought would be safe and supportive – that young person felt so abandoned and insecure that they took their own life.
Fouzy told this story as a clarion call of why we need to act together to show compassion and humanity in our work and lives. Their concrete proposal was to create a project called “Yes4Humanity”. The project will engage a wide range of people with causes important to them, sharing personal, powerful, positive stories. There would be one small difference they wouldn’t be the #NewGeneration but a global #NOWGeneration.
Fouzy and Divine’s intervention in the conference was timely. It symbolised the hand over from old to the now generation, in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the event. After all, this kind of changing of the guard was discussed extensively at the event.
Let’s rewind then to the beginning of the event to understand how we ended up here…
Opening: Open the door to young people
The conference opened with Paula Peters explaining how and why it is important to open the door to young people. She challenged everyone to rethink how we should let young people engage us, rather than how international civil society organisations can engage them. This was a call for a fundamental shift in power and control over resources, campaigns and messages and bureaucratic accountability. This will help those young people who already do amazing work.
For example, Anshul Tewari founded Youth Ki Awaaz, India’s largest social justice media platform. It’s the place for young people to make a change in their societies. Additionally, Maha Babeker, a women’s rights activist in Sudan, shed light on how Sudanese young people are speaking out against Gender-Based Violence. These were just two examples of some of the amazing work done by young people.
What we wanted participants to get out of the conference
We had a variety of awesome speakers and insightful workshops. When we set out to put this conference together we sat down and thought about what we wanted people to get out of it.
We decided that at Global Perspectives 2018 we wanted to:
To do this we aimed to inspire and showcase cross-cutting content. We chose organisations with three themes in mind:
We wanted you to hear from as many people who represent each theme. We held a mixture of objective focused workshops and open-ended discussions called campfire sessions from the following organisations:
|· Amani Institute||· Talents4Good|
|· Amnesty International||· Telecommunications Software & Systems Group|
|· NetHope||· The Open University|
|· OECD||· The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy|
|· OXFAM||· Toladata|
|· Plan International||· Viva con Agua|
|· Restless Development||· WEF|
|· Save the Children||· Youth to End Sexual Violence|
|· SDI Net|
As if this was not enough, we hosted a Future Scenario track. In these sessions, the participants attempted to identify the characteristics of a CSO 12 years from now that is successful in engaging youth.
The group predicted a very different global environment of megatrends with great impact and influence on young people. Although only 12 years’ away, there was systemic and rapid change in social and political organisation, technology and data-driven inequality, precarious work/economic situations, and intense climate change, antibiotic resistance and genetically modified food systems.In this context, the successful CSO of 2030 would have characteristics fundamentally different from the mindsets, skills, structures and ways of working today.
Radical and cause-driven, it would be focused on campaigns, advocacy/policy and amplifying what others are doing, with devolved peer-to-peer accountability and consensus decision-making communities both internally and with supporters.
What next for “Yes4Humanity”?
There are several ICSOs keen to take part there will be a kick off meeting next month which the International Civil Society Centre is part of. You can read more about their plan here.
There were many excellent ideas at Global Perspectives, we’ve tried to capture them all in our Outcome document. You can find them under recommendations. You’ll see we have ideas on peer-to-peer learning, developing a youth strategy, including young people’s voices more, be accountable to young people and committing to work together without ‘egos or logos’.
Today, young people are digital natives, used to high-speed, instantaneous interactions on social media and other online platforms. Many established organisations – like the OECD – face a challenge: to be more agile in listening to young people so their vision and their needs are reflected in our work.
The OECD goes to Global Perspectives every year to hear from civil society organisations active across the globe and understand the main concerns of the people they aim to serve. It’s a space where we can speak face-to-face with people, gather insights from current civil society engaging with young people and think about ways to do better in our own organisation.
This year, Global Perspectives was also an ideal setting for tackling a subject at the core of the OECD’s current agenda: the future of work and skills. This conversation has many stakeholders, but it’s particularly important to grasp the next generation’s needs and concerns so our policy recommendations are fit-for-purpose.
In a workshop, OECD and Global Perspectives participants discussed what it takes to deliver an inclusive world of work – and the implications for civil society. Civil society organisations care a lot about their role as employers, youth mobilisers and policy shapers. In addition to helping amplify the voices of workers and future workers, part of the discussion focussed on how CSOs need to cultivate the right skills and the culture in their own organisations.
Thanks to the International Civil Society Centre, we also heard from young people in other workshops. What we heard encouraged us to move beyond the question of “how the OECD engages young people” to “how young people can engage and activate the OECD”. Youth is not a group “to reach”. They are essential partners for anyone – including organisations – who want to change the world. The OECD is serious about delivering “better policies for better lives”, and we are excited to learn from and partner with civil society organisations for greater and more positive impact on the world we share.