Posts with the tag
“Innovation Report”

Innovation Report: The winner of 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2019

3rd June 2020 by Robert Vysoudil

Our first ever annual Innovation Report 2019 – ‘Civil Society Innovation and Populism in a Digital Era’ has been selected by an expert jury as a winner of the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ (AIGA) 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2019. This prize identifies the 50 best-designed books and book covers of 2019 and represents a long-standing legacy in American graphic design. The winning books become part of the AIGA collection at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University’s Butler Library in the city of New York.

About the Innovation Report 2019

With its 14 case studies, our Innovation Report showcases innovative civil society responses in the face of rising populism, one of the defining political features of our times. The publication presents the innovative ways civil society organisations are responding to the rise of populism. The report also analyses the role digital media has to play in the creative responses. We hope that by advancing the understanding of the most promising innovations, both inside and outside our sector, that they can be applied to tackle common challenges.


The International Civil Society Centre would like to say a big thank you and congratulations to our design partners, Verbal Visual, who worked tirelessly to create this innovative book design. Thanks also go authors and editors of this report was Vicky Tongue from the International Civil Society Centre, with Krizna Gomez and Thomas Coombes from JustLabs. And last, but not, least the wonderful civil society organisations who took the time to engage with this exciting project and provide their time and expertise to realise the report.

Communications Student Assistant

International Civil Society Centre

ICSOs and Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation

7th February 2020 by Sanjee Singh

Sanjee Singh, Director for International Housing Programs at Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), explains why the theme of this year’s tenth World Urban Forum (WUF), ‘Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation’ is highly relevant to the work of international civil society organisations (ICSOs). She shares key lessons from HFHI’s significant experience in designing and delivering innovative urban programming promoting inclusion and cultural diversity. 

This is our second perspective from a leading international CSO highlighting working in urban contexts around the world, sharing thoughts on why this is a significant driver for innovation in our sector accompanying our first guest blog from World Vision. Sanjee will also be presenting at our networking event at the World Urban Forum on Monday 10 February. 

Be part of our Innovation Report 2020 on ‘Civil Society Innovation and Urban Inclusion’


Driving Sustainable Urbanisation through Innovation & Culture 

International civil society organisations have an important role to play in the sustainable development of cities and urban environments. As we move towards 2030, implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda requires prioritisation and collaboration between communities, governments, and private and development sector actors. 

Achieving these global ambitions requires special collaborative efforts, sharing best practices and knowledge, targeting resources and linking marginalised communities with public and private sector opportunities. This year’s 10th World Urban Forum is about ´Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation´. It offers ICSOs a place to share their programming lessons and experiences and to tie some of these threads together.  


Partnerships & Initiatives Supporting Culture & Innovation in Cities 

Cities are centres for innovation, employment, creativity, and social and economic development. They are complex environments that are constantly changing. Navigating this complexity and addressing challenges around affordable housing, informality and inequality requires innovative solutions and collaboration between multiple partners and sectors.  

Habitat for Humanity`s work as an international housing CSO centres around everyone’s need for a home, and recognises that adequate and affordable is critical to building better cities. We take a people-centered, partnership-driven and ecosystem-wide approach to tackle the affordable housing challenge in cities.  

Habitat’s Global Urban Approach advocates for comprehensive programing that tackles the housing challenge from an innovative perspective, based on a deeper understanding of the entire housing ecosystem and the cultural and contextual needs of marginalised communities 

 The core objectives of our approach include: 

  • Designing and implementing more inclusive urban housing programs that contribute toward improvements in the living conditions for marginalised communities, and systemic market and policy enhancements across the entire housing ecosystem, implemented through people-public-private-partnerships. 
  • Creating unique urban hubs, networks, coalitions and platforms that bring together urban practitioners, researchers and policymakers, to create a common vision for development and addressing urban challenges through innovative solutions.  
  • Demonstrating the transformational impact of housing, its linkages to other sectors and contribution to broader urban development. 


Lessons from designing comprehensive innovative urban programs for inclusion and cultural diversity 

As cities grow, so too does the need for affordable housing, basic services, social services, infrastructure, etc. However, cities and local governments are struggling to meet the demand caused by rapid urbanisation, which is resulting in growing informality and inequality. Limits to access and affordability mean that marginalised communities struggle to gain access to networked infrastructures, social services and affordable housing. This is pushing them to the insecure edges of urban areas, such as informal settlements, making it even more difficult for them to vulnerable to be able to and difficult to cope with the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and conflict. 

Our urban programming over the last decade has taught us something important: designing comprehensive urban programs to improve scale, quality and impact require: 

  • Partnerships: People-public-private-partnerships that drive urban programming around a common development vision are essential and create space for greater inclusion. These partnerships are critical for supporting assessments, program design and implementation. 
  • Systematic assessments: Effective urban programming requires the use of culturallyrelevant evidence-based solutions that fit the local environment and context 
  • Co-design and co-implementation of urban programs: The results of these systematic assessments should serve as a guide for designing and implementing programs. This design requires innovation to address the specific constraints, gaps and opportunities identified to address the urban needs and priorities of marginalised communities 
  • Effective entry points: These depend on community priorities, available resources and capacity. They may include: basic services, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), community infrastructure or development, housing construction or repairs, increasing security of tenure, advocacy, policy recommendations or capacity building, disaster risk reduction; or increasing accesses to housing finance, products and services. 
  • Timing: A minimum of five years is needed in a targeted area to achieve impact and build the partnerships necessary to ensure sustainability 
  • Monitoring, evaluation, accountability, learning (MEAL) and knowledge management: Promoting good MEAL practices throughout the project’s life cycle and documenting lessons, best practices and results is vital to promote transparency between stakeholders and foster a culture of accountability and evidence to guide actions. 


    The complexity of the urban challenge requires innovative, cultural and contextually relevant solutions implemented through matrixed partnerships. Implementing comprehensive urban programs contributes toward improving the quality of life of marginalised communities, systemic market and policy enhancements and the sustainability of urban areas.  

    HFHI is partnering with the International Civil Society Centre, World Vision and Slum Dwellers International on ‘Civil Society Innovation and Urban Inclusion’ to create more spaces for our sector to develop a common learning agenda to inspire and inform continuous improvement and innovation. By doing so, we believe that ICSOs will be better placed to strengthen their impact and influence in connecting culture and innovation to make cities places of opportunity for everyone. 

    Sanjee Singh

    Director for International Housing Programs

    Habitat for Humanity International

    Sanjee Singh is the Director for International Housing Programs at Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), based out of Atlanta, USA. Sanjee is a solution-driven strategic thinker and natural collaborator with more than 20 years’ experience in international development. She is skilled at building strategies, policies and programs to drive enhancements and systemic change leading to greater impact and outcomes. Sanjee is part of the Global Programs Design and Implementation Team at Habitat for Humanity International, focusing on the development of the organization’s Global Urban Approach and supporting the design implementation of comprehensive programs across Habitat’s federation. Sanjee has Bachelor of Science in Town and Regional Planning and a Master’s Degree in Public Development and Management from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is passionate about contributing towards sustainable development, gender equity and building processes and partnerships that improve outputs, outcomes and impact of teams, projects and programs.

    Join us for urban innovation in 2020

    23rd January 2020 by Vicky Tongue

    Join us at the World Urban Forum in February

    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).
    Urban Innovation Report 2020 image
    Urban Innovation Report 2020

    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!

    JOIN US on 10 February 2020


    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.

    Innovation Report, get involved!

    5th December 2019 by Thomas Howie


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    Our first-ever Innovation Report: Civil Society Innovation and Populism in a Digital Era features stories from people around the world who devised strategies, sometimes unintentionally, to respond to the challenges associated with populism. These are inspiring stories, full of innovation and creativity. We believe they can help others change and improve their world, that’s why we’re sharing them. To do this we need your help.

    Below are some simple actions you can take to share inspiration that can be the creative spark in people and organisations, creativity that unites people and communities.

    Additionally, we are still collecting stories, to grow our online report with your stories, ideas and actions for a stronger civil society sector. Here’s how you can help spread the word or contribute to our living report:


    • Join the webinar (Janaury 14 2020): Online Innovation Report launch: Civil Society Innovation and Populism in a Digital Era
    • Promote your own story or futures thinking; we want to hear your examples of Innovation or what you think the future might look like, no matter how small. Just drop the Programme Manager Vicky Tongue an email to say you are interested
    • Share it with your colleagues, especially those working in communications or futures thinking. The case studies feature practical examples from which they could learn.
    • Invite us to an event or lunchtime discussion, we’d love to join your event or team in person or virtually to have conversation on civil society innovation with you and answer your questions about this report.
    • Tell us if the report is useful, or how we can improve it. Send Vicky an email or a tweet.

    2020 Innovation Report

    We will soon kick off the process for our 2020 report on ‘Civil Society Innovation and Urban Inclusion’. If you already want to register an interest in being part of this report please send Programme Manager Vicky Tongue an email to say you are interested

    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.

    Discover: Innovation for civil society organisations in times of populism

    18th November 2019 by Thomas Howie

    Civil society organisations are innovators. They test new approaches to both traditional and emerging problems. One of today’s most pressing issues is the rise of populism, which can both erode and in some instances directly attack, these organisations’ legitimacy and impact. While civil society organisations have addressed these challenges, there is a significant opportunity for organisations to learn and benefit from the lessons others have encountered. That is the goal of this inaugural Innovation Report, titled: Civil Society Innovation and Populism in a Digital Era.

    In this report, International Civil Society Centre partnered with JustLabs to highlight innovative, hopeful responses and solutions by civil society actors around the world, check out some of the case studies:

    Hope-based Communications

    New narratives for human rights

    Shift Myanmar

    WhatsApp for LGBT+ Rights


    Visit our Innovation Website to find out more about the aims of the report and all the case study content:

    Communications Manager

    International Civil Society Centre

    Shifting Myanmar’s 46% towards citizen-led power

    1st November 2019 by Andy Nilsen

    In this blog for the 2019 Innovation Report on ‘Responses to Populism in a Digitally Enabled Era, Andy Nilsen, the Director of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media for Save the Children Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand describes key features of the political and technological context which are driving their innovative Shift! Project.

    Myanmar’s rapid recent digital revolution

    When I first visited Myanmar back in 2013, the country was in the early stages of a technological revolution. Still, getting my hands on a local SIM card was a challenge requiring all sorts of paperwork and bureaucracy. It was still a luxury item that had once cost hundreds, if not a thousand dollars. Internet access was reserved only for the super-rich or super-connected, and strict regulation of the telecommunications industry meant that in 2012, just 1% of Myanmar’s population had internet access. These barriers to information and connectivity during the military’s 50-year reign oppressed freedom of expression and restricted the ability of communities to mobilize.

    Today, when I ask my Myanmar friends and colleagues about the most significant changes in their country since it re-opened to the world eight years ago, access to the internet – and specifically social media – is almost always near the top of their list. According to a 2017 report by Telenor, 90% of Myanmar’s population now live within reach of 3G or 4G services. That’s one of the highest coverage rates in Southeast Asia, and with smartphone penetration at over 80%, Myanmar people are integrating technology into their lives at a rate almost unseen in any other country in the world.

    Social media for people or political power?

    Myanmar’s prolific use of Facebook as a ‘one-stop’ interface for the internet has fostered an active new space for civic engagement and personal expression. By 2016, successful people-led movements driven through social media started to hold power to account. One such example resulted in the resignation of four members of Myanmar’s Human Rights Commission following public outcry on Facebook around the Commission’s failure to criminally prosecute the perpetrators of a high profile child abuse case. For a community still adjusting to the freedoms of citizen-led-activism, social media was becoming an effective platform for Myanmar people to find their voice.

    The ‘honeymoon period’ for social media in Myanmar reflects that experienced elsewhere in the world. Remember when platforms like Twitter were heralded for their potential to break down barriers between individual citizens and institutionalized power? But the world is now grappling with the reality that these same tools can be used to undermine our access to ‘truth’ – and even disrupt and distort democratic processes themselves.

    In Myanmar, social media has been used to deliver disinformation campaigns which use hate speech and ‘fake news’ to assert an authoritarian and nationalist agenda – which has further fueled ethnic and religious tensions in order to promote a more mono-cultural view of the country towards the Buddhist majority. The clearest example of this has been the rhetoric used to incite hatred against Rohingya Muslims, in part by evoking a well held myth that the group are ‘recent arrivals’ who should be treated as immigrants. This, along with ‘fake news’ about the actions of the Rohingya during 2017’s clearance operations by the Myanmar Military (e.g. that Rohingya Muslims were burning their own houses), has ‘weaponized’ information, created mistrust of social media – and made social cohesion an even harder task in conflict affected states such as Rakhine.

    A new impetus for civil society innovation

    The institutionalized use of social media as a tool for spreading hate during the Rohingya crisis has been well documented and sits in stark contrast to the use of these same platforms to drive positive change. This is the great contradiction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Myanmar, being played out through social media right now. On one side are well-organized forces wanting to reassert the control of military elites, discourage freedom of speech and expression, deny historical realities, and oppress ethnic and religious diversity. On the other side are the vast majority of Myanmar people who want to see peace, value diversity, and have fought for decades for democratic principles.

    When I created the Shift movement, I was not directly trying to counter these anti-democratic forces within Myanmar. In fact, the primary purpose of the project was to support adolescents and youth to become more active in cyber civic spaces – and to ‘participate’ in a country where people under 25 have traditionally felt isolated from decision-making processes. But I now believe that our approach, by nurturing youth-led movements to campaign for positive change, is an effective way for civil society to push back against Myanmar’s populist and autocratic forces.

    Our innovation: How ‘Shift’ works

    Youth groups selected for our Shift programme attend a campaign accelerator workshop which connects them to creative mentors. We use a range of participatory activities to help them unpack their issue and eventually develop a campaign strategy targeting the kind of social triggers that need to be addressed to foster change. We also teach digital literacy and critical thinking skills which young people themselves feel is badly lacking within Myanmar’s education system. These skills are especially important given how hostile online spaces in Myanmar have become.

    Shift’s philosophy is that all learning should be experiential. After co-creating their campaign plan, Shift fully funds and supports the youth groups to implement it alongside our creative partners. The groups feel instantly empowered to deliver change within their community, and supported by a larger, interconnected community of peers who are also carrying out their own individual campaigns.

    The shift for Save the Children

    Governments must be transparent and open to the people they serve. But even within the development sector, larger institutions must look for ways to disrupt our own power structures and ensure that resources and solutions are controlled more by the communities we exist to support.

    In particular, when it comes to advocacy and campaigning, we must look for new ways to engage with communities, co-create approaches and transition resources through to grassroots organizations. We should be especially an enabler for children and youth to speak for themselves about the issues that matter most to them. By supporting these movements, I believe we will cause a snowball effect in countries such as Myanmar and sprout the seeds of citizen-led power throughout this emerging democracy.

    Myanmar people have fought long and hard for the democracy they have today, but because the constitution still reserves 25% of parliamentary seats to military members, this transition is not yet complete. The strengthening of civil society will be critical over the next decade in building an individual’s belief that they can hold power to account and help shape the society around them. This transition of power to citizens must happen at all levels.

    Investing in the transition of the 46%

    We are supporting a shift away from ‘old power’ structures – that are rigid, authoritarian and seek to exclude people from decision-making processes – and inspire ‘new power,’ defined by citizen-led movements. We must therefore focus our efforts on people under 25 years of age, who make up 46% of Myanmar’s population. The world these young people live in is totally different to that experienced by a 20-year-old living previously under the military regime. This generation will lead Myanmar into its next phase of democratic transition and our Shift project is an investment in this 46%.

    Encouraging this kind of transition is also an effective way to counter-punch the rising forces wanting to divide and dissolve citizen power. My fear is that our investment will fail to match the investments already being made by the other side. Technology can enable solutions, but we must not focus on it at the expense of investing in people – which is exactly the Shift we are making. After all, a stage is nothing without the actors upon it.


    Andy Nilsen

    Director of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media for Save the Children Myanmar

    Save the Children

    Andy Nilsen, the Director of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media for Save the Children Myanmar,

    Coming Together in Times of Populist-Nationalism in the US

    24th October 2019 by Sam Worthington and Mike Fox

    “What is the identity of my country and who are we as a people?” is a question that has shaped America’s unique idealism across generations of immigrants. It is also a question that can be used to stoke fear and division. Racism and nativism reside close to the heart of the wave of populist-nationalism that the United States is currently confronting. While all these trends, in addition to the related sentiment of isolationism, have a long history in both US politics and in official government policy, we have rarely faced them all in combination, wielded by a President and his allies. An initiative we call The Together Project, has been at the heart of InterAction’s response to these forces that try to divide people. It draws on and reinforces our community’s solidarity to advance a more compassionate and diverse form of American identity.

    Root causes, ‘retrotopianism’ and racism

    America’s current wave of populist-nationalism is rooted in racial resentment and a history of grievances that is endemic to US society. As our country becomes more and more multi-ethnic and diverse, a subset of the country’s dominant majority has not seen themselves reflected in America’s emerging identity and progress. Systematic economic inequality has also led to high levels of frustration, particularly in rural areas, that feed resentment and amplify a nationalist narrative among citizens who previously had a sense of power. They now blame others, immigrants or people who do not look like them, for their economic circumstances. Populist narratives have drawn on this racial anxiety and economic frustration by promising a return to a past – remodelling it as an idealised ‘- when their supporters felt more culturally, if not economically, dominant. A past where America First was the norm. President Trump has amplified these feelings through what many see as public racism.

    The optimism within (civil) society

    Internationally-focused NGOs and our supporters belong to a segment of society that view the constant changing and growth of American identity with optimism.  , seeing participation by different groups in a changing society as something that makes us all stronger. We believe that different elements have contributed over generations to a shared narrative that reinforces our values and collective, yet diverse, identity. Unfortunately, the division between an open and inclusive country, and building walls and promoting exclusion, often splits down political lines. As a result, there’s not much space for nuance in the public conversation.

    Reflecting as a community: The need to come Together

    In the aftermath of the 2016 election, InterAction hosted our annual CEO Retreat, and – during an exercise that emphasizes honest reflection among our community – a Muslim-American leader shared their fear for themselves, their organization, and their family in the face of growing public racism. A Jewish-American colleague found common ground in sharing their emotions over having lost their grandparents during the Holocaust. The idea that we all have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with vulnerable colleagues gained immediate traction. The conversation evolved towards a shared understanding that those of us in the room, as civil society leaders, had a responsibility to look out for each other and foster a better dialogue in our country. The blend of personal backgrounds, shared values and experiences across different cultural and faith identities further inspired launching the Together Project in 2017.

    Building community through trust

    Whilst the initial leadership for the Together Project came from our Muslim faith-based member NGOs, it could only become a community-wide initiative due to trust among individuals and organizations across the sector, tapping into a shared safe space at InterAction. Trust and creation of safe spaces for dialogue are essential not just at the micro-, programmatic level, but also at the macro-level for society at large. These two dynamics create opportunity for agreements on how to strategically combat populist-nationalism, while not resorting to a simple adversarial or victimhood narrative, either of which can alienate potential allies. Adversarial or victimhood narratives can often feed the very social divisions wielded by populist demagogues through emphasizing division and differences, as opposed to a sense of shared, values and identity.

    Creating a shared national narrative

    For the United States to ultimately overcome this current populist-nationalism wave, and its associated racism, nativism, and isolationism, it will be essential to create a shared national narrative. We need an agenda of common action, mutual benefit, and agreement on values. These principles may be as simple as being kind to our neighbors and believing the dignity of all people, whether in this country or overseas. The moment we exclude someone, we tear a country from its pursuit of an ideal future, and start focusing on destruction as opposed to positive change and an inclusive future for everyone. These ideal values cut across faith and political beliefs but are found in the overlapping spheres of our civil society, which can bridge the current, dualistic fight over power in political institutions.

    The Together Project is one example of how civil society can come together to preserve space for all by ensuring that no one person or institution is removed from our country’s identity.

    Yes, it is often essential to loudly pushback against injustice, but any effort should not be at the cost of pushing someone else out of your country’s future. Otherwise, they will fall back on the politics and an identity of division and fear.

    Sam Worthington



    Sam Worthington is Chief Executive Officer of InterAction, leading the U.S. NGO sector’s engagement with the UN, governments, and civil society groups around the world. He testifies before the U.S. Congress, routinely consults with the administration, speaks to boards and at universities, and is a regular contributor on numerous national and international media outlets.

    Mike Fox

    Manager, Strategic Initiatives


    Mike Fox is the Manager for Strategic Initiatives at InterAction, leading cross-organization projects that help the alliance increase its impact, organizational effectiveness, and institutional reach. He also supports the CEO with policy and communications related research, analysis, writing, and editing.

    Reflections on Working Together as a Coalition

    24th October 2019 by Princess Bazley-Bethea

    What is the “value added” of being a coalition?

    How do we best support targeted organizations during a disinformation attack?

    What techniques can we use to move the needle on constricting regulations due to operating principles or religious faith?

    These guiding questions are examples of conversations that led to launching the Together Project in the US in 2017, and are ongoing ‘North Stars’ to navigate dialogue and decision-making with our coalition, as our initiative continues to develop.

    A model of collaborative thought leadership

    Successful coalitions depend on the ability of representatives from independent organizations to work almost as if they belonged to the same company. InterAction values coalition work and is committed to be a platform for alliances to foster. As the oldest and largest coalition of U.S.-based, international NGOs, InterAction draws on our – nearly 200 – organizational member and partner community to think and act collectively, while serving the world’s poor and vulnerable. Through the Together Project, InterAction has designed a model of collaborative thought leadership and brings NGOs together in service to a stronger, more inclusive civil society voice and posture within the United States.

    The exponential effect of a united front

    Behind the core Together Project Coalition of five founding organizations (American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), Helping Hand for Relief & Development, Islamic Relief USA, United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR) and Zakat Foundation of America), there is a large support network of more than 75 organizations, of various faiths and none, and with leverage and ‘voice’ to influential audiences. The Together Project’s Interfaith Connections builds upon the effective on-the-ground partnerships of both non-secular and secular InterAction members to strategically engage in supportive solidarity across a variety of issues at home in the United States. The exponential effect of displaying a united front when organizations are attacked is often beyond coming to the aid of a specific organization but lends to a deepening of the public morale and posture for the entire sector domestically and aboard.

    A strong foundation and commitment to solidarity

    For this kind of collaboration to occur, the Together Project has established an agreed commonmission, goals, outcome, scope, agenda and work plan to strategically guide our activities. This, in turn, has created a clear understanding of the initiative’s joint priorities, while providing autonomy for each partner’s organizational structure, policies and procedures, and culture and norms. The coalition is better able to operate, make decisions, allocate resources, share information, and expand our alliance further, such as our affiliation with the Charity & Security Network to address several comparable issues together as partners. Likewise, the Together Project joined the World Bank Stakeholder Dialogue on De-risking to elevate the impact of the issue on our coalition members. A strong foundation and commitment to solidarity within the Together Project has positioned the initiative to engage as both a participant and a leader with other like-minded coalitions and alliances.

    Compromise and deference

    The keys to an effective coalition of this nature are mutual trust and respect for each other’s strengths. Organizations may be asked to compromise or defer to a partner’s judgment in decision-making to move towards the greater common goal. The vulnerability felt in these sometimes direct and challenging moments is a healthy part of becoming an alliance dependent on one other to succeed together. Sharing on the answers to earlier guiding questions helps the Together Project remain focused on our principles

    ‘One for all and all for one’

    Essentially, solidarity is vital to the Together Project. The driving force behind the initiative is the word “together” and a core belief that no one organization should have to fight disinformation and discrimination fueled by populist-nationalism alone. Countering the effects of restrictive, discriminatory government regulations that are viewed as vital to national security and defending against disinformation campaigns are not easy topics to broach in the current political climate. Fortunately, organizations do not have to quietly confront these issues alone. For those that do not have the capacity to address these difficult issues, the coalition offers a foundation to stand on and participate in through working groups, activities, and events at a level that best meets their ability. Likewise, for organizations that believe these issues do not affect their operations or are not current priorities, the Together Project highlights the interconnectedness of the work and the broader ramifications of how various aspects play out in different parts of the world. The backing of InterAction members and stakeholders across the sector helps to amplify the voice of the Together Project to advocate for change.

    Princess Bazley-Bethea

    Manager, Together Project


    Princess Bazley-Bethea is the Manager of the Together Project at InterAction. Princess’ leadership enables the project to bring attention to issues affecting the ability of coalition members to function, educate relevant policy-makers and officials, convene conversations where potential solutions can be found, connect InterAction’s members to each other, and build solidarity broadly when needed in response to the shrinking civil society space experienced by project members.