Posts with the tag
“Innovators Forum”

Rising with Brilliant People in our Beautiful City

22nd February 2019 by Vicky Tongue and Krizna Gomez

This blog is written by Vicky Tongue, Programme Manager at the International Civil Society Centre and Krizna Gomez, from JustLabs. The blog looks at whow and why civil society can produce innovative responses to populism. Together they give a summary of the complex situation facings CSOs, reflect on some strategies to explore response and finally look at building alliances. This topic is our main focus at our Innovators Forum on 25 – 26 February 2019.

Rising with Brilliant People in our Beautiful City, by Vicky Tongue 

As we highlighted earlier this week, CSOs need to reflect on their legitimacy, embrace innovative approaches, and collaborate to continue shaping the new global world order. In this blog, ahead of our Innovator’s Forum next week, we further explore these ideas in the context of ‘reframing narratives’.

The need for CSO dialogue, innovation and reinvention must increase in tandem with rising speed of toxic narratives.

The need for CSOs to (re-)act is greater than ever. This includes working together in smarter ways, trying to reconcile and integrate ‘us’ and ‘them’ societal divides, whilst positively promoting the integrity of our missions.

The challenges facing CSOs in this respect are manifold. Increased scepticism of human rights activism and NGOs’ work is being fuelled by strategically-targeted and politically-motivated communications. For example, branding concerned voices of dissent as unpatriotic or representing foreign interests, and twisting core humanitarian principles of neutrality into partisan narratives of furthering faith group interests. Peaceful non-violent social movements have been counter framed as terrorist organisations, and deliberately linked to alleged ‘hate crimes’ through false association on social media.

The speed with which new toxic narratives against the causes championed by CSOs are churned out by populists and other detractors requires even greater velocity in the responses. However, these responses must not inadvertently repeat the negative narratives and thus fuel them further, but instead offer a more encouraging vision of the future. A vision which communities and ordinary people can easily embrace. For this shift in approach, CSOs need a space and an approach which allows for fast, fresh, brave and long-term thinking. 

Reflecting, by Krizna Gomez

At JustLabs, we have run a series of labs where people from very different fields of expertise brainstormed and designed solutions for civil society actors from facing serious challenges to their work because of negative narratives.

To ensure maximum innovation in thinking and to break the disciplinary silos which often isolate civil society from other fields which populists have been tapping into, only the clients came from the human rights field. All other participants were from other disciplines — political strategy, advertising, marketing, cognitive and behavioural sciences, business, and product development.

The workshops utilised design thinking, with its ethos of co-creation with the client, and stepping into the shoes of the communities with which they were seeking to rebuild relationships, while closely examining the power landscape they must navigate.

The outside perspectives helped open the clients up to new, potentially game-changing, narrative strategies which embrace emotions, tap into people’s values, and offer a sense of belonging to entire sections of society who feel excluded, ignored or left behind.

Adopting innovative approaches – which also “go back to the basics”

The prototypes produced in the labs reached out to people not on the usual basis of perceived threats or abuses by official power (for example, rallying people to protest an abusive policy) but rather by appealing to a sense of belonging, provide intellectual stimulation in cultural settings, or send messages which jive with their values from people they respect.

The imagery was not the traditional fists, protests, struggle/war or the scale of justice, but that of the “day-to-day”, the non-threatening and even the mundane, which tie communities and friends together—a cup of coffee, a football match, an embrace, even love. The narratives projected human rights not as a discourse or claim to legal protection, but as a bridge which connects people, a compass which guides people through a journey, and a glue which allows for ties that truly bind. Some of the narratives also used the metaphor of building and construction – where human rights are a blueprint or guide for creating a better society.

To achieve all these goals, civil society actors need the necessary support to skilfully use words in everything they say so they are grounded on findings from neuroscience and cognitive linguistics and involve mastery of sophisticated digital marketing tools—things they currently often do not have the expertise or means to do.

But beyond all this, we found that winning the narrative challenge means going beyond the mere use of clever words and social media hashtags. While narrative initiatives may often include communications campaigns, they encompass a broader array of tactics. In short, what civil society actors do—from the way we interact with communities, decide on the actors we work with, and design projects—is the narrative.

Building alliances, by Vicky Tongue 

Civil society organisations can build broad alliances which cut across our work on different themes, enable both short- and long-term action, dialogue and organisation, and combine complementary strengths for both online and offline diplomacy and mobilisation.

In the US, InterAction’s Together Project continues its inspiring and innovative role as a solidarity hub for NGOs vulnerable to disinformation and discrimination. It is now using the skills, strategies and solidarity networks it has developed since 2017 to support new organisations facing unanticipated risks of false information attacks. Mob Lab is launching a new project to convene, building solidarity, and developing practical solutions among organisations, groups, and individuals to foster alternatives to the rise of the far right. Ahead of the EU elections in May, online movements and ICSOs are collaborating on anti-disinformation initiatives to protect European audiences from the proliferation of ‘fake news’.

And next week, brilliant people from the leading international CSOs, online movements, national CSO platforms, donors and media organisations will join us here in Berlin’s beautiful city, to reflect and build new dialogues and alliances on innovation. We can’t wait.

Vicky Tongue

Head of Futures and Innovation

International Civil Society Centre

Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, leading our core initiatives on future trends, horizon scanning and civil society innovation. Vicky has more than 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.

Krizna Gomez

-

Just Labs

Krizna Gomez is Director of Programs at JustLabs. A certified foresight practitioner, Krizna has been designing and delivering trainings for the past 12 years, using methodologies such as design thinking, futures thinking, popular education and contemplative-based practices, while bringing in her work as a researcher. She began her work at the grassroots with indigenous peoples communities, and later on doing community organizing in provinces in the Philippines with the highest number of cases of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances. She taught international criminal law at the Ateneo Law School in the Philippines and Gender Studies at the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia, while also doing work on access to justice in Asia. In 2013, Krizna was granted a Presidential Fellowship at the Open Society Foundations in New York, where she focused on donor policies affecting the security of their grantees. In Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda, she worked on issues of gender-based violence, education, and the protection of human rights defenders. Until recently, she worked at Dejusticia, a think-do tank based in Colombia, where she led the organization's research and advocacy on civil society space and its work on providing solidarity support for defenders at risk in different regions of the world, while leading the organization’s international work. Kriz has a Master of Laws (LL.M) with a concentration in International Human Rights Law from Harvard, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Juris Doctor from the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.


Innovators Forum 2019: Seeking inspiration in unusual places

13th December 2018 by Vicky Tongue

Join the Innovators Forum

Listening to just ten seconds of the song ‘Yorktown’ about a 1781 battle during the American War of Independence, I was again in awe of the sheer originality of the hit musical Hamilton. It powerfully succeeds in taking the complex political history a US founding father, and links it cleverly to contemporary issues around identity and race. And it has done this in such an astounding and creative way – through hip hop and rap – that it has connected with brand new audiences, and become a cultural phenomenon in the UK and US.

This proves that with the right innovation, you can tell complex stories in a compelling and engaging way which reaches new people using both emotions and facts.

Next February, the International Civil Society Centre will convene civil society communicators at our Innovators Forum to find similar creative inspiration in response to growing social and political divides. What works best in ‘reframing the narrative’ in the context of populist and nationalist agendas? Here are three strategies civil society organisations (CSOs) can use, which we will explore in practical terms at the Forum:

  1. Building ‘connective action’ in creative times

Dejusticia’s human rights playbook for ‘experimentation. It stresses the need for formal CSOs to build ‘connective action’ – not just ‘collective action’, with social movements, online and grassroots activists, think tanks, and other actors responding to these issues. CSOs need to strengthen horizontal collaboration with these peers, create transformative relationships and effective mobilisation both on and offline, and find connective messages which ‘cut through the clutter’ in a crowded and fragmented social media environment.

Spaces are needed to bring together these diverse stakeholders, with their range of messages, tactics and experiences, to explore innovation and reinvention in narratives and strategies which can resonate with new constituencies and engage the ‘moveable middle’. This collaboration could generate ideas and identify ‘copycat’ lessons which can be deployed in different contexts, perhaps as successfully as populist movements have learned from each other. This is our hope for the Forum.

  1. Profiling people- everyday heroes and new leaders

ICSOs speak out against the negative consequences of globalisation around the world, but not in ways which connect with domestic audiences who feel they are also economic losers from this process. Some people may also perceive international CSOs as symbols or even ‘advocates’ of globalisation. Stronger and more authentic storytelling by these organisations can counter populist challenges that they are part of ‘the establishment’ or don’t legitimately represent grassroots interests. Amnesty’s Thomas Coombes highlights that CSOs should better articulate the stories of individual ‘everyday heroes’ who have either gone on a journey of understanding to change their assumptions and prejudices, or are easier for people to identify could well be them, if circumstances were different.

The European Liberal Forum (ELF)’s ‘Toolbox Against Populism’ for political campaigning notes how, alongside emoting fear, populist parties have been able to portray their leaders as trustworthy and hard-working. In contrast, where are the public messages about the civil society leaders working diligently to build bridges in this space? One inspiring example (and a case study in Dejusticia’s playbook) is the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union’s total reinvention of its communications strategy, which involved ‘[telling] its own story about its values’, profiling its staff, and highlighting personal stories of its clients. There could also be a broader opportunity here to profile young civil society leaders responding to populist movements around the world.

  1. Promoting positive pictures of the future

Thomas Coombes’ blog also makes a compelling case that, ‘at a time when politicians are shameless’, traditional ‘name and shame’ approaches to communication no longer suffice. Rather than highlighting threats and triggering fear responses, new narratives need to communicate opportunity and motivate through hope. CSOs must promote a positive vision of the society we want to live in, which is so evocative and compelling that people can easily picture it mentally, and depictions of communities already benefitting from inclusion, diversity and stability.

One key factor driving domestic populist attitudes is the perception of key economic resources, such as jobs, as being under pressure. Yet some scenarios of the future foresee a world of abundance, not just scarcity, such as Peter Frase’s book ‘Four Futures’. Can CSOs still communicate potential futures of abundance, alongside the calamities of climate change and growing inequality? And can they shift societal conversations about the future of work away from short-term focus on migrants and jobs, towards collectively shaping how we will live with automation?

These may be some pointers to help ICSOs better portray what they are ‘for’ and connect to audiences through positive emotions and visions for the future. This must be done without oversimplifying the complexities of identity, history and politics. Hamilton shows how this can be done if you innovate in the right way. Join us in February to explore this further!

Innovators Forum 2019

 

Vicky Tongue

Head of Futures and Innovation

International Civil Society Centre

Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, leading our core initiatives on future trends, horizon scanning and civil society innovation. Vicky has more than 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.


4 new blockchain and big data projects agreed by civil society innovators

14th March 2018 by Thomas Howie

Blockchain and Big Data can transform how international civil society organisations (ICSOs) work and what they achieve. To benefit from them, collaboration between ICSOs is essential. At our 2018 Innovators Forum on 27-28 February 2018, experts gathered to work on new projects using Blockchain and Big Data to solve problems.

If the civil society sector does not organise now, then the potential of Big Data and Blockchain may be lost altogether. That was the feeling among 30 innovators and digital experts gathered at our 2nd Innovators Forum.

The motivation to act now is to avoid making the same mistake our sector made with the internet. In the early days of the internet, no one knew its true potential. However, big corporations were quick to react, capitalising on this digital innovation. They took the lead and made decisions that affected our lives and way of working. The likes of Google and Facebook capitalised, while civil society voices were not heard on important issues, such as data privacy and security. Ever since, we have been playing catch-up, rather than leading digital innovation. Continue reading

    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.


    Data Collaboratives can transform the way civil society organisations find solutions – Part II

    27th February 2018 by Stefaan Verhulst

    This is the second of two blogs on Data Collaboratives by Stefaan G. Verhulst of The Governance Lab (GovLab) at New York University. Stefaan explains the 5 specific value propositions of Data Collaboratives identified by the Gov Lab. In addition, he tackles the issue of data security. Specifically, how organisations need to professionalise the responsible use of data. To do this, organisations need to embrace the creation of Data Stewardship job roles. (Read Part II here)

    At a broad level, data collaboratives offer the possibility of unlocking insights and solutions from vast, untapped stores of private-sector data. But what does this mean in practice? GovLab’s research indicates five specific public value propositions arising from cross-sector data-collaboration. These include:

    1. Situational Awareness and Response: Private data can help NGOs, humanitarian organisations and others better understand demographic trends, public sentiment, and the geographic distribution of various phenomena:
    • One notable instance of this value proposition has been Facebook’s Disaster Maps initiative. Following natural disasters, Facebook shares aggregated location, movement, and self-reported safety data collected through its platform with responding humanitarian organisations, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP).

    Disaster Maps provide another tool in the humanitarian response toolkit to fill any gaps in traditional data sources and to inform more targeted relief efforts from responders on the ground.

    1. Knowledge Creation and Transfer: Data collaboratives can join widely dispersed datasets, in the process creating a better understanding of possible correlations and causalities as well as what variables make a difference for what type of problem:
    • For example: researchers at Data2X, a collaborative platform dedicated to improving “the quality, availability, and use of gender data” has sought to leverage the insights generated by analysing geospatial data, credit card, mobile phone data, and social media posts to pinpoint problems that women and girls in developing countries are facing, such as malnutrition, education, healthcare access, and mental health issues.
    1. Service Design and Delivery: By definition, data collaboratives increase access to previously inaccessible (i.e. privately held) datasets. These datasets often contain a wealth of information that can enable more accurate modelling of ICSO service delivery:
    • For example, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enabled WorldPop and UNFPAto map human populations that were traditionally unreachable through conventional approaches toward the goal of improving service delivery, resource allocation, urban planning and disaster management by development organisations.
    1. Prediction and Forecasting: Richer, more complete information from a data collaborative enables new predictive capabilities for ICSOs and others. Thus, allowing them to be more proactive and put in place mechanisms that prevent or at least mitigate crises before they occur:
    • For example, the Malaria Elimination Initiative developed DISARM (Disease Surveillance and Risk Monitoring), a platform that uses satellite data and Google Earth data to predict Malaria outbreaks. Mobile phone data has also been used in predicting population displacement during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, which helped international and domestic humanitarian organisations deliver aid more effectively.
    1. Impact Assessment and Evaluation: Finally, data collaboratives can aid CSOs in one of the most important (yet often neglected) steps of their value chains: monitoring, evaluation, and improvement. By leveraging data, CSOs can rapidly assess the results of their actions, as to iterate on products and programs when necessary:
    • This is what Sport England did, for instance, when it used Twitter data to understand women’s views on exercise to inform its successful #ThisGirlCan campaign aimed at improving women and girl’s health and physical activity.
    Professionalising the Responsible Use of Data

    These value propositions offer a compelling case for greater use of private data through data collaboratives to solve complex public problems. However, a variety of concerns still exist. Some of these concerns (e.g. fears over privacy) involve public fears, while others (e.g. worries over a potential erosion of competitive advantage) are more internal oriented. Nonetheless, all of these concerns need to be addressed in order to foster greater trust and appreciation of the potential of data collaborative.

    That is why there is a need to develop a framework that would guide the responsible use of data. GovLab has looked at these issues in a recent report, The Potential of Social Media Intelligence to Improve People’s Lives: Social Media Data for Good. Responsible data use has many aspects, and there are various degrees of responsibility. At the very least, it means having core (written) principles, and well-defined policies and practices for how data is collected, stored, analysed, shared and used (across the data lifecycle).

    In addition, it is essential to conduct regular risk assessments that consider the balance between the potential value and dangers inherent at every stage of the data lifecycle. Such risk assessments can help data stakeholders decide when data sharing can be truly beneficial (or what the opportunity cost may be of not sharing the data). Several ICSOs have already started developing such responsible data frameworks such as Oxfam (Responsible Data Policy) and World Vision (Data Protection, Privacy & Security (DPP&S) framework). Increased awareness, further coordination (toward perhaps an ICSO Responsible Data Framework) and translation of these policies into decision trees may be required.

    Data Stewardship roles

    Yet not only do ICSOs and other private actors lack the frameworks to determine how to responsibly share and use data for the public good, they often lack a well-defined, professionalised concept of “Data Stewardship.” Today, each attempt to establish a cross-sector partnership built on the analysis of data requires significant and time-consuming efforts. ICSOs rarely have personnel tasked with undertaking such efforts and making such decisions.

    The process of establishing “Data Collaboratives” and leveraging privately-held data for evidence-based policy making is onerous. Also, it is generally a one-off process and not informed by best practices or any shared knowledge base. Thus it is prone to dissolution when the champions involved move on to other functions.

    By establishing “Data Stewardship” as a job function in organisations alongside methods and tools for responsible data-sharing, we can free data sharing for development from its stuck dynamic, and turn it into a regularised, predictable, and de-risked activity. Only then can ICSOs use and share their own data and that of others – including private companies – through data collaboratives to help transform how they achieve their missions while improving people’s lives.

      Stefaan Verhulst

      Co-Founder & Chief of Research and Development at the GovLab

      GovLab

      Stefaan G. Verhulst is Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of the Governance Laboratory @NYU (GovLab) where he is responsible for building a research foundation on how to transform governance using advances in science and technology. Verhulst’s latest scholarship centers on how technology can improve people’s lives and the creation of more effective and collaborative forms of governance. Specifically, he is interested in the perils and promise of collaborative technologies and how to harness the unprecedented volume of information to advance the public good. Before joining NYU full time, Verhulst spent more than a decade as Chief of Research for the Markle Foundation, where he continues to serve as Senior Advisor. At Markle, an operational foundation based in New York, he was responsible for overseeing strategic research on all the priority areas of the Foundation including, for instance: transforming health care using information and technology, re-engineering government to respond to new national security threats, improving people’s lives in developing countries by connecting them to information networks, developing multi-stakeholder networks to tackle global governance challenges, changing education through information technology et al. Many of Markle’s reports have been translated into legislation and executive orders, and have informed the creation of new organizations and businesses. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Culture and Communications at New York University, Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Media and Communications Studies at Central European University in Budapest; and an Affiliated Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Global Communications Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communications. Previously at Oxford University he co-founded and was the Head of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the Centre for Socio Legal Studies, and also served as Senior Research Fellow of Wolfson College. He is still an emeritus fellow at Oxford. He also taught several years at the London School of Economics. Verhulst was the UNESCO Chairholder in Communications Law and Policy for the UK, a former lecturer on Communications Law and Policy issues in Belgium, and Founder and Co-Director of the International Media and Info-Comms Policy and Law Studies at the University of Glasgow School of Law. He has served as a consultant to numerous international and national organizations, including the Council of Europe, the European Commission, UNESCO, World Bank, UNDP, USAID, the UK Department for International Development among others. He has been a grant recipient of the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Markle Foundation. Verhulst has authored and co-authored several books, including: In Search of the Self: Conceptual Approaches to Internet Self Regulation (Routledge, 2001); Convergence in European Communications Regulation (Blackstone, 1999); EC Media Law and Policy (AWL, 1998); Legal Responses to the Changing Media (OUP, 1998); and Broadcasting Reform in India (OUP, 1998) and The Routledge Handbook of Media Law (2013). Latest reports and papers include, for instance, Innovations in Global Governance: Toward a Distributed Internet Governance Ecosystem (2014) and The Open Data Era in Health and Social Care (2014). Verhulst blogs also regularly on a variety of topics. For instance: Data Collaboratives: Exchanging Data to Improve People’s Lives (2015), and Reimagining Cities (2014). Verhulst is also founder and editor of numerous journals including the International Journal of Communications Law and Policy, and the Communications Law in Transition Newsletter. Currently, he is the Curator and Editor of the Govlab Weekly Digest.


      Data Collaboratives can transform the way civil society organisations find solutions – Part I

      20th February 2018 by Stefaan Verhulst

      This is the first of two blogs on Data Collaboratives by Stefaan G. Verhulst of The Governance Lab. Data Collaboratives are an emerging public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors come together to exchange data and pool analytical expertise. Their potential is great, offering new solutions to old problems and making International Civil Society Organisations more effective. (Read Part II here)

      The need for innovation is clear: The twenty-first century is shaping up to be one of the most challenging in recent history. From climate change to income inequality to geopolitical upheaval and terrorism: the difficulties confronting international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are unprecedented not only in their variety but also in their complexity. At the same time, today’s practices and tools used by ICSOs seem stale and outdated. Increasingly, it is clear, we need not only new solutions but new methods for arriving at solutions.

      Data will likely become more central to meeting these challenges. We live in a quantified era. It is estimated that 90% of the world’s data was generated in just the last two years. We know that this data can help us understand the world in new ways and help us meet the challenges mentioned above. However, we need new data collaboration methods to help us extract the insights from that data.

      UNTAPPED DATA POTENTIAL

      For all of data’s potential to address public challenges, the truth remains that most data generated today is in fact collected by the private sector – including ICSOs who are often collecting a vast amount of data – such as, for instance, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which generates various (often sensitive) data related to humanitarian activities. This data, typically ensconced in tightly held databases toward maintaining competitive advantage or protecting from harmful intrusion, contains tremendous possible insights and avenues for innovation in how we solve public problems. But because of access restrictions and often limited data science capacity, its vast potential often goes untapped.

      DATA COLLABORATIVES AS A SOLUTION

      Data Collaboratives offer a way around this limitation. They represent an emerging public-private partnership model, in which participants from different areas — including the private sector, government, and civil society — come together to exchange data and pool analytical expertise.

      While still an emerging practice, examples of such partnerships now exist around the world, across sectors and public policy domains. Importantly several ICSOs have started to collaborate with others around their own data and that of the private and public sector. For example:

      • Several civil society organisations, academics, and donor agencies are partnering in the Health Data Collaborative to improve the global data infrastructure necessary to make smarter global and local health decisions and to track progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
      • Additionally, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) built Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), a platform for sharing humanitarian from and for ICSOs – including Caritas, InterAction and others – donor agencies, national and international bodies, and other humanitarian organisations.

      These are a few examples of Data Collaboratives that ICSOs are participating in. Yet, the potential for collaboration goes beyond these examples. Likewise, so do the concerns regarding data protection and privacy.

      At The Governance Lab (GovLab) at New York University, we have researched in depth the potential of Data Collaboratives, and have identified five specific public value propositions. We are also clear in the need for organisations in Data Collaboratives to embrace establishing “Data Stewardship” roles to ensure responsible data management.

      In the next blog, I will go into greater detail about GovLab’s work and explain how ICSOs could use Data Collaboratives to their benefit more, and how they can manage data responsibly.

        Stefaan Verhulst

        Co-Founder & Chief of Research and Development at the GovLab

        GovLab

        Stefaan G. Verhulst is Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of the Governance Laboratory @NYU (GovLab) where he is responsible for building a research foundation on how to transform governance using advances in science and technology. Verhulst’s latest scholarship centers on how technology can improve people’s lives and the creation of more effective and collaborative forms of governance. Specifically, he is interested in the perils and promise of collaborative technologies and how to harness the unprecedented volume of information to advance the public good. Before joining NYU full time, Verhulst spent more than a decade as Chief of Research for the Markle Foundation, where he continues to serve as Senior Advisor. At Markle, an operational foundation based in New York, he was responsible for overseeing strategic research on all the priority areas of the Foundation including, for instance: transforming health care using information and technology, re-engineering government to respond to new national security threats, improving people’s lives in developing countries by connecting them to information networks, developing multi-stakeholder networks to tackle global governance challenges, changing education through information technology et al. Many of Markle’s reports have been translated into legislation and executive orders, and have informed the creation of new organizations and businesses. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Culture and Communications at New York University, Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Media and Communications Studies at Central European University in Budapest; and an Affiliated Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Global Communications Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communications. Previously at Oxford University he co-founded and was the Head of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the Centre for Socio Legal Studies, and also served as Senior Research Fellow of Wolfson College. He is still an emeritus fellow at Oxford. He also taught several years at the London School of Economics. Verhulst was the UNESCO Chairholder in Communications Law and Policy for the UK, a former lecturer on Communications Law and Policy issues in Belgium, and Founder and Co-Director of the International Media and Info-Comms Policy and Law Studies at the University of Glasgow School of Law. He has served as a consultant to numerous international and national organizations, including the Council of Europe, the European Commission, UNESCO, World Bank, UNDP, USAID, the UK Department for International Development among others. He has been a grant recipient of the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Markle Foundation. Verhulst has authored and co-authored several books, including: In Search of the Self: Conceptual Approaches to Internet Self Regulation (Routledge, 2001); Convergence in European Communications Regulation (Blackstone, 1999); EC Media Law and Policy (AWL, 1998); Legal Responses to the Changing Media (OUP, 1998); and Broadcasting Reform in India (OUP, 1998) and The Routledge Handbook of Media Law (2013). Latest reports and papers include, for instance, Innovations in Global Governance: Toward a Distributed Internet Governance Ecosystem (2014) and The Open Data Era in Health and Social Care (2014). Verhulst blogs also regularly on a variety of topics. For instance: Data Collaboratives: Exchanging Data to Improve People’s Lives (2015), and Reimagining Cities (2014). Verhulst is also founder and editor of numerous journals including the International Journal of Communications Law and Policy, and the Communications Law in Transition Newsletter. Currently, he is the Curator and Editor of the Govlab Weekly Digest.


        We failed with the Internet, will we fail with Blockchain?

        6th February 2018 by Duncan Cook

        Chapter 1: The Internet 

        Today I read a journal article about the charity sector reaching a ‘digital tipping point’. My immediate thought was, “It’s 2018 and we have to ask ourselves is the civil society sector only now talking about a ‘digital tipping point’”.

        The introduction of the internet and its plethora of services, knowledge sharing and mass communications has changed humanity for good and for bad. 

        I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say the charity sector missed the opportunity to truly use this new and exciting platform for good, yes there are some good exceptions. However, in general, we missed a big opportunity, instead, we let the commercial world dominate the direction and were left simply as consumers of those services and platforms.  

        Why did we miss it?

        In all honesty, we didn’t stand a chance;  

        • Our appetite for risk is low
        • We have limited funds 
        • We let others lead (i.e. we need that case study before we leap) 

        Chapter 2: Blockchain 

        Blockchain is in a real hype cycle, just like the internet back in 1999. And just like then, it has grown into a bubble. It will burst, however, and out of the other side, large companies will rise to take the lead, as was the case with the internet. We should be very concerned about that prospect. Blockchain has great potential. For example, there is a chance that the majority of money flows will shift to run on blockchains as cryptocurrencies. This would make it the biggest change in financial power, ever.   

        Blockchain offers much more potential beyond simply currencies and assets, for example, there are big opportunities in voting operations, legal services (e.g. notary) and confirming your identity. There exist new opportunities and new hope, but the potential of this hope can only be fulfilled by good actors.  

        This time we need you to be involved, not looking on from the sidelines waiting for others to lead, we need you to lead, we need you to seize the opportunity, take the risk and help shape it. If you don’t, then just like with the internet, you’ll leave a void that others will fill. 

        Will we miss out on Blockchain? 

        Well, the reasons we missed out on the internet are still true today;

        • Our appetite for risk is low
        • Limited funds are available
        • We let others lead and take that leap of faith

        The first two reasons are solvable. If CSOs and Charities work together with partners to utilise and explore the opportunity, the risk is shared and funds are multiplied allowing us to move from simply talking and watching to taking real action. 

        The big question for me is will you lead and help shape this space for good or follow and let others decide who wins and who loses? 

        Duncan Cook

        CEO

        3 SIDED CUBE

        As Head of 3 SIDED CUBE Duncan founded the global digital agency to ‘Build Tech For Good’. A leader inspired by impact and not by numbers he has pushed for the team to create award-winning life-saving apps for clients including RNLI, IFRC and Mind. His vision to change the way people donate blood saw The American Red Cross revolutionise the donation process into a digital system that has created over $70million of revenue. Recognised for his drive to improve global disaster preparedness he was invited to The White House to present the agency’s work on the world’s largest alerting app which saves millions of lives in areas affected by tornados, earthquakes and other natural disasters every day


        How are Blockchain and Big Data currently being used in the civil society sector?

        30th January 2018 by Thomas Howie

        The International Civil Society Centre is hosting its second Innovators Forum on 27-28 February 2018. The Forum will explore the benefits and possible uses of Blockchain and Big Data in the civil society sector. Before the Forum, guest authors will dive into specific examples or innovations around digitalisation and digital technology, in this week’s blog we want to give a brief overview of the main terms and some examples of their uses.

        Many CSOs around the world have realised the potential linked to both Blockchain and Big Data and are currently experimenting with how these technologies can support their work.

        BIG DATA – WHAT IS THAT?

        The term Big Data refers to extremely large datasets that can be analysed for trends and correlations by connecting different data on a large scale. Due to the size and complexity of the data sets used, new links and patterns can be uncovered. This means that problems that were previously not possible – or simply too complex! – to explain can now be tackled. Most CSOs work with Big Data to improve knowledge about marginalised or ignored groups of people and to identify better ways to serve them. Here are three examples of how:

        COLLECTING BIG DATA

        Plan International is leading the way in developing a digital birth registration tool. Its aim is to help register the millions of undocumented births around the world to lay the groundwork for better health care, education and access to other government services. The system draws on mobile phone technology to reach people and places that governments fail to document, mostly due to the lack of resources.

        USING BIG DATA

        Caroline Buckee, a Harvard University epidemiologist, used the data of 15 million mobile phones in Kenya to demonstrate how human travel patterns contribute to the spread of malaria. Based on this data, she helped pinpoint where best to focus government efforts to control malaria.

        CONNECTING THE DOTS OF BIG DATA

        The Centre-hosted project Leave No One Behind is combining smaller data sets to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using evidence collected by ICSOs in four pilot countries, the goal is to identify the drivers of exclusion in local contexts, and support joint advocacy that will encourage governments to be accountable for their SDG promises.

        BLOCKCHAIN – WHAT IS THAT?

        Blockchain is a network technology can complete any kind of transactions or verification processes in a transparent way. It is a distributed ledger that everyone can view. Thus a transaction, sending a data block (hence the name), is viewable to all and not reversible or modifiable, making Blockchain transparent and accountable.

        Many CSOs and social entrepreneurs are using Blockchain technology to increase the efficiency of their operations or increase accountability around the social issues they aim to tackle. Here are a few small examples:

        TRANSFERRING FUNDS FASTER AND CHEAPER

        Disberse facilitated the transfer of donations to a school in Swaziland using Blockchain-based technology, saving £375 in international bank transfer fees. The United Nations World Food Programme distributed cryptocurrency-based vouchers to 10,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

        INCREASING ACCOUNTABILITY IN SUPPLY CHAINS

        Blockchain can be used to track and verify interactions between different actors around the globe. Bext360 and Fairfood International aim to ensure fair wages and prices for producers and farmers by monitoring the entire supply chains of coffee, coconuts and other products.

        These are just a few examples of the way Big Data and Blockchain are being used to innovate in the civil society sector and beyond. We want to discover more ideas, case studies and stories with our partners, colleagues and friends from across civil society. We also want to look at some of the challenges that come with the use of these technologies: How do we ensure that data is properly secured and not misused? How do we design projects in an inclusive way and increase the number of people who benefit from technological opportunities?

        The Innovators Forum will be a starting point, but we will cover different aspects of digitalisation and digital technology through the year 2018. If you want to get involved or share your own work in this space, get in touch!

        Thanks to Bond for the inspiration for this article.

        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.