Posts with the tag
“Scanning the Horizon”

Understanding megatrends’ impact on civil society’s work – Oxfam GB

30th April 2020 by Thomas Howie

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Civil Society Futures and Innovation Podcast · Understanding megatrends’ impact on civil society’s work – Oxfam GB


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Mini Series: Exploring the Interconnectedness of Global Trends Mini-series – Episode 2

Irene Guijt and Filippo Artuso, Research and Publishing Team Oxfam GB, share insights and discuss their findings of a yearlong mapping of global megatrends

Producer: Julia Pazos

Global Megatrends: Mapping the forces that affect us all:…d=yOxfam From Poverty to Power blog: Will the real megatrend please stand up? Insights from a scan of scans:…-a-scan-of-scans/
Scanning the Horizon –


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.

Why we’re looking forward to foresight in 2020

16th December 2019 by Vicky Tongue

Download the Scanning the Horizon 2020 flyer

Looking forward to 2020 might seem a bit short for a group of strategists and horizon scanners, but we’re pretty excited about the state of foresighting and futures in our sector at the moment. And here’s why: there’s some great work and resources that we’re seeing both done in and shared by some of the international civil society organisations in our Scanning the Horizon community at the moment.

New foresighting and futures resources: The Future Is Ours, thanks to Save the Children…

First of all, there are some fantastic new resources around. JM Roche at Save the Children, with the School of International Futures, has just done everyone in our sector a fantastic favour and pulled together a compendium of 12 strategic foresight tools and techniques which they have successfully adapted for their own and partner use. The Future is Ours is out now and immediately essential reading for anyone involved in strategy, planning and decision-making in our sector.

This guide walks you through a number of tools, why you would use which and when, with helpful facilitation notes. Key tips overall include: being open to a range of possible futures, pay attention to weak signals, practice foresight regularly, and integrate and embed insights. Sounds like four great New Year’s Resolutions to me! You can also join us for a webinar with JM on 30 January to hear him introduce this in person.

…and understanding the rise of global China may be somewhat more manageable now

This year, our Scanning the Horizon community did our first ever ‘deep dive’ on one of the most major influential megatrends, the rise of global China. We’ve just put out our Sector Guide of strategic recommendations for ICSOs, and hearing some great feedback from our community. Amnesty’s China Strategy Manager Heather Hutchings has already shared a bit of an informal reflection on ‘benchmarking’ itself against our findings, in this excellent blog in case you missed it.

You can also catch up on our webinars which feature our author and researcher Bertram Lang providing more context ‘meat’ to flesh out the ‘bones’ of the recommendations, and explaining more on where and why there was consensus and divergence among the ICSOs involved.

The Sector Guide has been a cumulative process throughout the year, building on interviews and experience-sharing with global and China strategists, as well as country or regional management, from most of the top international ICSOs working both in and beyond the boundaries of mainland China. We’ve incorporated additional insights from ‘China watchers’ from academia and philanthropy, and highlighted some of the priorities and need to engage with local community-based organisations.

This has been a huge topic to explore and make more navigable in practical ways for our sector. We worked carefully with our community to find the right way to break it down into key sub-themes and entry points for strategists. While the recommendations might not all be straightforward, they lay out an ambition and signpost some directions of travel, which can help steer organisations in these unpredictable waters. What this collaborative exploration proved most though was the enormous value of bringing the major and diverse players in our sector together to share their different experiences and capacities. We have seen again the enormous power in co-producing new knowledge and insights, which can then be shared with the rest of our sector.

We also love what we’re hearing from other recent strategy processes

At our recent Global Perspectives conference in Addis Ababa, we were very excited by a presentation from Plan International on the scenarios they have been using – looking at the combination of climate change and nationalism in different future world’s scenarios, and what each might mean for the organisation’s place in the world.

We also heard how Oxfam International’s recent global strategy process included meeting with a ‘critical chorus’ of external voices, some of which told them some challenging things, but triggered a range of important and reflective conversations to guide thinking of the different roles the organisation may have in future.

And IFRC’s new 2030 strategy has clearly put climate action as the main priority for its programmes and appeals. The other key challenges it has identified are crises and disasters, health, migration and identity, and values, power and inclusion.

We look forward to learning more, together, about these and other exciting developments.

So here’s to the New Year and what we will be doing in 2020!

Taking inspiration from these developments, and also what we’re seeing from outside the sector, our annual meeting in May 2020 will bring our community together to explore more how the global trends influencing our work are interconnected and intersect to bring about different potential futures, and how to better integrate this analysis into organisational strategic planning.

We will have a collective check-up on the trends we’re all watching as organisations. We will explore tools and practical processes for intersectional approaches and take a look at the detailed scenarios ICSOs are seeing, with a special emphasis on climate change + (one or several trends). We will invite input from beyond the sector, with private, public and academic sector insights. And, with funding, we will deliver another Sector Guide this time next year summarising our insights for the sector.

Our monthly newsletters throughout 2019 have been packed with new resources from within and beyond our sector, but there are so many things we just can’t keep out! A lot of careful curation goes into what the Centre and Direct Impact Group summarise and share with our community each month, and we’ll continue these efforts to keep bringing you the best throughout 2020!



Vicky Tongue

Programme Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Vicky Tongue is the International Civil Society Centre’s Programme Manager, co-ordinating core initiatives on horizon scanning, innovation and peer convening for CEOs and Global Heads of Division. Vicky has 15 years’ senior programme management with several leading UK-based ISCOs, including Marie Stopes International, Article 19, CAFOD, ODI and Save the Children.

How Amnesty International is Engaging with China Abroad

29th November 2019 by Heather Hutchings

Throughout 2019, the Centre’s Scanning the Horizon futures community has explored the implications of China’s growing global influence on the future work of internationally-operating civil society organisations. Following a well-attended cross-sector meeting in Hong Kong in June, we have published a new Sector Guide of practical entry points for senior civil society leaders to summarise the key themes and implications for our sector. It provides strategic guidance for organisations to think through their current strategies and capacities, and further develop future engagement and adaptation approaches to be better prepared for this major trend.

To accompany the launch of this Guide, we invited this guest blog from Amnesty International’s China Strategy Manager, Heather Hutchings.


The rise of global China is impacting human rights.

In the increasing number of countries in which China is investing and operating, much-needed infrastructure and employment can help to fulfil the human rights of the people living there. But all too often their rights are abused as China fails time and again to consult with and address the concerns of communities affected by its overseas ‘development’ projects.

Furthermore, an increasingly assertive China has worrying implications for the human rights system as a whole. We see China operating from within the UN Human Rights Council to shrink the space available for the UN and civil society to hold states accountable for their human rights records, as well as making efforts to reframe human rights as a ‘cause’, as opposed to a state’s legal obligation to its people.

But China’s ascension to the world stage is a paradigm shift that is both driving and reflecting a new world order and balance of power. As this excellent new International Civil Society Centre guide notes, this is ‘widely regarded as one of the top global trends influencing the trajectory of other major megatrends for decades ahead’. This means, in other words, we can neither ignore nor resist global China.

Amnesty International vs Global China

I’m pleased – and relieved! – to see that Amnesty International’s global China strategy responds to many of the recommendations in this guide, while some others set us challenges to meet and aspirations to fulfil.

Amnesty views global China as a complex problem, or ‘VUCA’ for those who enjoy military acronyms!:

  • Volatile in its pace of change and sheer scale, which thwarts our attempts to know and understand. Any information we have at any one time is incomplete and quickly obsolete.
  • Unpredictable – as Yuen Yuen Ang summed up, China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative bears “the hallmark of communist-style mass campaigns [in that] everyone pitches in with frenzied enthusiasm and little coordination…lead[ing] to low-quality and mismatched projects, duplication, conflicts of interest and corruption.”
  • Complex, with innumerable and entangled causes and effects. China is both driving and benefitting from the shift in global power. It is changing and shaped by the global economy and feeds both off and into rising authoritarianism.
  • Ambiguous, in the absence of transparent information about China’s foreign policy ambitions, plans and individual projects assumptions. Under such conditions, rumour and contradiction run rife.

China’s impact on human rights abroad is not a simple problem that can be solved. So, Amnesty’s aim is not to bring an end to China’s global reach in a concise campaign timeframe. Our aim is to build capacity across Amnesty’s movement of more than seven million members and supporters to influence global China, now and over time, and adapt as global China itself evolves.

Amnesty’s 16 Regional Offices and 68 national entities position us well to respond to China in and from countries where it is active, and to do so in partnership with local civil society (recommendation 3). As Strategy Manager, I draw together the relevant China expertise from our East Asia office, the local knowledge and connections of our staff in or from countries in which China is active, and Amnesty’s thematic specialists (recommendation 6). Through this network, we add value to work already identified as important by our colleagues across the movement – easily done, given the many ways in which China is showing up in Amnesty’s work around the world (recommendation 1).

Complementing this action-oriented network is a web of horizon scanners who regularly share their views of China from locations as far afield as Buenos Aires, Brussels or Bangkok (recommendations 7 and11). Their broad, light-touch insights about China in the world help deepen our analysis of China’s foreign policy and practice and better equip us to anticipate developments, spot trends and see entry points for our human rights work.

We recognise that we don’t have ready-made solutions to apply to the complex challenges arising from China’s presence abroad. We know we can only influence change together with others by forging partnerships with civil society to engage China in their countries and communities, to negotiate their interests and protect their rights (recommendation 12). And we also need to engage Chinese audiences, inside China and the diaspora of Chinese living overseas, as change agents and in solidarity with human rights defenders in countries where China is active. This is critical if we want to target Chinese state actors and corporations that perpetrate human rights violations abroad, without isolating and vilifying all Chinese people.

Challenges and aspirations

Key to Amnesty’s approach in this ‘VUCA’ context is learning and adaptation, as we actively test our theory of influence and make adjustments to strategy and action.

Learning from our experience to date, we know that the critical approach to human rights in China coming from Amnesty’s base in the ‘Global North’ serves an important watchdog function, but is readily dismissed by Beijing as hypocritical and an attempt to ‘contain’ China. Hence, we have chosen to focus on south-south engagement influencing China with and through civil society and governments of the ‘Global South’ – and moving beyond ‘naming and shaming’ by not (only) pointing to problems. This approach – which departs from Amnesty’s usual practice – is challenging us to frame advocacy messages (recommendation 14) that propose practical solutions and, where appropriate, encourage China’s leadership to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.

Amnesty also deliberately adopts an ‘outsider’ strategy (recommendations 4 and 11). The price of our freedom to criticise China – harshly when and where deserved – is that our channels for dialogue with Beijing are few, country access for Amnesty staff is extremely limited, and our website and social media channels are blocked inside China. Understandably, this does not always make us the partner of choice for ICSOs with in-country offices (recommendations 18, 19 and 20).

Even as Amnesty aims to establish an ‘insider’ position with some Chinese actors abroad on issues of mutual interest – and indeed we have already seen promising outcomes through exchanges with Chinese companies and industry bodies – recommendation 16 is, I hope, an aspiration of the not-too-distant future when ICSOs will bring together our complementary ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ strategies for greatest impact.

For Amnesty and across the sector, we need not only to develop a specific, organisation-wide global China strategy now. But also to continue developing and evolving our organisational responses over time, so that we may continually adapt ourselves to better influence the impact China has on the landscape for human rights and development. And thanks to the Centre and our sector Scanning the Horizon community, we now have a guide to help us do just that.


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Heather Hutchings

Strategy Development Manager

Amnesty International

Heather Hutchings is the Strategy Manager for Amnesty International’s programme seeking to engage China abroad. Heather holds a MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and has extensive experience in strategy management and capacity building, organisational change and development. Heather has been working with individuals and teams across different geographical locations within the Amnesty International movement for the past 12 years, including the last 7 years in Hong Kong.