I have again returned to the CIVICUS World Assembly this year after having last attended in 2010.  Here is my blog post from that session.  Many of the themes this year are similar, with what seems like a greater sense of urgency that we need to do things differently.  Some of the major themes that have been discussed:

  • The global challenges we face call for dramatic change in the way civil society operates. We can’t just keep working in the same way we have in the past, feeling good about just getting incrementally better.  Kumi Naidoo, former executive director of CIVICUS and current executive director of Greenpeace reminded us of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” NGO / CSO leaders need to be open to dramatically changing their own organizations & operations to stay relevant.  Informal movements (often lead by the young) organizing outside of traditional civil society organizations are challenging the way that CSOs operate.  And although it was primarily agreed that CSOs need to continue to work with processes like the post-MDGs (Beyond2015), transformational change can’t just focus on a specific process or framework.
  • Challenges are too large to be limited to one sector.  There was more talk this year of finding learning from different sources whatever and wherever they might be found.  This included the social entrepreneur ‘movement,’ the tech community and informal activist movements.
  • Being observant to spot trends that can be helpful in bringing about change and significant social impact.  There was talk of ‘tipping points’ and that we need to be prepared for these moments of opportunity, although we may not know in advance what they might be.
  • Engaging different stakeholders is hard but crucial work.  Although there has been some noticeable progress, there is continuing work to do to in engaging as diverse and broad groups of stakeholders as possible. The importance of youth is clear, as well as engaging government and corporate partners who are willing to work in partnerships towards common goals, and ensuring that marginalized populations are heard.
  • We need to put more attention into sharing on an on-going basis more lessons and information that can help us learn from each other and connect where appropriate so that we are not wasting time and effort needed elsewhere in “recreating the wheel” that another organization has already discovered. Some sample toolkits:  CSO Development Effectiveness; CIVICUS; and Going International’s list.

Some reports from conference sessions can be found here: http://civicusassembly.org/Reports.php