It strikes me that we are going through some of the significant change in civil society since I entered the profession 30 years ago . In the past few years we are beginning to see a conversation emerge that has outlined some of these evolving trends. They include:
- New international configurations and players (BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India, China) and beyond – Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, Turkey and Argentina).
- Increased focus on accountability and outcomes
- Virtual connectedness
- Changing demographics – the baby boomers who took NGOs and their support organizations to a new level are now feeling the influence of a younger generation less focused on labels and structure.
- The social entrepreneur movement is now over 3 decades old and is influencing discussions about structure and outcomes.
These conversations need to take place on two levels and ideally with linkage between the two – at the level of academics, researchers and think tanks – identifying trends; and at the level of practitioners – what do these trends mean to our work and operations?
Initial conversations have focused on adjusting our existing structures – looking at accountability and effectiveness, but not changing them in any significant way. But is this really sufficient?
Are we beginning to ask the really big questions at all levels of the sector? What structures will we need going forward to achieve the outcomes we are looking for (not just slightly adjusting the structures we have)? What is the role of youth movements, social entrepreneurs and others who have traditionally been outside of agenda setting for established civil society organizations in driving this discussion? Are existing organizations ready to incorporate these influences? What should civil society leaders be discussing to ready their organizations for these changes?