What would an INGO governance revolution look like?

CSO governance models are increasingly facing major challenges. These include that they are typically:

  • dominated by national affiliates but increasingly challenged by the need for global decisions and their implementation; 
  • shaped by Northern countries and cultures while the emerging powers in a multipolar world are located in the South; 
  • serving one specific mission focused on development or environment or human rights while the interdependence of challenges and the need for integrated solutions become more and more obvious; 
  • caught up in the conflict between democratic and participatory decision making on one side and the need for quick and consistent decisions on the other; 
  • characterised by a clear definition of “inside” and “outside” the organisation while the Internet and the habits of the next generation demand platforms for joint action rather than well defined boxes.

The Berlin Civil Society Center is working on a set of standard governance models for best practice in CSO governance. The models are aimed at serving ‘board Members, Chairs and CEOs who aim to undertake future governance reforms more strategically and more effectively.’

Different governance models are needed, because not all organisations can and will follow one single model.

The project concept paper recognizes that:

  • Firstly, ICSOs working in human rights, poverty alleviation, environmental protection, humanitarian response or children’s rights have different governance needs resulting from the type of work they do. For example, an organisation focussing on wildlife conservation compared to one working for poverty eradication will have different needs and possibilities of including partners and beneficiaries in their governance.
  • Secondly, there are different possible models to synchronise and balance local, national and global requirements and resources. At present these are reflected in global set ups ranging from loose networks over confederations and federations to unitary organisations.
  • Thirdly, when trying to secure future relevance of a governance system, much depends on different expectations of how future developments will turn out and which elements of these developments are considered most relevant in governance terms.

In order to bring a wider group of aid and development practitioners into the discussion, I volunteered to start up a discussion here on Aid Source.

I hope that all of you Aid Source folks might have thoughts on:

  • What are some of the major challenges you've seen with ICSO/INGO governance?
  • How do current governance models that you know of constrain the effectiveness of ICSOs or impact on development outcomes?
  • What CSO governance models have you seen that do work? What do they look like?
  • What are some of the underlying values and principles needed for effective ICSO governance?
  • What are some core elements of effective and successful ICSO governance models?
  • How do new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and trends in new media/social media impact on governance models and visions and people's expectations of governance models?
  • What literature, research or existing documentation should be included as background resources for this discussion?
  • What other questions should be raised regarding ICSO governance?

I hope we can get some lively debate going to feed into the broader discussion at the Berlin Center.

Please join the Global Governance Group and leave your comments on the discussion board!

(*Note - I have no formal affiliation with the Berlin Civil Society Center or this initiative - I just think the topic is interesting and volunteered to try to get more discussion going around it)

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Tags: accountability, berlin, center, civil, global, governance, society, transparency

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