Network Resiliency in a Changing World

by Roselie Vasquez Yetter and Alyson Lyons

Civil society organizations come together to form networks and coalitions for a variety of reasons – maybe they are looking to maximize impact by collectively advocating on a particular issue or they are interested in sharing resources and skills, or simply just want to learn from one another. While it is one thing to form a network, it is quite another to maintain its existence during times of uncertainty and dynamic shifts to the funding and operating environments.

Our own Partners Network story is one of resiliency and renewal. Over the years, the needs of our network have shifted, and in 2020 we were faced with the challenge to adapt and thrive or remain static and decline. We called upon the PeaceNexus Foundation to facilitate a network strengthening process that forced us to come to terms with some major questions about who we are as a network and why we are together. Reimagining our purpose opened our minds to how we want to work together and resulted in new structures for leadership, collaboration, and communication.   It also opened our eyes to aspects of our structural and financial models that were in need of a bit of a renovation and upgrade.

One of the main aspects of network resiliency is the ability to leverage peer networks for mutual sharing and learning. Connectedness, unsurprisingly, is one of the factors in our ResiliencyPlus Framework that we expand upon regularly.  Our 32 years as a network brings the awareness that being in a network isn’t enough – the intentionality of the purpose for joining and engaging is the key to activating the potential of the network and making participation worthwhile. 

Recently together with the PeaceNexus Foundation, we co-facilitated a learning opportunity with peers from other civil society peace and development networks to share our own story and collect insights from others. The result was a rich and honest exchange of the major challenges, lessons, and adaptations networks are making to not only survive, but thrive in our ever-changing environment. Below are two main outcomes of the exchange.

Distributive leadership instead of command and control

Let’s face it. The age of the rigid, hierarchical leadership structure is a thing of the past. While the command and control model worked primarily to generate resources for a network, today these funding pools are no longer as widely available as they were fifteen years ago. Command and control style of centralized leadership also creates layers of bureaucracy, stifling collaboration and creating unequal power dynamics amongst network members that serve to create competition rather than build trust and collaboration.

Enter the distributive leadership model. Distributive leadership is a shared management model that decentralizes leadership at the top and disperses decision making from one individual to a collective group or groups. Distributive leadership empowers members who, under more centralized structures, may not have an opportunity to step into a leadership role – upending deeply rooted power structures and impacting resource allocation. The Partners Network adopted a distributed leadership model as a result of our self-evaluation process.  This created new leadership pathways for members to step into decision-making roles, such as the Young Professionals Group. Today, the YPG is made up of mid-level professionals and is responsible for organizing network wide trainings on topics of interest, such as a skill like mediation or thematic area like conflict transformation.

There are still situations where command and control might be more effective, such as with crisis management. However, being able to implement this form of leadership for specific circumstances rather than employing it as the overarching model may be more effective for the challenges of today. Leadership does not need to reside at the top. It can emerge at all levels of an organization if the right leadership model is in place.    

Decentralized governance structure in the virtual space

Closely related to the leadership model is a network’s governance structure, which tells us how a network organizes and regulates itself. Traditionally, civil society networks adopted formal governance structures and practices that set up rigid policies, agreed upon business development goals, and membership parameters. But does this approach still make sense as we operate more and more in the virtual space? Networks always had some aspect of online operations, but the pandemic forced the accelerated adoption of practices that generally were in person such as annual conferences or regional meetings. And it doesn’t look like we will be turning back. Combined with the decline in general support funds, maintaining a network today falls heavily on the shoulders of its members. More often than not, member-driven administrative and operational roles are voluntary and often struggle to remain at the top of the priority list.

From our own experience and those shared at the learning event, many networks are adapting to their new virtual reality and transitioning from more formal governance structures to more flexible, decentralized ones. Decentralized governance allows for new modes of collaboration, communication, and coordination to evolve organically. It also levels the playing field and invites input from diverse voices, creating a more equitable and inclusive network culture. For example, our own decentralization process inadvertently led to strengthened ties amongst network members located in the same region. We reflected on the expression of regional sub-network coordination and decided to lean in. This was achieved by creating a Liaison Group comprised of regional representatives that serve as a voice for members in each region when needing to make decisions on issues and opportunities that affect the entire network. This new process has created space for more authentic conversations that take cultural sensitivities and norms into consideration in a more intentional and organic way.

The future of networks

If there is one thing that most analysts agree on, it’s that we will never go back 100% to our pre-pandemic reality. Dynamics will continue to shift, impacting how we as civil society actors come together. And we need to continue to find ways to join forces and collaborate. Networks are a conduit of civil society resiliency. We must adapt to not just survive but thrive.  Resilient networks not only weather crises – they emerge stronger and more unified.  Inter-organizational network sharing and strategizing is an even more effective determinant of resilient network outcomes.  What we all agreed during our learning and sharing session was that each of the networks represented was able to recover from sudden crises that we encountered.  What we realized was that more important than recovery is the need to learn to develop the ability to make use of the opportunities brought on by a crisis.  By doing so, we can turn the obstacle into an opportunity for growth and learning.  In a network, that growth can be amplified and magnified. It’s our responsibility to our members to help transform the deflection of the shock to an embrace of the potential for positive change in a world of endless disruption.

During March, we celebrated the powerful and resilient women who have strived to make changes for the sake of making an equal and fulfilling space for all of us. Women have been the backbone of many political, economic, and social movements. They have been the faces and voices that have made us look inward and ask ourselves, “Are we the best of who we can be?” As we leave March 2022 behind us please take a moment to reflect on this question. And check out all of the ways we celebrate women in peacebuilding and civil society resiliency spaces.

Resilient Conversations

Resilient Conversations is a forthcoming podcast organized and hosted by PartnersGlobal that explores different facets of individual, organizational, sectoral, and systemic resiliency. The short video series above includes clips from different episodes. Featured guests on the podcast will include our own staff like Co-Executive Directors Roselie Vasquez Yetter and Kyra Buchko; ResiliencyPlus colleagues and coaches Alexa Brand, Olivia Baciu, and Susan Njambi Odongo; and civil society colleagues such as Zuza Fialova of Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia and Carole Frampton de Tscharner and Heloise Heyer of Peace Nexus Foundation.

MENA Women’s Roundtable

Recently, MENA and Civil Society Strengthening Director Rasha Abdel Latif of PartnersGlobal sat down (virtually) with women peacebuilders and Partners Network colleagues from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and the US to talk about women’s role as leaders and peacebuilders in the MENA region. Enjoy this 20 minute conversation between these incredible women as they reflect on what inspires them to work in this space.

Co-Leadership Model as a Resiliency Approach

We are on our own resiliency journey at PartnersGlobal as we navigate the shifts on our operating environment. One way to shore up our resilient capital is to build in innovative leadership and operating models like co-leadership. This approach both builds in redundancies AND creates space for inclusion and diversity of thought, which contributes to more effective problem solving and organizational management. Get to know our co-Executive Directors Roselie and Kyra by watching the short video above!

Women Peacebuilders Blog Series

Below are a series of blog posts by staff and partners at PartnersGlobal that depict the real stories and impacts of various women peacebuilders across our portfolios. Enjoy!

  September 25, 2021

Over the past year, we’ve compiled and shared resources, tools, articles, research, and case studies from all sectors and partners on different aspects of organizational resiliency. This month, we looked back at everything and pulled out some of our favorites. Learn more more about our work on Resiliency HERE.  

Factor: Resiliency Ethos

Learn more about the Resiliency Ethos factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Patterns for Change recently released this interactive guide for nonprofits looking for behavioral guidance during times of change and uncertainty.  

How does the mind work during and after a crisis? And what we can learn from this information to create positive sustainable change? Read about it in The Disrupted Mind, a blog piece from Mindworks Lab. And dive deeper into their 6 Mindset Factors.

This is a great diagnostic tool from Innovation For Change geared toward civil society organizations working on policy and advocacy. It helps to identify their strengths and weaknesses in the policy and advocacy areas while sharing resources to address your organization’s specific needs.

In his new book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant draws on research and storytelling to “help us build the intellectual and emotional muscle we need to stay curious enough about the world to actually change it.” Tune in to this conversation with Adam and Brene Brown for more insights.

Factor: Adaptive Capacity

Learn more about the Adaptive Capacity factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Download this GUIDE from the International Civil Society Centre about how to scan the horizon and make strategic decisions in an uncertain world.


Leadership coach Stephen Kotev explores the concept of polarities and how to manage them when trying to resolve seemingly entrenched conflicts on his blog post HERE.

How do you build up adaptive capacity? Going International works to support organizations to create a better world. They have assembled an expansive list of toolkits and manuals on everything from a diversity and inclusion organizational assessment to tools for social innovation.

The ability to adapt to change is at the core of organizational resiliency. In The Future of Team Leadership is Multimodal, Robert Hoojiberg and Michael Watkins discuss the post-pandemic future of teamwork and foresee a hybrid model of virtual coordination and in-person collaboration.

The FrameWorks Institute report, Mindset Shifts: What Are They? Why Do They Matter? How Do They Happen? explores the best practices and most effective strategies for moving mindsets.

Factor: Connectedness

Learn more about the Connectedness factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

The podcast, Partos Future Exploration – Shifting Civic Space discusses civil society connectedness amidst civic space challenges with CIVICUS Secretary-General Lysa John and Barbara Oosters, Civic Space lead at Oxfam Novib.

Tectonica’s new model evaluates how social movement organizing works to build power and impact political change. It draws on examples of success from movements like BLM and others to demonstrate the importance of measuring organizing and the process of learning through experimentation and failure.

Strengthening connections with our constituencies and our peer organizations is an important piece of resiliency. In her Ted Talk, How to have constructive conversations, speaker Julia Dhar discusses how to have “productive disagreements grounded in curiosity and purpose.” She says that this type of disagreement can actually help to strengthen relationships.

Check out this Platform Design Toolkit designed to support organizations in collaborating, co-creating and engaging in enriching conversations with others. 

Factor: Business Acumen

Learn more about the Business Acumen factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Organizational resiliency requires a commitment to ongoing innovation. States of Change released a new playbook for innovation learning, targeting practitioners looking for new ways to spread innovation skills, methods, and tools.

Collaboration Superpowers compiled a super-list of tools and apps to help us all work better while working remotely. Check out the list here and perhaps submit a tool of your own!

And find a curated list of donors supporting activists, civil society organizations, and small, informal civil society groups at DONOR FINDER from CIVICUS.

Change is hard for everyone and navigating it intentionally can be especially important for organizations. Check out The Social Age Guidebook Series: Free Action Focused Resources from Julian Stodd for resources and carefully guided reflections around the implementation of learning, leadership, and cultural and organizational change.

Factor: Legitimacy

Learn more about the Legitimacy factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Hear from Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken and Srilatha Batliwala on this NGO Soul+ Strategy Podcast talking about Politics, Power and Feminist leadership in organizational dynamics.

Don’t know where to begin in terms of increasing your organization’s legitimacy with your constituencies? Check out this interview featuring Stanford professor Patricia Bromley for insights on how nonprofits can and should balance professionalization and formalization with trust and community building.

Solidarity Action Network has compiled a repository of case studies that showcase best practices, challenges, and lessons learned from resilience practices of international civil society organizations.

According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, “the global pandemic, the economic crisis, and our national racial reckoning of 2020 have deeply impacted the trust individuals have in all of our institutions and sectors.” Read more as Kristina Gawrgy Campbell shares four important takeaways for nonprofit and philanthropic leaders looking to build back trust.

Factor: Narrative Competency

Learn more about the Engaging Narratives factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Narratives matter. They help us to make meaning of the world while also holding the power to drive and shape culture and policy change. Engaging with relevant meta-narratives in society requires capacity and infrastructure. Explore this article from Pop Culture Collaborative for five ways to strengthen narrative rapid response.

Understanding and practicing narrative competency is key to organizational resiliency, but where do you start? Take a look at this mini masterclass series convened by Future Advocacy and FrameWorks Institute UK on how to reframe the issues we care about to affect change.

Read the Center for Media and Social Impact’s Storytelling and Social Justice in Action: Leveraging Documentary Films to Strengthen Local Movement Building report for insights around the role nonprofits play on a local level as “civic network builders” and the art of storytelling and film as vehicles for empowering communities and strengthening social justice movements.

Genevieve Sauberli and Christina MacGillivray weigh in on the issue of ‘othering’ in the context of migration and migrant communities and offer a seven-step toolbox that shifts us away from zero-sum ‘us’ vs ‘them’ thinking to help us achieve lasting and impactful change. 

In 10 Website Design Best Practices for Nonprofits, Heather Mansfield postulates that websites are the foundation upon which digital communication and fundraising campaigns are built and are essential tools in narrative change.

Factor: Situation Awareness

Learn more about Situational Awareness in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

What is systems change, and why does it matter for your organization? Experts from Systems Innovation answer these questions and others in this visual and interactive presentation

The first draft of the Systems Innovation Ecosystem Template was recently released.  This template is designed to help you think through and define the different aspects of developing a systems innovation ecosystem. 

Navigating Civic Space in a Time of Covid from Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) – an international research program that explores how social and political action can contribute to empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict, and violent settings, with a particular focus on Egypt, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

For more on systems thinking you can watch this video presentation from the University of Hull’s Centre for Systems Studies on “An Introduction to Systems Thinking for Tackling Wicked Problems.”

  August 27, 2021

We continue to be grateful for all the wonderful and inspirational resources being produced by such thoughtful colleagues around the world that can support civil society’s resiliency efforts. Here are some of our recent favorites, from systems design frameworks to insights on behavioral change during times of uncertainty in the nonprofit sector. We hope these resources we’ve curated for our July Resiliency+ Roundup help you reflect on and reshape your personal and organizational resiliency journeys.

Check out the resources, organized by the seven reinforcing factors of organizational resiliency in the PartnersGlobal Resiliency+ Framework. 

We have also pulled the top resiliency tweets this month for a quick way to plug into the resiliency conversation. See below!

Top Resiliency Tweets

Resiliency Resources by Factor

Business Acumen

The US-based company Donorbox disseminates a regular blog that highlights some best practices and tools for non-profit fundraising that can be useful as you contemplate different business models and fundraising tactics for your organization.

Find a curated list of donors supporting activists, civil society organizations, and small, informal civil society groups at DONOR FINDER from CIVICUS.

Situational Awareness

Hot off the presses: Navigating Civic Space in a Time of Covid from Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) – an international research program that explores how social and political action can contribute to empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict, and violent settings, with a particular focus on Egypt, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Engaging the Narrative

In Building Lasting Growth in the Digital Era, Shanelle Matthews from the Movement for Black Lives explains narrative power and how to leverage it in movement building.

Resiliency Ethos

How does the mind work during and after a crisis? And what we can learn from this information to create positive sustainable change? Read about it in The Disrupted Mind, a blog piece from Mindworks Lab. And dive deeper into their 6 Mindset Factors.

Learn about the impact of backlash and burnout on communities of color in the nonprofit sector in Backlash, Burnout, and POC Leaders by Mistinguette Smith. She offers,

“Both backlash and burnout thrive without language to expose and examine them; but once they are called out into the open, leaders can strengthen themselves and each other.”

Legitimacy

Stuck in a “Catch-22”: Why Donors Fail to Include Grassroots Perspectives on CSO Legitimacy examines the case of an East African CSO that continues to attract donors despite being considered illegitimate by the grassroots. The research identifies six legitimacy sources: professionalism, agenda, strategy, track record, membership, and governance. It finds that donors and grassroots interpret the first three sources (professionalism, agenda and strategy) in an opposing manner. Thus, the exact same characteristics that provide donor legitimacy simultaneously bring grassroots illegitimacy. The article subsequently identifies three mechanisms that explain why a lack of grassroots legitimacy is not a problem for donors: (1) donor priorities and capacities; (2) the CSO’s monopoly position; and (3) perception management by the CSO. 

The Feminist Action Lab created an open online course to help you brush up on your knowledge on feminist advocacy and intergenerational activism!

Adaptive Capacity

“For many organizations, it may feel like the most momentous things have already happened. But actually what comes next and the types of strategic decisions organizations make now will be critical to whether they can remain resilient and effective agents of equity in a complex, interconnected and uncertain world. There is clearly no way of getting strategy-making in uncertain times ‘right’, but this Guide does strongly suggest many ways in which organizations could get it very wrong. Lessons from the ‘whirliness’ of the past year suggest five key strategic pointers.”

Download the FULL GUIDE from the International Civil Society Centre.

Leadership coach Stephen Kotev posits, “Polarities are constants. They remain immutable. We cannot avoid them or deny their influence on our lives. What we can do, is embrace a both/and mindset.” Explore the concept of polarities and how to manage them when trying to resolve seemingly entrenched conflicts on his blog post HERE.

Connectedness  

In What Do Emotions, Personal Needs and Influence have to do with Community? Marianna Gose Martinelli explores the utility of the Sense of Community Index to help demonstrate community value, shape strategy, and foster collective understanding. Developed in the 1980s, this social science tool measures the levels of connectedness and satisfaction within communities.

And don’t forget to check out the podcast, Partos Future Exploration – Shifting Civic Space to discuss civil society connectedness amidst civic space challenges with CIVICUS Secretary-General Lysa John and Barbara Oosters, Civic Space lead at Oxfam Novib.

  July 23, 2021

We continue to be grateful for all the wonderful and inspirational resources being produced by such thoughtful colleagues around the world that can support civil society’s resiliency efforts. Here are some of our recent favorites, from systems design frameworks to insights on behavioral change during times of uncertainty in the nonprofit sector. We hope these resources we’ve curated for our July Resiliency+ Roundup help you reflect on and reshape your personal and organizational resiliency journeys.

Check out the resources, organized by the seven reinforcing factors of organizational resiliency in the PartnersGlobal Resiliency+ Framework. 

We have also pulled the top resiliency tweets this month for a quick way to plug into the resiliency conversation. See below!

Top Resiliency Tweets

1. Annie Neimand asks about the use of #storytelling in movements:

2. The Franklin Project is leveraging Twitter to solicit music and create a playlist that inspires individual citizens to rise up for democracy. What inspires you to engage in civic participation?

3. What are the necessary ingredients to sustain a sense of community?   

Resiliency Resources by Factor

Business Acumen

Does it always make sense to set up a nonprofit organization, as opposed to social impact business or other organizational models? Joan Garry asks this question in her recent podcast episode, Choosing the Right Nonprofit Business Model (with Rinku Sen). Garry is the former Executive Director of GLAAD and currently the Principal at Joan Garry Consulting where she provides coaching and strategic guidance to nonprofits to help them better pursue their missions.

Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist, Frederik Pferdt, and IDEO CEO Tim Brown recently came together for a Creative Confidence series to discuss how they foster creativity within their organizations. They touched on themes from Tim’s Leading for Creativity course, which Frederik recently completed, and the importance of inclusion, psychological safety on teams, and empowering people with confidence in their creativity and the courage to act on their ideas. Listen to their conversation here.

Situational Awareness

Check out this new Scenario Canvas from Systems Innovation. “This canvas will help you get started with developing future scenarios. Scenario planning is a structured way for organizations to think about the future by creating a set of scenarios that are based upon current trends. Scenarios present alternative futures that together capture the most relevant uncertainties and driving factors.”

And in Stories, Scenarios, Exploratory Talk, and Futures Thinking, we are asked to consider the idea of engaging in “exploratory talk” to help generate new ideas and innovation about the future instead of “presentational talk” which focuses narrowly on problem-solving in the present.

Engaging the Narrative

In Systems Language for Narrative Power, Executive Director for the Narrative Initiative Rinku Sen reflects on the common use of the term “systems” and how our narratives around the term should empower people’s ability to drive change, not the other way around. She posits,

How we communicate about systems influences people’s ability to hold and use system-changing narratives. To change systems we need many people to hold and use shared stories about their ability, intention and vision to change systems.

Better understanding and measuring progress is an important part of strengthening narrative change strategies. The Measuring Narrative Change: Understanding Progress and Navigating Complexity brief offers insights into some of the questions facing practitioners, funders, and others interested in measuring this kind of work.

Systems Innovation also recently published a new guide called, Narrative Making for Systems Changers. The guide explores the role of narrative in systems change initiatives and offers insight into the different components of systems stories.

Resiliency Ethos

The psychological safety of an organization’s people is critical to its ability to function in the midst of changing and fluid environments. But how often do we stop to ensure that as an organization, we are creating the conditions to support the psychological safety of our staff? Leveraging resources from the health sector can help. A practical guide to the art of psychological safety in the real world of health and care offers insights and guidance that can be adapted to the nonprofit space. It offers an explanation of what psychological safety means, key elements to building psychological safety, and how to consider inclusion and diversity when creating conditions to protect the psychological safety of staff.

Legitimacy

News flash – listening to your constituents and receiving feedback openly matters, and not just for your organization’s reputation to its beneficiaries or populations that it serves. It matters also more and more to funders. “Leading foundations increasingly value nonprofits that have strong feedback practices. They want to support organizations that actively solicit—and act on—feedback.” Read more about how your organization can improve its listening and feedback practices in this recent blog post from Charity Navigator.

Adaptive Capacity

“As we witness the breakdown of our systems and structures, the question of how to move forward is more pressing than ever. We are being squeezed into rapid change that demands a response. There’s no more waiting until “someday” or continuing with business as usual,” reflects Bernadette Wesley in this piece titled, Crossing the Chasm without Burning Out: Leadership in the New World. She explores the idea of “power-with” structures to drive a more flexible and inclusive leadership approach in the future. Power-with structures include the following elements:

Leading Futurist Lea Zaidi shares her knowledge on how to best prepare for all possible futures, today – so that you can start building your futures-thinking skills to navigate the uncertainty ahead:

Connectedness  

In this podcast episode with Ezra Klein of the New York Times, Sarah Schulman ponders how social movements can become more effective by embracing dissensus rather than striving for consensus.

Learn how to play the Powerplay Game in What can a game teach you about power? Turns out, quite a lot. The Powerplay Game helps players understand their collective responsibility and the possibilities to shift power balances. In the game, each player gets a set of 10 power cards (which acts as assets in their “power inventory”) that are prominent in Western societies. These include things like:

Then you navigate different scenarios based on the cards you have. Read about the author’s experience and what they uncovered about explicit and implicit power dynamics, cultural and geographic factors!

  June 22, 2021

We continue to be grateful for all the wonderful and inspirational resources being produced by such thoughtful colleagues around the world that can support civil society’s resiliency efforts. Here are some of our recent favorites, from systems design frameworks to insights on behavioral change during times of uncertainty in the nonprofit sector. We hope these resources we’ve curated for our June Resiliency+ Roundup help you reflect on and reshape your personal and organizational resiliency journeys.

Check out the resources, organized by the seven reinforcing factors of organizational resiliency in the PartnersGlobal Resiliency+ Framework. 

We have also pulled 5 top resiliency tweets for a quick way to plug into the resiliency conversation. See those below!

5 Top Resiliency Tweets

1. Check out this thread from Toward Belonging for an interview with Fine Acts’ Yana Buhrer on their work surrounding the intersection of social justice and art for global activists everywhere. 

2. Decolonizing the language used in peacebuilding, development, and aid is of vital importance. See what words are being used to replace terms like ‘beneficiaries’, in this thread from Martha Awojobi.  

3. Speaking of language, the Garfield Foundation recently released a new blog series reflecting on the language and practice of systems change, a valuable aspect of organizational resiliency. 

4. Larger Us Network offers practical insights for adaptation amidst unpredictable environments and contexts with 10 key lessons to not only survive but thrive. 

5. Phoebe Tickell shares insight on how we might reframe the narrative of “innovation” to embrace more collective and systemic ways of learning and being.

Resiliency Resources by Factor

Legitimacy

Saskia Brechenmacher and Thomas Carothers put together series of essays by leading scholars and activists working in ten countries around the world—from Guatemala to Tunisia and from Kenya to Thailand—to write about their experiences and their responses to various fundamental questions: What are the sources of legitimacy of civil society? How can civil society organizations strengthen their legitimacy to help them weather government attacks and build strong coalitions to advance their causes? And how can international actors ensure that their support reinforces rather than undermines the legitimacy of local civic activism?  

Hear from Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken and Srilatha Batliwala on this NGO Soul+ Strategy Podcast talking about Politics, Power and Feminist leadership in organizational dynamics. 

In Why Ongoing Power Building Matters and How Every Nonprofit Can Do It, Louisa Hackett and Mohan Sikka share practical tips for nonprofits looking to bolster their power building efforts. The authors also charge nonprofits to “counter the boom and bust of national election cycles” with specific calls to action for the nonprofit field from capacity builders to board members, and executive directors. 

Engaging The Narrative

Check out this Toda Peace Institute policy brief to learn how activists are using technology to pursue public interests in human rights, democracy and a livable environment. It looks at how cell phone tech has upped the outreach and mobilizing game for campaigns, dives into digital storytelling and fundraising, explores key digital tools for collaboration and training, covers cybersecurity considerations and closes with a broad look at topical creative tech-based nonviolent activist success stories. Though digital tech is no silver bullet for successful campaigns, there are clear uses and recommendations to build power and win with digital technology. 

“When we use this sterile language, it limits our ability to speak to ourselves within civil society, as it is hard to inspire and energize people with talk of “sectors” and “stakeholders”. But it may also limit our ability to speak to those in power. It is often stated as fact that we need to speak “the language of government” or “the language of business” if we are to have influence, but what if this is the wrong way of looking at things? What if, rather than trying to fit in with the technocratic lexicons of other sectors, civil society saw part of its role as bringing its own language and concepts to the table and thus expanding the limited boundaries of policy debates?” Visit this Philliteracy blogpost for more on the subject. 

In an age of information and confusion, messaging and finding trusted messengers, are vitally important to the success of advocacy campaigns. Hear from, Samantha Wright, Annie Neimand and Max Steinman, as they share eight archetypes and four audience contexts to help organizers identify the right trusted messengers

Business Acumen

For our creative and entrepreneurial readers: In How the ‘creative-cliff illusion’ limits our ideas, David Robinson shares insights on why the assumption that our best and most creative ideas come to us quickly is not only limiting, but wrong. Robson draws on the cutting-edge research of Brian Lucas, a professor of organisational behavior at Cornell University, to uncover more on the “creative-cliff illusion”.  

Whether it be fundraising, asking for volunteers, or having people complete a survey, there’s a new Zoom tool out to help make these tasks easier. Check out this blogpost from The Democracy Labs on getting more out of your Zoom meetings by making it simple for attendees to follow your directions with Give buttons. 

Resiliency Ethos

“Recent years have provided ample opportunities to discover just how resilient civil society can be in the face of severe threats. The inherently innovative nature of bottom-up, citizen-led initiatives can be seen in response to unexpected challenges like a global pandemic as well as longer-term negative political trends like populist invocations of national sovereignty to short circuit social and political solidarity across borders.” The Rights Collaborative with partners have mapped some of the ways that civil society is continuing to innovate. 

Patterns for Change recently released this interactive guide for nonprofits looking for behavioral guidance during times of change and uncertainty. Explore one or all seven behavior guides which include individual, group, and organizational level prompts and reflections.  

The Omidyar Network, in collaboration with the Guild of Future Architects, curated The PORTALS report, inspired by a yearlong process of imagining futures beyond the pandemic. The report centers Omidyar Network’s mission of “reimagining systems to build more inclusive and equitable societies” and includes trends to watch out for in 2021 and beyond.  

Situational Awareness

“How can we measure and learn when promoting systems change? It’s a challenge that has inspired Laudes Foundation to develop a rubrics-based methodology to help us, our partners, and the wider field of philanthropy, understand our contribution to change, while learning and adapting to new and unforeseen circumstances.” 

The first draft of the ”Systems Innovation Ecosystem Template“ was recently released.  This template is designed to help you think through and define the different aspects of developing a systems innovation ecosystem.  

Adaptive Capacity

COVID and its accompanying physical distance put pressure on all of us to come up with new, creative tactics to reach decision-makers and to increase the visibility of our campaigns. Without the availability of some of our traditional in-person approaches, many campaigners  have had to pivot. Check out Tectonica’s list of online tactics that we hope will inspire you!  

“In a changed, post-pandemic environment, employees, customers, and investors have high expectations for the companies they work with. They expect companies to play a more prominent role in tackling systemic issues like climate change and social inequality, and they expect leaders to be effective, authentic, and compassionate. Leaders who want their organizations to meet this moment and succeed long-term need to move away from the status quo and change their approach to how they’ll lead the necessary transformations. The authors present four strategies for success.”  

Connectedness  

The Design Council recently published “The Systemic Design Framework” to help designers working on major complex challenges that involve people across different disciplines. Here’s what they came up with as the key characteristics of change makers.  

Did you miss the Spring 2021 #SolidaritySemester from the Building Movement Project? Catch up on the recordings and learn about:  

  • mapping your social change role and ecosystems  
  • practicing centering and co-conspiratorship  
  • building a vision of co-liberation  

View the sessions here

  May 10, 2021

This month, we’ve curated some timely, practical, and inspirational resources to support your organization’s resiliency. From a super-list of tools to improve remote work to reflections and advice for healing from mass trauma and loss, these resources can help you reshape and rethink your organizational and movement-based resiliency journeys.

Check out the resources, organized by the seven reinforcing factors of organizational resiliency in the PartnersGlobal Resiliency+ Framework that we hope offer you food for thought and inspiration.

We have also pulled 5 top resiliency tweets for a quick way to plug into the resiliency conversation. See those below!

5 Top Resiliency Tweets

  1. @ionaflawrence explores human relationships and the greater collective action necessary for unlocking a relationship-centered world in this blog piece titled Through Thick and Thin.

2. Feelings of belonging are critically important to the vitality of organizations and movements. @CitizenStout offers more on the topic and shares key lessons around the harmfulness of binaries and zero sum thinking and the freeing nature of polarity and imagination.

3. In this thread, @indy_johar highlights some of the structural barriers in place that impede organizations’ ability to lead with kindness and care while also encouraging us to think critically about the adversarial and competitive leanings of our current economy.

4. Adaptive Capacity is so important for resiliency. Check out this thread for insights and takeaways from Adam Grants’ new book Think Again, The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.

5. @EnrolYourself offers a reimagined way of nurturing manager to managed relationships by way of “stewarding circles.” Learn more about how this ‘buddying’ process has led their staff to hold space for care, support, accountability, creativity, reflection, and more.

Resiliency Resources by Factor

Legitimacy

Don’t know where to begin in terms of increasing your organization’s legitimacy with your constituencies? Check out this interview featuring Stanford professor Patricia Bromley for insights on how nonprofits can and should balance professionalization and formalization with trust and community building. Bromley also discusses the effects of COVID-19 on the nonprofit sector.

In her newly released book, More Than Ready, author Cecilia Muñoz discusses the agency and belonging of women of color who are no longer willing to be ‘invisible’ or left behind. She shares more on the topic in this Open Society Foundations-sponsored webinar.

Engaging the Narrative

Narratives matter. They help us to make meaning of the world while also holding the power to drive and shape culture and policy change. Engaging with relevant meta-narratives in society requires capacity and infrastructure. Explore this article from Pop Culture Collaborative for five ways to strengthen narrative rapid response.

And for those working on or interested in public health, check out this research report from USC Annenberg for narrative messaging on health equity and how media and entertainment narratives about health influence mindsets and policy. 

Narratives around politics and governance have a huge impact on our systems.  In this podcast, Karen Stenner explores the “psychological predisposition” some people seem to have toward authoritarianism on both the right and the left. Stenner also shares practical tips for addressing authoritarian tendencies and what we can expect next from countries like the US where authoritarian and populist attitudes continue to emerge.

Business Acumen

One of the main adaptations that all of civil society organizations around the world have had to confront during the pandemic is finding reliable and effective tools for remote work. Collaboration Superpowers have compiled a super-list of tools and apps to help us all work better while working remotely. Check out the list here and perhaps submit a tool of your own!

Organizational resiliency requires a commitment to ongoing innovation. States of Change has released a helpful new playbook for innovation learning, targeting practitioners looking for new ways to spread innovation skills, methods, and tools.

From “A playbook for innovation learning” by States of Change

Reinvention and innovation have to be balanced with existing programs and priorities. In Twin Engines for Propelling Social Impact, Ann Mei Chang and Laura Lanzerotti share helpful lessons on how nonprofits can balance “today’s needs with tomorrow’s potential.” 

Resiliency Ethos

Resiliency ethos is about how we think about change, how we prepare, and how ready we are to adapt and recover from disruption. We can’t imagine a bigger disruption than what we’ve experienced under COVID 19. Ed Prideaux shares helpful reflections on how we can address the need for societal healing from the mass trauma we’ve all experienced during the pandemic in this BBC Future article.

In 4 Tactics to reflect and (re)charge into 2021, Pete Ronayne and Andi Williams postulate that the “present and future of leadership and learning is about attention to resilience as recharge.” Explore their practical tips for leaders and their teams on boosting learning and performance here.

Dealing with staff burnout is a key aspect of organizational resiliency. “Research has definitively shown that burnout is an organizational problem, not an individual one. But while responsibility for preventing employee burnout rests squarely on the shoulders of employers, remedying burnout once you’re suffering from it is much less straightforward,” write Yu Tse Heng and Kira Schabram in this article. Keep reading for insights on burnout recovery.

Adaptive Capacity

Navigating uncertainty is key to being able to adapt to and thrive in challenging contexts. This article from Sonja Blignaut surfaces some of the fears and tensions we experience that impede learning and change, such as busyness, withdrawal, and paralysis. Blignaut writes, “Can we hold onto our competence while acknowledging and working with our incompetence? Can we turn our anxiety into creative energy and resist disengaging from a disconcerting world that is in dire need of us showing up?”

Each organization is unique and will deal with adaptation in their own unique ways. Eric McNulty highlights five actions leaders can take to create a positive organizational culture out of their own unique ingredients in this recent piece, The secret recipe for organizational culture is no recipe.

“Culture is less a matter of following a recipe than mastering the craft of baking, so you spot challenges and opportunities early and are able to adapt.”

– Eric McNulty

In Test Your Assumptions, James Oriel acknowledges the pressures we face when we’re trying to address big societal crises and issues and offers some tools to help.

Situational Awareness

Knowing what’s going on in the systems around you is key to staying on top of change and adapting to complexity.

Check out the US National Intelligence Council’s recently released Global Trends report with predictions for the year 2040.  The report is intended to help citizens and policymakers see what may lie ahead and prepare for possible futures.

In this piece from Open Global Rights, Krizna Gomez challenges social change actors to engage change proactively and to incorporate foresight as a key competency for our organizations.

Connectedness

Building and maintaining trust are critical components of connectedness for civil society organizations. Ross Hall offers reflections on the importance of trust in learning ecosystems and shares approaches for “weaving trustful relationships between diverse actors who are used to competing and who have different perspectives and levels of influence.”

Curious about the metrics needed to determine the effectiveness of organizing? Hear from Ned Howey on Tectonica’s new model of evaluating how organizing works to build power and impact political change. Howey draws on examples of success from movements like BLM and others to demonstrate the importance of measuring organizing and the process of learning through experimentation and failure.

From “How can we measure organising?” by Tectonica

And lastly, sophisticated facilitation skills are key to effective partnerships and collaboration. These tools from Timeout are easily accessible and can help you find practical resources for planning and generating constructive discussions with constituencies.

  April 20, 2021

Cultivating resiliency in your organization or movement is an ongoing process. Rather than reaching a set endpoint, you must continually evaluate risks, prepare for the unknown, and adapt as new challenges and changes come your way, drawing on different resiliency factors at different points in time.

With this in mind, we’ve curated the articles, resources, and tools around the seven reinforcing factors of organizational resiliency in the PartnersGlobal Resiliency+ Framework that continue to offer inspiration.

We have also pulled 5 top resiliency tweets for a quick way to plug into the resiliency conversation. Check those out below!

5 Top Resiliency Tweets

  1. Missed the Transition Network’s “What Next Summit?” Check out this YouTube playlist to catch up on the latest in their “why is our movement green, but mostly white” series around environmental movements becoming actively anti-racist.

2. Check out Thinking Like a Network 3.0 from @curtisogden to learn his twelve principles for network thinking and action. Here’s a quick snapshot!

3. @the_hope_guy has dedicated his life’s work to finding narratives that help people care about human rights. Check out his new piece Seeing Hope: A Visual Communications Guide for Human Rights.

4. Interested in learning about books that change the world? Check out this thread from the @OnionCollective for some top recommendations.

5. Think communities of practice are self-organizing? Think again. In this thread @KaraKane_kk postulates that there are “no ‘self-sustaining’ communities without leadership, visibility, and support.” Read on for more. 

Resiliency Resources by Factor

Legitimacy

Trust is at the core of an organization’s legitimacy, but in today’s digital world, building this trust can be challenging. “To build trust in the digital systems that connect us all, it is essential first to understand how people do (or don’t) trust their digital ecosystems today,” write authors Bhaskar Chakravorti, Ajay Bhalla, and Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi in the Harvard Business Review. Read their article for a closer look at four core metrics of trust across 42 global economies.

To build our own legitimacy, we can learn from what other organizations are doing. In proactive response to civic space restrictions, Solidarity Action Network has compiled a repository of case studies that showcase best practices, challenges, and lessons learned from resilience practices of international civil society organizations.

 Learn more about the Legitimacy factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Engaging the Narrative  

Understanding and practicing narrative competency is key to organizational resiliency, but where do you start? Take a look at this mini masterclass series convened by Future Advocacy and FrameWorks Institute UK on how to reframe the issues we care about to affect change. 

Read the Center for Media and Social Impact’s Storytelling and Social Justice in Action: Leveraging Documentary Films to Strengthen Local Movement Building report for insights around the role nonprofits play on a local level as “civic network builders” and the art of storytelling and film as vehicles for empowering communities and strengthening social justice movements.

The Other Story is a podcast dedicated to uncovering dominant narratives in our society to ask how they came to be, how they might be changed, and the role of the entertainment industry in reinforcing or deconstructing them. Tune into their first episode as they discuss “What is Narrative Change?” with Jee Kim and Romain Vakilitabar.

Learn more about the Engaging Narratives factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Situational Awareness

Understanding the role of power dynamics is a key component of organizational resiliency. Hear from Anna Birney on the issue of power as it relates to systemic sustainability challenges and systems change in this article.

For more on systems thinking you can watch this video presentation from the University of Hull’s Centre for Systems Studies on “An Introduction to Systems Thinking for Tackling Wicked Problems.”

Learn more about the Situational Awareness factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Business Acumen

Innovative business models are critically important to the life and health of civil society organizations. In The Hard Truth About Business Model Innovation, authors postulate that because many attempts at business model innovations fall flat, leaders need to take a proactive approach.

Change is hard for everyone and navigating it intentionally can be especially important for organizations. Check out The Social Age Guidebook Series: Free Action Focused Resources from Julian Stodd for resources and carefully guided reflections around the implementation of learning, leadership, and cultural and organizational change.

Image from The Social Age Guidebook Series: Free Action Focused Resources by Julian Stodd

Learn more about the Business Acumen factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Adaptive Capacity

How do you actually build up adaptive capacity? Going International works to support organizations engaging internationally to create a better world. They have assembled an expansive list of toolkits and manuals on everything from a diversity and inclusion organizational assessment to tools for social innovation. These are great resources for organizations undergoing change.

Boundless Roots recently released an article called Roots of Transformation: Lessons and Leverage Points for Sustainable Living. Explore it for insights around how practices like multi-stakeholder engagement can bring about sustainable behavioral change that transform our society and lifestyles.

 Learn more about the Adaptive Capacity factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Resiliency Ethos

Does your organization value the usefulness of creativity and play in staying resilient in an ever-changing world? Read this piece from Disrupt Development, How Our Most Disruptive Thoughts Can Happen Through Play.

The more we are self-motivated to contribute our best ideas, explore new perspectives, and consider creative thinking strategies, the more likely we are to consistently come up with ideas and solutions that are unique and innovative.

– Disrupt Development’s, How Our Most Disruptive Thoughts Can Happen Through Play.

Experimentation is a sign of a healthy and resilient organization. Interested in learning more? Check outThe Experimentation Field Guide from Same Ryeas he draws on a range of topics and disciplines including systemic design, complexity science, social sciences, impact evaluation, and agile and lean startup.

Learn more about the Resiliency Ethos factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Connectedness

Strengthening connections with our constituencies and our peer organizations is an important piece of resiliency, but we won’t always share the same stance on issues.In her Ted Talk, How to have constructive conversations, speaker Julia Dhar discusses how to have “productive disagreements grounded in curiosity and purpose.” She says that this type of disagreement can actually help to strengthen relationships.

In We Know We Need Civil Resistance Training. Now Where Do We Start? Hardy Merriman offers readers a three-part framework for embracing civil resistance as a response to civic space challenges and rising authoritarian practices. Merriman posits that many of the questions relate to “knowledge management” and shares strategic tips for successful movements.

In this time of increased virtual collaboration, the right tools can be paramount to our collective effectiveness and productivity. The Peeragogy Handbook is a framework for peer learning and peer knowledge with resources for any group of people who want to co-learn any subject together. 

Learn more about the Connectedness factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

  March 31, 2021

At this point, most of our organizations have had a year of adaptation as we adjusted to a new and ever-changing reality. What lessons in resiliency has your civil society organization or movement learned this past year? How did you experiment and adapt? In what ways will you continue to cultivate that resiliency as you move into an eventual post-pandemic world?  

We’ve curated the articles, resources, and tools around organizational resiliency that have been inspiring us recently. Check them out as you continue on your resiliency journeys. You can learn more about civil society resiliency and seven reinforcing factors of organizational resiliency in the PartnersGlobal Resiliency+ Framework

We have also pulled 5 top resiliency tweets for a quick way to plug into the resiliency conversation. Check those out below!

5 Top Resiliency Tweets

  1. In light of recent, though not new, acts of anti-Asian violence, @dviyer, author and solidarity and justice expert, weighs in on how the Asian American community can be centering local community-based organizations who are committed to addressing anti-Asian hate during COVID-19 and beyond.  #StopAsianHate 

2. As we work to fight injustice, we can’t neglect the wellbeing of ourselves and our teams. We can’t do our work well otherwise. @comm_centric shares three ways to best position ourselves to fight injustice.

3. In the last year, we’ve all had to move our convenings online and we’ve all been a part of both good and bad virtual events. Check out these simple yet practical tips on convening better virtual events from @RobCottingham

4. Earlier this month, @Sys_innovation released a collection of 10 books, courses, and videos for learning about systems thinking. Take a look for resources and insights from leading experts on systems thinking and change. 

5. We’re inspired by the ways leaders and organizers in the development sector are addressing the decolonization of language regarding “aid” and “humanitarianism”. Explore this thread from @Tammamo on how the normalization of words like “field”, “mission” and “beneficiaries” perpetuate harm

Resiliency Resources by Factor

Business Acumen

Innovative ecosystems are key to the survival and success of organizations. In this new piece by Strategyzer, Frederic Etiemble writes on the “3 Core Elements of an Innovation Ecosystem” and the framework needed to develop an innovation capability within a large organization. 

In The agonizing privilege of nowauthor Jonathan Flowers explores the opportunity to innovate, experiment, and communicate in the transition from old dying systems to emergent ones. 

Learn more about the Business Acumen factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Situational Awareness

What is systems change, and why does it matter for your organization? Experts from Systems Innovation answer these questions and others in this visual and interactive presentation.  

In Conflict Resolution after the Pandemic, experts interrogate the impact of coronavirus-related crises. The book description reads, “The pandemic has clearly exacerbated existing social and political conflicts, but, as the book argues, its longer-term effects open the door to both further conflict escalation and dramatic new opportunities for building peace.” Read more about these challenges and continued opportunities to pursue justice.  

Learn more about the Situational Awareness factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Engaging the Narrative

Robust communication strategies are vital to the success, longevity, and influence of our organizations. Read more from Communication Matters on how well-executed communication efforts help organizations become stronger, smarter, and more effective at creating change. 

When we shift our narratives away from ‘othering’ marginalized groups and communities to centering their humanity and lived experiences, we not only increase the protection of these groups but of society as a whole. Genevieve Sauberli and Christina MacGillivray weigh in on this topic in the context of migration and migrant communities and offer a seven-step toolbox that shifts us away from zero-sum ‘us’ vs ‘them’ thinking to help us achieve lasting and impactful change.  

And lastly, check out this multipart series from Stanford Social Innovation review and The Communications Network on how effective communication drives social change, featuring articles about how to improve communications, foster a culture of communications, and the power of a nonprofit brand, among other topics.  

Learn more about the Engaging Narratives factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Adaptive Capacity

The ability to adapt to change is at the core of organizational resiliency, and it’s an ability we’ll increasingly rely upon in as we enter a post-pandemic world.  In The Future of Team Leadership is MultimodalRobert Hoojiberg and Michael Watkins postulate that “the post-pandemic future of teamwork will be a purposeful hybrid combination of virtual coordination and in-person collaboration.” Check out their piece to learn more about the skills team leaders need in order to succeed and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. 

This new report from the FrameWorks Institute “Mindset Shifts: What Are They? Why Do They Matter? How Do They Happen?” explores the best practices and most effective strategies for moving mindsets. The report asks us to consider how the nonprofit sector can use this profound moment of change to shift deeply rooted mindsets. 

Image from the FrameWorks Institute report “Mindset Shifts: What Are They? Why Do They Matter? How Do They Happen?

Learn more about the Adaptive Capacity factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Connectedness  

Strong organizations are purposefully and actively connected internally with staff and board members and externally with constituents, within the sector and across sectors. But it’s important to examine the nature of that connection and how meaningful it is.  

In this article, John A. Powell examines the important distinction between inclusion and belonging, and how the latter empowers us to cocreate the very thing to which we belong. Powell’s assertions have compelling implications for funding racial justice work, which he notes is often done without attention to power, including the power to cocreate. 

And with co-creation in mind, check out this Platform Design Toolkit designed to support organizations in collaborating, cocreating and engaging in enriching conversations with others.  

Learn more about the Connectedness factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Legitimacy  

At the heart of organizational legitimacy lies trust. This involves establishing a social contract between an organization and its constituents on whose behalf it is working. 

With legitimacy in mind, we’re sharing these resources for organizations, movements, and networks who are youth-led or youth-focused.  

Explore this Youth, Peace and Security: A Programming Handbook, developed by the United Nations. It is a must-read for organizations working on the youth, peace and security agenda. 

And join the Young Feminist Fund as they celebrate the work of young feminists across the globe who are occupying the frontlines of impactful social movements and leading change worldwide while simultaneously facing risks and threats to their safety and security.  

Learn more about the Legitimacy factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.

Resiliency Ethos 

A key lesson emerging from our continued pandemic reality is the necessity of protecting our own mental health and well-being and that of our teams. This includes learning about the impacts of stress on the ways we function. In Coping With Foggy Brain Days, the Blurt Team share helpful information around the causes of brain fog, its effects, and ways of coping. 

Check out The Wellbeing Project, co-created by The Skoll Foundation and others, for a series on the important connection between inner well-being and effective social change.  

Lastly, this is a great diagnostic tool from Innovation For Change – Africa geared toward civil society organizations working on policy and advocacy. The diagnostic tool helps organizations identify their strengths and weaknesses in the policy and advocacy areas while sharing resources to address your organizations specific needs. 

Learn more about the Resiliency Ethos factor in the Resiliency+ Framework here.