Locally-Led Development: Moving the Agenda Forward

by Kyra Buchko and Alyson Lyons

The resounding call for locally-led development by USAID Administrator Samantha Power resonated deeply with us at PartnersGlobal. In her speech from May 2022, Administrator Power reiterated USAID’s commitment to locally-led development as an approach that “prioritizes and elevates the roles of organizations, institutions, and people of the countries we serve” and is “the key to delivering the kind of results that will be visible years and years in the future, long after our programs have wound down.” At PartnersGlobal, we couldn’t agree more. 

For more than three decades, our mission and vision for a more peaceful and prosperous world has centered on and assumes a preeminent role of local leadership and locally-led problem-solving. It is the reason we founded The Partners Network of 20+ local, independently operated nonprofits based in Central and Eastern Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. We all share what we call The Partners Way – a collective commitment to locally driven development that brings together people, communities, and institutions to jointly reach decisions and take action that build peace and transform conflict. At its core, The Partners Way adheres to the values of inclusion, accountability, resiliency, justice, and nonviolence.  In practice, we focus on process guided by principles of locally-led development and centered on the role of local leadership – no matter the issue, topic, or thematic area.

As we begin to feel a real shift across the international donor community, and specifically US government agencies, to adopt a more locally-led development agenda, we are optimistic and hopeful about the next chapter of development assistance. And since we’ve been doing locally-led development for some time now, we’d like to share a few insights from our experience.

Shift Your Mindset to Shift the Power

The first step toward embracing locally-led development is to shift your mindset from one dominated by Western values and priorities to one guided by community-driven needs. The movement to decolonize aid is intricately connected with this idea. The purpose of decolonizing aid is to transform unequal power structures rooted in colonial constructs that prioritize Global North mandates and perspectives, impacting resource allocation and perpetuating discriminatory norms and practices in the international aid system.

So how do we shift our mindsets? First, we must start by asking questions and listening actively to local organizations and partners about THEIR priorities and needs. While it may sound easy, active listening is one of the hardest soft skills to do effectively because it requires that you pay attention, put aside judgment, and withhold opinions or criticisms. Practice, practice, practice active listening and ask for feedback from partners.

Second, we need to reimagine our relationship to our partners by engaging local leaders as peers and colleagues instead of ‘primes and subs’ to our programs. In this way, we can reorient ourselves to learning from each other, valuing everyone’s inputs and experiences. Further, we need to facilitate diverse and equitable participation and involvement in decision making. This means reaching out to amplify and integrate the voices of women, youth, and indigenous communities and peoples to ensure there is meaningful consultation, as detailed in the Global Fragility Act Coalition’s recommendations on local consultation processes. For project-based collaboration, it is critically important to engage all partners consistently and equitably before the program begins, throughout implementation, and well beyond the project’s end date. 

Third, let’s be intentional about the language we use when communicating to donors, partners, and peers. Language matters. At Partners, we seek informal and formal input from our partners about the optics and impressions created by the language we use in proposals, discussions with peers, and other communications.  This helps ensure that our messaging about our work and our values – including how we talk about local leadership – resonates with and is authentic to local perspectives. And it requires that any new or improved terminology and messaging are translated accurately in local languages and placed into appropriate context.

Progress through Partnership, not Programs

At the end of the day, trust is built and strengthened when we focus on partnership over projects. And trust is a necessary prerequisite for sustaining a locally-led development agenda. Partnership transcends transactional cooperation based on specific activities and forms the basis for continued connection well past the end of a project.  Not only do we work toward sustainability of project results and impact, but we view durable and resilient organizational and personal relationships as an ongoing benefit for all parties. 

One way to build and maintain trust over time is to collectively design your process for collaboration rather than focus on specific project activities or objectives. The end goal is important, but how you get there matters more in the long run. Ask your partners HOW they view and approach collaboration. What is important to them in terms of process? Where is collaboration needed and not needed? How can systems for program implementation be set up that encourage and foster inclusive participation and input? The emphasis on collaborative process helps to decentralize power and facilitates shared responsibility. It places decision-making more equitably in the hands of the local partners and communities impacted by a development or peacebuilding program.

The locally-led development agenda calls on all of us to be far more ambitious in expanding who we work with, and changing how we work so that collectively we drive the sustainable, lasting change that we all seek. This is how we at PartnersGlobal will continue to support local leadership to inspire and guide communities to peacefully manage change.

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.

Rasha Abdel Latif, Director of MENA and Civil Society Strengthening at PartnersGlobal, was recently appointed as a member on the Board of Directors at Amnesty International – USA (AIUSA). We could not think of a more deserving person to step into this leadership role at one of the most well-established and well-respected human rights organizations. In this leadership role, Rasha will contribute to the development of a clear vision for AIUSA and provide stewardship for the organization, establishing appropriate and constructive working relationships with staff and ensures the financial health of the organization through fiscal oversight and fundraising.

Rasha brings nearly seventeen years of experience to this leadership role, working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with local and international organizations and activists to amplify citizen voices, increase participation in decision making processes, advocate for human rights, and create innovative solutions to social problems. Throughout her career, Rasha led and coordinated many local and national human rights campaigns and initiatives.

“I strive every day to be a catalyst for change and am driven by making a difference through advocating for human rights issues and for safe environments for women, youth, human rights activists, and marginalized communities.” – Rasha Abdel Latif

Rasha is Arab-American and was born and raised in Jordan. She has Palestinian roots and a passion for global citizenship. Rasha started her journey with The Partners Network in 2009, working at PartnersJordan for eight years. In 2019, she joined PartnersGlobal as the Director for MENA and Civil Society Strengthening where she oversees a portfolio of regional programs focused on social accountability, governance, transparency, anti-corruption, and protecting and defending civic space. Based in Washington DC, Rasha is an active member of the Arab American community and loves the opportunity to showcase and share her cultural heritage and customs with others. You can follow Rasha on Twitter at @RashaAbdelLatif.

At PartnersGlobal, we believe ordinary citizens have a right and a role to shape the decisions and outcomes that affect them. We know that building a resilient civil society is essential to achieving inclusive, just, and prosperous societies based on democratic principles that respect the rights of all citizens. That’s why we work in service of local leaders and organizations to bring about peaceful change to their communities. Because locally led change leads to more sustainable outcomes. And a resilient civil society is a catalyst for change.

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!

Partners has been appointed for the three-year Regional Secretariat function of Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) in North America. GPPAC is a network of NGOs actively working on conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The network promotes multi-stakeholder collaboration and local ownership of strategies for peace and security and it also serves as a community of practice to advance new knowledge, share ideas, and convene regular reflection spaces between peers.

GPPAC is organized around regional subnetworks and we have been involved in GPPAC North America for the past three years. GPPAC North America includes very well-known and respected organizations in the peacebuilding and human rights spaces in Canada, the US, and Mexico:

  • Alliance for Peacebuilding
  • Peace and Conflict Studies Association of Canada
  • Mennonite Central Committee
  • Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative
  • Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SWEFOR)
  • Servicio Internacional para la Paz (SIPAZ)
  • Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (SERAPAZ)
  • Comisión de Apoyo a la Unidad y a la Reconciliación Comunitaria (CORECO)
  • Centro Fray Bartolomé de las Casas
  • Centro de Colaboración Cívica (CCC)
  • PartnersGlobal

For us, GPPAC North America represents a community of practice and learning created to promote new knowledge, approaches and methodologies to advance peacebuilding and peace consolidation, share ideas and experiences on concrete interventions, as well as enable spaces for reflection among peers on situational and structural issues that impact stability and peace at the regional level. In this sense, our affiliation and formal participation allow us to take better advantage of the vast experience of the members of the network to strengthen our programs and interventions and strengthen ties with organizations working on issues of peace, violence prevention and promotion of human rights in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

In October 2021, PartnersGlobal launched ResiliencyPlus in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. ResiliencyPlus is one of PartnersGlobal’s signature methodologies for transformative organizational development in times of change and uncertainty and is especially relevant for civil society experiencing the impacts of closing civic space.

The virtual three-day workshop brought together twenty civil society leaders within the Partners Network – a coalition of some of the world’s leading peacebuilding and democracy organizations – including PartnersJordan, PartnersYemen, PartnersLebanon, and PartnersIraq. The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the ResiliencyPlus Framework and process to our network members and begin to sow the seeds of a future cadre of Regional Resiliency Coaches and Facilitators. Institutionalizing the methodology through local leadership helps to build understanding about the ways in which organizational resiliency manifests in the MENA region and how best to adapt the framework and process to respond effectively to regional dynamics.

“The workshop showed us how important it is to understand the internal factors the organization faces,” noted Fahd Saif, Deputy Executive Director of PartnersYemen. “In Yemen,” he continued, “we are definitely in need as individuals and as organizations for such analysis to serve our community better.” The participants from Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon agreed with him. 

The ResiliencyPlus methodology analyzes an organization’s internal vulnerabilities and external threats that must be mitigated and managed adaptively to remain viable in the face of shrinking civic space. It then explores an organization’s level of resiliency as it relates to seven key factors related to internal and external dynamics – adaptive capacity, contextual awareness, communications, staff commitment and capacity, legitimacy, entrepreneurial mindset, and connectedness.

Closing Civic Space in MENA

The MENA region faces various levels of closing civic space which impacts civil society in different ways. Some countries in the region that have well-established, long-standing civil society organizations are experiencing excessive responses by security forces against recent anti-government protests organized by civic actors and activists demanding accountability and justice. Other countries are witnessing a rise in the detention of journalists and human rights defenders, as clampdowns on freedom of speech increase. And for others that rate among the region’s most closed civic space environments, civil society is faced with navigating complex civic space dynamics in addition to the destabilizing elements of protracted conflict.

Throughout the workshop, network member participants reflected on the similarities and differences at the individual, organizational and sectoral levels of resiliency. Not surprisingly, the Resiliency factors resonated in both shared and nuanced ways, depending on the country context. For PartnersIraq, a relatively new member of the Partners Network, public image and legitimacy were front and center. For PartnersJordan – the oldest MENA Centers in the network – financial stability, preparedness, and contingency planning were the most pressing needs. All participants agreed that the ResiliencyPlus framework and process was necessary for their organization and throughout the region to better prepare for, adapt, and respond to changing civic space dynamics.

Going Forward

At PartnersGlobal, we are committed to authentic partnership and locally-led change. This workshop was the first step in a journey the PartnersGlobal team will take with the regional centers of the Partners Network. Our vision for 2022 is to invest in a Regional Resiliency Coaching Team by selecting a specialized group of seasoned facilitators/trainers and civil society experts to lead the charge and become certified Resiliency coaches – thus localizing the methodology in the MENA context and guaranteeing that there will be an ever-deepening capacity to undertake ResiliencyPlus long after our inaugural initiative is complete. 

PartnersGlobal is currently implementing ResiliencyPlus in East Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, East and West Africa, and Latin America. Adding the MENA region to existing efforts is paramount, as individuals, organizations, and the civil society sector around the world face increasing government restrictions that impact their ability to work freely and independently. 

After 13 years at the helm of PartnersGlobal (previously Partners for Democratic Change), President and CEO Julia Roig will be stepping down at the end of the year. During her tenure, the organization enjoyed a period of impressive growth, increasing ten-fold in size and global presence while staying on the cutting edge of sustainable impact investing to support local leaders and civil society advance democracy and peacebuilding around the world.

The Partners’ board and staff wish Julia well as she embarks on a journey to develop The Horizons Project to focus on the intersection of social justice, peacebuilding, and democracy in the United States. After its successful launch under the PartnersGlobal Institute in 2021, Julia will continue to expand the reach of Horizons to a broader array of domestic constituencies. PartnersGlobal will remain focused on its core mission to support civil society to bring about peaceful and democratic change.

“Under Julia Roig’s leadership, PartnersGlobal has grown to impressive new heights. The board is proud of the way this nimble organization has adapted and thrived over the years, with Julia’s stewardship embodying our Resiliency Ethos. On behalf of the Board, I want to say how fortunate PartnersGlobal is to have had such innovative and inspirational leadership from Julia, and how pleased we are with the very strong executive team Julia has nurtured to carry us forward. We have every confidence that under the co-leadership of Kyra Buchko and Roselie Vasquez-Yetter in the months ahead, this entrepreneurial and agile spirit will continue to grow and spread throughout our programs and network.”

– Jonathan Davidson, Board Chair

Julia took the mantle in 2008 from Partners’ beloved founder Raymond Shonholtz and established new Partners Centers for Change and Conflict Management throughout the Middle East, West Africa, the Balkans, and Latin America, with support from long-standing partners at the General Electric Foundation. Committed to the values of distributive leadership for a global civil society, Julia worked closely with the expanded group of Partners Centers to shepherd a new era for the Partners Network. In collaboration with an international team and the Peace Nexus Foundation, Julia helped our Network of 20 Centers adapt its relational and operational practices for the 21st century.

PartnersGlobal’s entrepreneurial spirit is integral to its organizational DNA and is an ethos that Julia consistently embodied in her leadership model.  By building multi-sectoral collaborations with our many partners in the US and globally, the organization is a thought leader in designing and delivering new frameworks for Security Sector Reform, Anti-Corruption, Women’s Leadership, Cooperative Advocacy, Positive Peace in Action, Sustainable Mediation, Business for Peace, and Narrative Engagement. Our most recent flagship program in Civil Society Resiliency to combat closing civic space takes our investment approach in local leadership to the next level, as we work with existing organizations to adapt and respond to their rapidly changing environments. 

“When I joined Partners, I was compelled by Julia’s commitment to establishing authentic partnerships.  This approach is embedded in our organizational culture at every level of program implementation and partner engagement thanks to Julia’s model of inclusive partnership.  Kyra and I are inspired to continue this way of leading and learning as an organization and a network of peers.”

– Roselie Vasquez-Yetter, Co-Executive Director

Julia’s departure marks an important new phase in the organization’s history and builds on Partners’ commitment to our own organizational resiliency. The transition is coming at a time when PartnersGlobal has a deep bench of capable leaders and a strong global portfolio of programming. With the full support of the board, the current Co-Executive Directors, Roselie Vasquez-Yetter and Kyra Buchko will remain in their roles and continue their exemplary leadership of the organization.  

Partners’ mission and experience are uniquely suited for this moment — when the peacebuilding and development space is grappling with shifting power dynamics and a movement to decolonize aid; when resiliency support is essential for civil society to survive and thrive amidst a global pandemic, rising authoritarianism, and toxic polarization; and when peacebuilding and conflict transformation competencies are desperately needed across the globe.

“Julia’s dedicated service as President has shaped our organizational identity and leaves a lasting impact on Partners’ approach to peacebuilding and support of democratic actors across the globe.  I am honored to be working with Roselie to build upon the partnerships and achievements of Julia’s tenure and lead the organization in the months ahead into our next exciting phase of growth.”  – Kyra Buchko, Co-Executive Director

  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.”


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.


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.