May 2009 Archives

CISV Hacks: Google Reader.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I spent a year in San Francisco, USA in 2001/2002 as part of a research scholarship programme. Durig that time, weblogs just started being big, and living near the Silicon Valley, I surely got a glance of cutting edge web-nerdism. Everyday when I came to work I opened my browser and had a list of about 20 blogs (mostly from people living in SF, that recommended restaurants, day trips, or just wrote about their daily lives) that I opened and checked one by one for updates. This process took ages, and often, nothing new was to be found.

Today RSS-feeds alow anybody to subscribe to any dynamic website he wants to: You simply add a URL to a feed-reading software - now all you have to do is check the software for new updates. There are a bunch of Feedreaders you can download to your computer, but I personally am a big fan of browser-based Google Reader.

Google Reader takes one minute to set up, and there you go, with your personal newspaper. You can even sort CISV-related news items into a specific folder. You can also recommend posts to friends, who in turn will have these posts show up in their reader. Or e-mail good items to others (Gmail, if you use it, integrates beautifully).

Best of all, you will never miss a new post on FTB again...!

Here's a list of CISV-related RSS feeds to get you started:


| No Comments | No TrackBacks
About ten years ago Yann (FRA) and Luca (ITA) chilled in front of a fireplace somewhere in France or Italy and were wondering how to spend the Millenium New Years: Both active CISVers couldn't think of any better way than to spend it with their friends from past camps, AIMs or chapter boards. Not before long they had rented a house in the French alps near the ski resort Chatel, created a website and started e-mailing people around the world.


In the end around 130 people participated - they even had to rent a few rooms in another house -  the snow was fantastic, there were great parties every evening, and I'll never forget how we celebrated New Years every hour according to the timezone of the participants' home countries beginning in New Zealand around noon, and ending at six in the morning with Brazil.

Even if there was no specific education content in this non-CISV-activity it still shows, that few people can make a difference: An idea can turn into something huge. Or, if you like, Yann and Luca were like Mosquitos.

The original website of the Tommycamp (designed by Fred (ITA)) is still up with a bunch of pictures, and I recently created a Facebook group for everybody who participated. The comic strip above was part of the "marketing" campaign - there was a new one every week before Tommycamp started.

In the years following Tommycamp, there were a few spin-offs, one even in Colombia, with the biggest one calles "ReTommy Camp" in 2003/2004. So, who's going to make the ten-years anniversary Tommycamp happen?

Quality vs. Quantity.

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks
Whenever there are problems to find staff for a village, the common agreement among a chapter board is: Instead of finding a mediocre-quality staff in the last second, let's do less camps instead with great staff. Also at AIMs, every time the number of hosted camps stagnates or sinks, the reaction is that CISV prefers quality over quantity.

This discussion on quality versus quantity misses several issues that I'd like to point out:

- CISV's main goal is education. In a for-profit-organisation the results are easily calculated, and there are common economic markers that can be referred to, if you want to measure the quality of a company. In education it's terribly difficult to measure quality, except by some obscure parameters, like whether all staff was trained. So in fact, we don't even know the quality of our camps. So how the hell can we prefer quality of quantity?

- Critical mass is a main issue when looking at whether a CISV chapter is working well. Only with a certain number of families you can expect a number of active members. Only with several delegations a year you can expect enough leaders interested in staffing. I would estimate 90% of our chapters, even NAs, do not reach critical mass to keep running sustainably. What I'm hitting at is that only with certain quantity good quality can be achieved.

- Human resources and funds needed to run a bigger organisation will probably not rise proportional: If we double the number of villages from 50 to 100, we don't necessarily need an IO that is twice the size. Also AIM won't need to be twice as long or twice as big. So in the end, administation costs are shared by more participants and our fees could be lower.

- If CISV was a bigger organisation, involving more people, it would be easier to reach out to donors, educators and NGOs. More people at the grassroots also translates into more and better people involved in the top levels of our organisations. Better external relation, more fundraising ties and more dedicated volunteers will inevitably lead to better camps.

I strongly believe that more quantity can lead to better quality in several ways.

With the exception of the sllight upward trend in 2007 (2008 numbers aren't out yet), our participation numbers remain static since 1996. But if CISV should grow, who can tell us how? 

A modest proposal.

| 7 Comments | No TrackBacks
Recently I stumbled over Doris Allen's original proposal to create a programme for youth.


I'd like to extract two quotes, that I found curious:

"Hitler taught us so well that in children and youth lies plastic human material which can be modled in desired forms."

Whereas I can see the core CISV philosophy in that quote, I wonder whether a) there is anything to learn from Hitler at all and b) "plastic human material" is what we would like to consider our participants.

"Even seven year olds could gain concepts of one world"
I've long been wondering, why we aren't coming up with programmes for younger children.

In the end it all came differently. Apparently UNESCO never wholeheartedly embraced Doris Allen's ideas, and instead of "Centers" an independent, decentralized structure of chapters was established. But even outside UNESCO, I think we can look back at an amazing success story, even if the "millions of children" to experience "international understanding" within CISV might take another 500 years...

CISV NA but no country?

| 8 Comments | No TrackBacks
During my recent visit to Madrid I was told that CISV Spain was happy about the development within one of their newer chapters in Barcelona. However, I also heard that CISV Barcelona was initially planning to become it's own NA as "CISV Catalonia".

Whether this rumour is true or not, it is interesting, how a number of NAs seem to exist, that don't represent a country of their own. Here are the ones I could think of:

CISV Hongkong - part of China
CISV Greenland - part of Denmark
CISV Faroe Islands - also part of Denmark

The only advantage I could come up with, of being an NA instead of a chapter, besides general autonomy, was that you get a voting right in the international board. From the "administration rules" point of view, CISV Greenland can send a delegation to a village in CISV Denmark, but couldn't if it was merely a chapter. Also there are cultural aspects and a question of infrastructure whether a chapter like CISV Faroe Islands would really profit from being part of CISV Denmark.

On the other end of the spectrum are chapters that are so dislocated from the rest of their NA, that it's quite a pain being part of that NA:

CISV San Francisco (all the other US chapters are in the East)
CISV French Guyana (which I don't think exists any more)

Personally, I'd like CISV to move beyond country borders - one of reasons I like the concept "World of Chapters" so much, discussed over at Devils some time ago. CISV chapters should be grouped by practicability reasons, not by political borders. Why not turn the USA into two NAs, and group Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands into a Benelux-NA?

More on Certificates.

| 10 Comments | No TrackBacks

A while ago I questioned the value of certifications issued by the Mosaic committee. In the Regional Training Forum (RTF) that was held recently here in Hamburg, participants of the TTT (Train-the-trainer)-workshop also were given certifications.

The point I made about the Mosaic certificates, not being of any value for job applications, is still valid for these ones. However, the TTT-certificates come with another condition: They are only valid for 3 years.

I can see the rationale behind this - CISV's educational content and principles have always been dynamic, and we wouldn't want trainers in the NAs to prepare leaders with yesterday's concepts. Also, who remembers, what was done at a workshop three years ago?

If I understand it right, the Leadership Training Committee aims to have ALL trainers in all NAs cerified before too long. Now, things are getting ridiculous: We are a volunteer organisation, where "incentives" like certificates with an "expiration date" just don't work. A trip to a TTT-workshop is costly, and time-consuming. We're looking for volunteers to donate their time to do trainings - this just can't be the right path. If we tell trainers, they can't train anymore, because their certificate has expired, they'll say: So what? I'll be gone. The half-life of a volunteer in CISV, I would guess, is about 5 years. So let's say somebody want to contribute to CISV, has been a leader and staff and becomes a member of a leadership team. Then it will probably take another year before he or she takes part in a Workshop. Than after 3 more years, being at his peak of experience as a trainer, it's probably exactly the moment, when that person is looking for reasons to end his commitment and end up thinking "Soooooo sad, my certification has expired..."

I think CISV must present a positive incentive: The TTT-workshop must be top qualitiy, a delight to participate, an eye-opener. Something to recommend to people who have recently joined the gorup of trainers. Something NAs are willing to invest in, to get qualified trainers for their leaders. Also, it should be a social event of some sort. A bit like an AIM, a place to meet other CISVers from other countries, and have a good time while being trained. That's why a TTT embedded in the RTF makes a lot of sense. Finally it should be guaranteed that participation at a TTT-workshop comes at no financial costs for the participants. 

As for the certificates, I think they can merely be used as a quality control tool: How many NAs train leaders with at least one "certified trainer"? Every NA should aim to have at least one of them, and this should be monitored.

I should add that I do think that expiry dates do make sense for Mosaic Trainers and Seminar Camp staff. Both are "rewarded" with a paid trip to another country, so I believe there should be motivation to get their skills updated every now and then. But also here, the system is flawed, if we run out of volunteers.

Donating online.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Jakob Nielsen, a usability guru, recently tested non-profit organisations' websites for enabling online donations. Most of all, potential donor were interested in...

  • The organization's mission, goals, objectives, and work.
  • How it uses donations and contributions
Whereas I think we've gotten the first point right, it's quite a mystery how we are going to use a donation. I guess online donations are not a priority these days - but they could be:

I would suggest certain "attractive" projects, that are specifically chosen to attract online contributions. Similarly to a recent Wikipedia fundraiser a "progress bar" could indicate how much money has already been donated, and how much more is necessary. Anyway, CISV should look deeper into how online fundraising could be a future source of funds.

Thumbnail image for fundraising.jpg

CISV Hacks: Wufoo.

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks
Usually after the German "Herbsttagung", our national board meeting in fall, we hand out paper evaluations to figure out, what could be done better at this meeting. Last year, for the first time, we decided to use an online version instead: Wufoo offers fantastically easy forms, that anybody, really anybody, can create. You chose the questions, the available answers, and the web service does all the calculations, graphing and creates an overview report. A link to the questionnaire page was sent out right after the meeting to all the participants, and a huge majority actually participated.

There are some draw-backs, of course: Some people aren't as comfortable or concentrated when filling in online forms, but anyway: We used it again at the "Frühjahrstagung" and I really recommend it as an alternative to paper evaluations.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2009 is the previous archive.

June 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.