July 2009 Archives

I've already commented on a few motions - so just before AIM starts, my five cents on the remaining ones:

Mtn1: I like the new definitions of the terms "programme", "activity" and "project". It makes perfect sense and roots out confusion in the communication within CISV and to outsiders.

Mtn2: I also like the term "experimental programme". Looking back at IPP, having experienced the silly process of being approves as "activity" first, later as a "programme", with lots of unnecessary red tape, I can only support any effort to make the development of new programmes more straight-forward - even if the existing 7 programmes seem to be enough to deal with at this moment in time.

Mtn6: PDPEF is a document that has stirred quite some emotions in the past 2 years. While CISV international tried to implement a simple quality control tool, the grassroots went nuts with yet another bureaucratic obligation. Personally, I think the PDPEF is the first honest approach trying to see whether our camps fulfill their goals, with some room of improvement of course. It's only logical that the importance of this form must be stressed, and if there is no other way, then it has to be through a penalty. Nevertheless, I sense some communication trouble here, so further effort needs to go into training chapters and staff, why the PDPEF is central to running CISV on a high level.

Mtn7: This is hard for a non-lawyer-non-native-speaker to understand, and I have too little patience to work myself through the "further-reading documents",  but it seems the first step into self-insurance. Since this has been a consensus for years, I'm a little surprised this took so long. With AIG in bad shape, this can't happen fast enough. Without insurance CISV is dead. This could happen from one day to another. Remember what happened to Canada in 2002.

Mtn8: This motions take the opportunity of a necessary re-organization of the Educational Development and Research Committee (EDR) to initiate a general re-ordering of the so-called "Service Committees" (as opposed to the Programme Committees). I especially like the linking of an IO employee with a team chair to co-ordinate the work being done. Furthermore this is a great chance to set priorities according to a strategic plan, that still needs to be approved. BTW, CISV Germany has been trying to re-organize EDR and ILTC many times in the past, but with little support. I guess now is a better time.

Mtn9: The alcohol issue has been jammed between morality, culture and risk-managment for the last 2 years. The solution provided here seems to be a more moderate one, as opposed to a suggestion to ban alcohol from all programmes. With my individual set of moral and culture, but also in the light of practicability, I prefer this solution.

Mtn11: It's only logical that we need an independent person to arrange for elections. However, I wonder if travel and accomodation could be saved by moving this task to somebody already present, like the ODC chair, or an IO employee, or even an honorary counselor.

Mtn12: Cathy has always impressed me with her enormous contribution to the organization as well as her talent to broker many a difficult issue in CISV international. No question, she should be elected honorary counselor. It remains the question, whether every former president should become one...? (Let's get Arne-Christian a "future HC"-t-shirt!?)

Mtn13: Congrats Algeria and Peru for promotion. Too bad, no other countries are making their way upwards on this list.

All in all some good stuff in those motions, and except the silly Canadian MSN-motion, I would probably approve all of them. The new concept for host fees and the new concept for the service committees seem interesting, and have quite some potential of changing things for the better. Nevertheless, I do miss a bit the flavour of courage to move forward. It seems as if we're simply trying to keep our sheep together, making sure no one gets lost, without a vision to move our herd in a higher pace. My objective for this website is to be a source of inspiration, how in fact CISV could move at a faster pace, and in what direction. Please stay tuned! (And enjoy AIM, if you're going.)


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Fred (ITA) once told me, "I wonder how much longer it takes until CISV creates a from to apply for creating a new form". I had to laugh quite hard, and admit, that in CISV there are so many forms, it's hard to believe. A search at resources.cisv.org actually reveals the existence of more than 50 forms.

A recent contribution to the forms jungle is the AIM motion form. I guess the rationale for this form, was to make sure nobody forgets to include when the motion should take effect and how it is implemented, generally improving the quality of motions. That being said, I think it still looks awkward for anybody reading a submitted motion, that the introductions, how to fill in the form cover almost the first half of the page. Also the font size is exactly the same as the motion text itself causing some confusion, where the actually motion starts, which, for no reason at all, seems locked up in a box.

Back to the drawing board, I'd say: A little more usability would be nice and easy to achieve.


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Hospitality Points and Host Fees have been a topic at AIMs as long as I can remember. The various changes over the years have led to much confusion and if you add the penalty system to the mess - which is unseparable - things get incredibly confusing.

It's only logical that a taskforce was set up to create a new system that would create a system that...
  • aligns the existing (camp) programmes
  • creates a logical and fair hosting reward system
  • standardizes the host fees rewarded to hosting chapters
  • includes the penalty system in all this
For the AIM this year, this taskforce submitted a motion, that lists different options for hospitality points, host fees and the penalty system. Personally, I find the motion terribly confusing, so I guess a fair amount of discussion is required to understand the true effect of any decision being made on this issue. There are a few thoughts, I'd like to through in:

- Charging participants a "host" fee that is transfered to the hosting chapter makes no sense to me. Looking at the vast differences in exchange rates, purchasing power and the cost to hosting a CISV programme, there is no way this system can ever be fair. Fundraising for a CISV camp must remain within a CISV NA or chapter (who are free to charge their outgoing participants a "host fee" to pay for their camps). Also, I'm extremely doubtful, whether a lump of money will ever work as an incentive for CISV chapters to host more programmes. Finally, I think the sheer amount of money transfers around the globe should be avoided wherever possible.

- I'm all in favour for a hospitality point system, but it must be simple. The suggested system is terribly complicated. If this is to serve as a motivator for NAs to host programmes, NAs must understand the implications of what they do. My suggestion: 1 point for hosting one person from another country per programme, full stop. If you host a village, you host 11 incoming delegations of 5 individuals plus 4 JCs, you get 59 points. The next year, you get to trade those 59 points into 59 participants to send abroad.
- From the psychological research on learning, it has been known for decades that negative incentives ( "penalties") don't work very well. Much better are positive incentives. Let's award extra hosting points to every NA that doesn't cancel late, sends the right gender and submits their forms in time. The other issue is, that any NA that doesn't comply with our rules, obviously is in trouble anyway. Whatever their problem is (lack of volunteers, lack of funds), punishing them by charging them fees won't make things better.

Obviously the whole issue is quite complex, so it won't be easy at all to role out a new hospitality point, fee and penalty system all at once. I hope the trustees are brave enough for change and ready to invest some time until a new system finally works. It is really necessary.


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Another motion worth discussing:

CISV Great Britain moves that IEC appoint a taskforce to investigate the cost- effectiveness of our Annual International Meetings (AIM). A report and at least one alternative structure should be presented to the board at AIM 2010 for consideration.  
Now, obviously something is wrong with AIMs. Laura (GBR, who also submitted this motion) once estimated a cost of 3200 GBP per session happening at AIM:

I was thinking about plenary time in a rough sense. Thinking that maybe 120 people are in the plenary all the time (average) and that each person is spending an average of £1200 to be there (600 for accommodation + fees and 600 for travel) then you have a total of £144,000. If you say that everyone works for 9 hours in the plenary for 5 days that's 144000 / 45 = £3200 for every hour in the plenary
Whether this number is accurate or not, AIMs are crazy expensive, and it's absolutely true, that we should wonder if we are using the time (and money) in the most efficient manner.

A similar motion was actually submitted in 2005, and in fact I was the person to do the kind of research the 2009 motion asks for. I started enthusiastically, but during this process I encountered a number of huge problems:

  • AIM is such a longstanding institution, full of implicit traditions and the result of incremental change over the years, that it will be difficult to "plan" any changes that will immediately yield a more successful meeting. Even worse, it would have to be assumed, that AIMs would first get worse with any bigger changes.
  • A lot of people are unhappy with AIM for various reasons, but every individual want the AIM to be a little bit different in his or her personal way. Kathy (USA) wanted AIMs to be like US board meetings, Adam (SWE) like the Swedish youth federation, Peer-Ole  (GER) like they used to be in the late ninetees and Juanca (COL) an AIM perfectly match his needs as the Mosaic committee chair.
In the report I presented in 2006 (download here: AIMstudy.pdf ) I concluded that the one thing everybody agreed on, was that AIMs needed to be cheaper. I suggested the so-called "Square AIM" , where everybody comes and leaves on the same day, and AIM is no longer than 6-7 days. Unfortunately the IEC of the time did not embrace the idea, and it wasn't even presented to the board of trustees.

Now it's 2009 and there are new trustees and a mostly new IEC, so it's a good opportunity to tackle the AIM-conundrum once more. But how?

I  believe that a taskforce doing research on AIM will not solve anything. AIMs are so complex, there's no way you can "study" them. Also, with all the different roles at AIM, there is no way you can make things better for everybody, without disapointing one group of participants.

Instead of starting AIM reform with research, I think we should start with a specific target:

  • The IEC shall appoint a taskforce that restructures AIM in a way that the cummulative costs (including accomodation and travel of all participants) are less than 50% of present expenditures.

  • The IEC shall appoint a taskforces that restructures AIM in a way that all meetings (IEC, EEC, preAIM, IJBC, AIM) take place within a 6-day schedule.
Setting a goal, and having a taskforce figure out how makes way more sense than having a taskforce figuring out where we want to go.


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AIM is drawing close, and motions are circulated, so I took the freedom of commenting on a few ones, that seem interesting. Here's Motion 03:

That the CISV International Board of Trustees stop the use of electronic communications (email, online chats, messaging) during motion discussions at AIM.

As a doctor, I've always been told to treat the underlying cause first and not the symptoms. This motion is a typical example of simply giving a pain killer instead of trying to figure out, why the pain exists.

Why do people use electronic communications during the board sessions? Here's my (obnoxious) guesses:

  1. The board meeting is boring and irrelevant. Stuff presented has been heard many times before.
  2. Good discussion is impossible in a board meeting session setting. Instead of participating in the "official" discussion, trustees chat with in the "virtual board meeting" with selected others.
  3. The trustee is unfit to his job - he has no interest whatsoever in listening in participating in order to bring his NA or international organisation forward.
These reasons already hint, how to tackle the problem.

On the other side are obvious advantages of having all electronic communications and the world wide web available during the sessions: Assuming you are an avid multitasker, you can quickly look up documents, get quick answers to questions that don't affect everybody else. Furthermore you can manage meetings and discuss with other AIM-participants outside the board.

Summing up the above, I would reject this motion, but I acknowledge the need for some change to the way the board of trustees work. To be a little more blunt: A meeting of 60 people sitting around a table is probably the worst possible way to discuss and achieve anything.

I should conclude that there is a certain unpoliteness, when people seem to care only about their 14'' screens while someone is presenting something important.
That's the short version of the research done by Tamara Thorpe on participants of the IPP in Canada in 2008. The longer version includes, that in fact the participants made quite some progress in the area of the theme of this IPP ("the elderly") but however, didn't explore their cultural differences enough.

With all the research I've come across within CISV, the results  seemed biased and said  that the things CISV does were either great or not measurable. In a certain way, now I feel relieved that not all is good in the world of CISV.

In CISV, I think, we often rely to much on the effect of simply being and working together will yield in intercultural learning. From reading Tamara's research summary, it seems as if we need to structure our programmes more in a way, that people become aware of intercultural interaction.

Also: DId you know that IPPs are officially categorized as "Service Learning Programmes"?

You can read the research summary here, but watch out, it's 8MB:

IPP Research Summary 2009_Tamara Thorpe.pdf

Gaby would disagree.

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Here's an interesting article discussing whether CEO's of non-profit organisations earn to much over at GOOD magazine.

Did you know that the CEO of Heifer International gets paid $236,881 a year? Or that the CEO of ACCION International makes $210,000? Neither did Slate reader Lester, who sent a letter to the "My Goodness" column ("Advice on how to make the world better") asking if he should continue to donate to his favorite charities knowing that the CEOS make "offensive" amounts of money.
The article also links to a list of highly-successful charities with very low CEO salaries. I haven't heard of any of these, but, I guess these are the ones we could probably learn from.

What about IO. Are we paying too much for our employees? In the budget for 2008 I found 230.000 GBP, which translates into 30 GBP per international participant per year. Would we be able to attract the same kind of people to work for us with lower salaries? Would we be able to sustain our organisation by reducing the number of employees?

I personally think that IO has made huge progress in the last 10 years in quality of work and efficiency.  Also we have been able to retain great people at IO. Which doesn't mean things could be even better, of course. The best solution however, would be, if we could increase the number of participants - with 15.000 participants (twice as many) the share would go down to 15 GBP per person.

EJBM Neighbourhoods

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I've covered the 5 new CISV regions in the past, and expressed my support for that regional concept. Apparently JB Europe has no interest in splitting up the EJBM-region the was the ODC (organisational development committee) suggests. Instead, during the EJBM this year they came up with 4 "neighbourhoods":

Neighbourhoods of Europe2009.jpg

I know that the Americas' juniors (ARM) also split themselves up into "subregions", and even if the "Hoods" sound sexy, all this just doesn't make so much sense to me. Can't we agree on a common regional concept? Also, the only way we can ever have African countries in CISV (besides Egypt), is to embrace them into an existing regional structure. Of course there is no Kenia and no Algeria in this map. No Jordan, either. (And somebody forgot to fill Lebanon with yellow color.)

Batic shirt revival?

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Thumbnail image for batic.jpgPeace Education is back!

During my involvement in CISV in the last 10 years I observed an interesting trend: The driving force behind CISV these days are no longer the rainbow-sweater- and batic-shirt-wearking, long-haired hippie-people, who spent their lives on the streets demonstrating against the cold war and nuclear weapons. Instead, the classic CISVer today is a pragmatic, well-educated, adapted, alligned, job-wise successful individual, with a blackberry or iPhone to efficiently manage his or her private and professional life. Peace seems far too much an abstract and unrealistic goal to strive for, so Intercultural Competence has become the buzz-word of the last decade within CISV: With the merger of Daimler and Chrysler and subsequent millions spent to connect the respective corporate cultures it became obvious that whatever CISV teaches has value to the money-making world. Intercultural competence seemed like something worth mentioning in a resume. CISVer even suggested to offer costly Seminars to teach managers the secrets of CISV. Removing the word "Peace" from the "Education Circle" is one example of this trend. Another one is the fact that the majority of CISVers were upset when Italian CISVers protested against the war in Iraq in the name of CISV.

We are yet to find out where CISV will move in the next years, but flipping through Mosquito Tactics  and the recently published CISV Passport shows that maybe this trend is being reversed and CISV is in fact moving back to Peace Education. Digging deeper into the concept of peace and how to promote it, had been neglected in the past years. Maybe this will also bring back some of the spirit that has gone lost along the way. If you see Intercultural Competence as a subset of Peace Education (I do!), that means, we are broadening our scope beyond the cross-cultural field.

I really welcome this development - but please, without the batic T-shirt

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