August 2009 Archives

Starfish or Spider?

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Should CISV decentralize and give more power to the chapters?

Sarah/USA referred me to this very interesting book, called "The Starfish and the Spider": The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations". I haven't read it (yet), but on the cover it says:
Thumbnail image for StarfishSpider253x168.jpg
"One thing that business, institutions, governments and key individuals will have to realize is spiders and starfish may look alike, but starfish have a miraculous quality to them. Cut off the leg of a spider, and you have a seven-legged creature on your hands; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. But cut off the arm of a starfish and it will grow a new one. Not only that, but the severed arm can grow an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this feat because, unlike spiders, they are decentralized; every major organ is replicated across each arm."
If you look at CISV's structure, we have elements of both: The chapters could be viewed as the legs of starfish, where from each one a new organization could spring off. In many ways we are pretty decentralized. But as a whole, I'm afraid CISV is still a spider with a huge head, read IO/AIM/IEC/Committees.
The Starfish and Spider concept transfered to CISV initiated a few thoughts:

  • It takes some courage to reduce the overhead structure. Can anybody imagine CISV without AIM, IEC or IO? I do think it could be possible, and maybe liberate energy in chapters and NAs: Take away the heavy burden of financial and human resources to keep the international structure alive, and many a chapter could use them elsewhere. The chapters could become more creative, invest more time in local activities, and so on.
  • The Mosaic programme is an example where a starfish was turned into a spider. I'd have to admit though that the starfish Local Work was barely alive. Maybe Mosaic could be turned back into a starfish some day.
  • Somebody submitted a proposal to CISV Devils some time ago, suggesting that there are things we could learn from Al Quaida, a perfect Starfish. Even without the head (=Bin Laden), the idea would live on. Even if not based on religious belief, shouldn't the CISV idea be strong enough to survive without central management?

Four weddings and no funeral.

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6 recently-wed CISVers that you should look up to.

I seem to have reached a certain age, where wedding invitations are flying in like pizza delivery coupons. From the 7 ones we were invited to, unfortunately we had to refuse the invitation in 4 cases for a number of different reasons.

We did, however, have the chance to attend the wedding of Heike (aka "Nana", GER) last weekend near Rome, which was a blast. Why do I write about this? Because Heike is the true founding mother of IPP. I'm not sure, whether she had the original idea during the EJBM in Denmark in 1996, but she surely made it happen: With personal contacts and the help of other clever CISVers, in the summer of 1997, she made Ithe first IPP take place in her home town of Bad Nauheim, in the north of Frankfurt. I was lucky to be a participant and the concept of IPP convinced me instantly, which lead to my further involvement with the (now) programme. Heike helped evaluate the first 5 IPPs, but basically left her "baby" to develop my itself, which again is quite interesting.

One of the wedding's I couldn't attend, was between Juanca/COL and Alice/ITA - but it was fun to click through a few Facebook pictures. Juanca amazed me in my first year as an NJR in 1997 by being smart and determined. It was only logical he became IJR in 2000 and the chair of the Local Work programme in 2003. He oversaw the transformation into the Mosaic Programme. Even if I am quite critical of the Mosaic Programme, I do think that this step has changed the way CISV sees itself - we'll have to see if we manage to fully embrace the idea, that we are NOT a camp-based organization. In Mosaic-retirement, Juanca still serves as the trustee of Colombia.

Juanca's now-wife Alice has made some similar achievements in the organization, that can't be underestimated: Youth Meeting has been a mess ever since I got involved. The step from being a JB-organized camp to a fully recognized activity around 1996 actually made things worse: Youth meetings lost there sense of spontaneity, yet didn't have a unique educational concept. Just by being "short" alone just didn't do the trick. Besides, until 2004 the IYM-taskforce chairs changed almost every year, sometimes didn't even show up at AIM. Under Alice's leadership, Youth Meetings finally came back on track, and joined the other 6 official programmes in 2008. The new approach with theme packages, which I've written about before, show that IYM has the potential of being a front-runner in CISV when it comes to content.

Another friend of mine, Lars/NOR also chose the holy bond of matrimony this summer. Lars and I went to the same Seminar Camp in SF/USA 1996. He's been working for the Electronic Communication Taskforce, now part of ERC, since 1999 and has contributed to CISV in a magnitude that's hard to beat. Ever wonder, who fixes CISV's servers when their down? Who keeps CISV friends running? Who's set up the Intranet and not to forget CISV's homepage (and all NAs that use the same temlate)? Who's online when you need technical advise of any kind? Lars of course. When he leaves CISV, IO will have to hire two full-time technicians to fill that gap.

Finally Lene/NOR and Soeren/DEN exchanged rings this July. Contrary to the other people above they have made their impact in a more subtle way. Although Soeren's leadership in the board of trustees wasn't ever very subtle. Soeren now became the chair of the IPP committee. Lene on the other side has been serving a range of different committees since before I got involved, and is now part of the IEC. 

Heike, Juanca, Lars, Alice, Soeren and Lene all contributed (and still do) in very different ways to CISV, with their individual skills and talents. The one thing that they they have in common is perseverance. There's enough people out there, that show up at a board meeting, local, national or international, appear smart and creative and have a mulititude of ideas. Usually these individuals are inspiring, but never show up again, and their impact is limited. The ones that do make a change, however, stick around for longer, and make ideas happen. All six CISVers mentioned above set examples, how a single person can make a change, by investing time and effort. They should motivate anybody who wants to contribute to a more peaceful society through CISV.

Bubbles Update.

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A graphic representation of CISV's development from 1996-2008

Anna brought the Annual Review from Guatemala, so I decided to update the Motion Graphic Chart of CISV's development (see original post): It now displays the development of CISV in all NAs since 1996. Just press the play button:

A few interesting facts:
  • Look at the two dinosaurs in CISV, Canada and Brazil: With about the same amount of chapters and same amount of hosted camps, Brazil sends almost twice as many participants abroad!
  • The only two countries that seem to make some significant growth in the last 10+ years are Austria and China
  • Did you see the dive that Canada took in 2003 - that was when their insurance broke.
  • The size of the bubble represents the number of chapters - Australia's bubble is way bigger than the other chapters in their area - so apparently their chapters are all very small.
  • It comes as no surprise that Africa is hardly detectable in this graphical representation of CISV.
Of course it would be even more interesting, to look back beyond 1996 and also into the development of the individual programmes. I'm working on it!

Also, I found another brilliant speech by Gapminder's Hans Rosling at TED - 18 minutes of pure greatness and plus a surprise ending:

Spinning off...

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CISV should motivate and support its members to start new NGOs.

CISVer are usually a well-educated, creative bunch of people. When they get together, have a few beers, many a great idea has evolved. I'm not talking about new activities or new CISV camps, I'm talking about ideas about solutions to real-world problems. Unfortunately CISV has had a tradition of being  a lot of talk and very little action. This is something that we should change.

Many universities, especially in the US, are actually very good in supporting their students in turning their product ideas and research results and projects into profitable companies. Google is a spin-off of Stanford Universitiy, also the MIT in Boston has a long radition of start-ups that span off the campus grounds.

What I'd like to see, is CISV supporting spin-offs in the non-profit, humanitarian field.

CISV is an elite organisation - let's face it - with members in important political and commercial positions. People with money and connections are abundant in the NAs and chapters, and the network is world wide. We want our members to become active citizens of the world, we have all the resources readily available, but we don't give them any support.

If a group of CISVers want to start their own local, national or even international NGO on a specific theme with a specific goal, this should be supported by CISV. The support I'm thinking of is networking, legal support and  even financial support. Let's scrap the Peace Fund and turn it into a a Spin-off fund instead. We've always had trouble explaining what CISVs impact is. If we can list a number of NGOs started by CISVers, supported by CISV, wouldn't that be great?
This post is about something only loosely connected to what we do in CISV, but nevertheless very inspiring: In his fantastic talk at the TED conference, Paul Collier, Professor of Economics, explains how nations should be rebuilt after conflict. I guess this applies to Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Kosovo and so on... watch for yourself:

I like the part most, where he says there is a need for "bricklayers without borders" and "accountants without borders". 

Category A.

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Some years ago the IPC (international promotion committee) and the NADT (NA development taskforce) were consolidated into the ODC (organisational development committee). Behind the new acronym and under the leadership of an experienced CISVer (Sanna/SWE) an effort was made to re-organize CISVs worldwide efforts to grow and develop into new countries and to strenghthen existing NAs. Regional coordinators (ReCos - name stolen from the juniors) and Regional Training forums (RTCs, another acronym) were implemented to co-ordinate and facilitate the development of CISV around the globe.

I was pleased to find a document in this years AIM papers that indicated how specific efforts are being made, to help NAs grow from promotional association to a full blown chapter. The document also gives a great overview how these countries are complying with CISV standards, and what to do about it. Very nice, indeed.

The holy grail, however are not those promotional countries, I believe, but existing category A nations. Quite obviously there is a huge variety on how strong NAs and chapters are, and to what extent they are taking part in all of the CISV programmes. Under the label "category A CISV NA" you can find a 20-chapter NA that hosts everything from village to Mosaic down to a single chapter-NA that sends out a lonely village delegation every year, and manages to host a youth meeting every second year.

I really think, there should be some revision to the category system that reflects those differences. I don't want to punish those small NAs, but I would like to have a fair picture, of how strong the NAs are. Furthermore, I would actually like the super-NAs (or G8 as they have been called) to be officially labeled  and to take a bigger share of responsibility in workload and funding. Also I'd like a category system, that encourages small NAs to take part in all of the 7 programmes CISV offers. Only an NA that hosts and participates in all programmes should be called Category A.

Editorial Note: Sammelsurium*.

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During the past few posts I've noticed that I've started applying a standard rhetoric here on FTB, that always starts with a look into the past, continues with some recent development, and ends with a suggestion how to change things for the better. I hope it doesn't get to boring, because it seems the most logical style.

Also, thanks to everybody who promoted my project here at AIM, I've noticed tons of visitors from Guatemala. Hopefully the upward trend continues.

The facebook group now counts 198 fans, which is great. Some people seem to read the posts completely in their facebook accounts, which is ok. However, it's a bit weird, that some people comment on the original website, and others in facebook. I'm not sure what to do about it, because obviously, I'd like to have all comments united. Obviously not everybody has a facebook account, so "open commenting" will be the main focus. Even if I do respect that people prefer posting comments "behind the facebook walls" instead of in "public", I'd prefer if you guys were posting to the open website.

*Sammelsurium is German for miscellaneous.

In 2004 at AIM in Israel, almost two full days were spent on brainstorming, discussing and even voting to create the priorities for the first Strategic Plan (2004-2009). In fact this was the first time we experienced the Open Space discussion concept, that later was adopted in many other areas of CISV.

While everybody present felt enthusiastic, even visionary, the final result of this project, I personally thought was fairly lame. The priorities that came out of this process made sense, but didn't really reflect what the group had in mind, and the choices (5 out of something like 25 suggestions) didn't seem ideal. In fact, my suggestion "To consolidate chapters" wasn't even understood the same way by everybody, due to language issues, but still got chosen. What I missed in this process in 2004 was leadership from the IEC to pick and sort, and filter out what made sense. The IEC at the time, however, didn't see their role that way.

The time period for the old Strategic Plan ends this year and at AIM right now a new Strategic Plan for 2009-2012 is being discussed. It has three priorities (Education, Training and Evaluation. Chapters. Profile Raising), and Doc36 in the AIM papers clearly specifiy what should be done to work towards these priorities. There's further documents that go into more detail on when, where and what should be done.

The documents themselves give no indication how it was created, but my sources tell me it's mainly IEC and IO with some input from EDR, ODC, and ILTC. So, as it seems, the pendulum has swung all the way to the other side from a formerly rather passive leadership to a, let's be provocative, authoritarian leadership style.

Reading briefly through those documents, I do like the plan. I also acknowledge the role of the IEC of having a vision, creating such a plan, and re-aligning the organization in a way, that this plan can become a reality. However, to me it feels bad, that the process of 2004 couldn't be repeated to enlarge the number of people giving input right from the beginning. Furthermore, I'm worried that the grassroots will never take ownership of this plan if the "intermediate" level wasn't involved in the process from the start.

Somewhere in the middle between 2004 and 2009 lies the ideal path (or so the Dalai Lama would say....) 

Twitter (AIM reporting part 2)

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Even if I have an account myself and I've read a dozen articles on the success of this company, I never really understood what it should be good for. Today is the first time I'm starting to understand where Twitter works great. And that is this:

While the well-intended reporting from IJBC couldn't keep up with the events happening, it's purely logical that "decentralized" news reporting solves the problem: Since Twitter manages to gather everybody's Tweets (except Lars', as it seems), you can follow things happening at AIM perfectly. Especially now that Per's gotten beyond the "lunch break"-level.

Monica also reminded me of the AIM pictures page, that updates daily. (But please don't bother about today's pictures - somebody was apparently obsessed with documenting every single name sign in the board.)

AIM reporting...

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Earlier this year, I was hoping to have a chance to attend AIM in Guatemala - mostly in the role of a babysitter - but things turned out differently, couldn't get off work and stuff. Now, three years ago, I suggested through a Devil's proposal, to have an official AIM reporter, to keep those staying at home informed. Provide up-to-date information on sessions, deicision, developments, elections, etc.

While the official AIM still seems to happen "on an island", disconnected from the rest of the CISV world, the juniors, usually the first ones to embrace new ideas,  have installed a website that updates everybody one what's happening:

You can also follow the IJBC on Twitter. And then there is Per/SWE, Chris/AUS and Alex/CAN from the Mosaic committee, also twittering.

So far, I'm impressed with the IJBC blog, but there's room for improvement* with the twitterers: Come on, Per, "lunch break"?! You got 140 characters per message, there's got to be something better than that to report!

Update: I fortgot to mention the JBpedia page on IJBC. It's really fantastic, summarizing the session by "goal", "how we got there" and "insiders". Perfect.

*There's room for improvement is a term I learned from former EDR-chair Delia/CRC and is smart for that sucks.

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