November 2009 Archives

Cutting out the Middle Man.

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The revived IPP-newsletter from a marketing perspective.

Many international committees publish newsletters. Check out PEANUTS by the Seminar Camp committee. The Mosaic committee even publishes a real paper magazine. These newsletters usually contain stories and experiences from participants that  serve as  inspiration, or inform about the latest development regarding content or administration of that paticular programme.

When I was chair of the IPP taskforce, we also published a newsletter. Next to the usual announcements, the killer app of the newsletter was that it contained the synopsis of every IPP coming up the following year. People could sign up for the newsletter e-mail list and receive a complete list of upcoming IPPs as early as late August. When I usually showed up at the annual board meeting in Germany in November to hand out IPP infos to the chapters, I met a whole bunch of people who already knew which IPP they wanted to apply for.

ippnewsletter.pngFrom the international IPP taskforce perspective the newsletter was an ideal direct marketing tool, cutting out any national or chapter IPP co-ordinators along the way. Not that they were all doing a bad job, but especially in the case of IPP, where adults apply for specific themes or projects (as opposed to let's say the general "village" experience), it is a great opportunity to use this kind of direct push-information. (More like "pull-information", the IPP-website was the alternative direct-marketing tool, but people needed to be actively searching for new IPPs to get there). Instead of relying on two ore three middle men to deliver the information to the target audience, we just pushed the "send e-Mail" button.

So, I'm glad that after a hiatus of a few years, the IPP committee brought the newsletter back (curiously called #1) - and a good-looking one, too.  There's just one downer: Why is there no place to sign up for an e-mail list? The newsletter is out since September, and I only found out today. Where can I subscribe?

Metrics vs. Gut Feeling.

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James/USA pointed me to this interesting article in the NYT (free registration required): 

Welcome to the Age of Metrics -- or to the End of Instinct. Metrics are everywhere. It is increasingly with them that we decide what to read, what stocks to buy, which poor people to feed, which athletes to recruit, which films and restaurants to try. World Metrics Day was declared for the first time this year.

Since I've spent quite some time squeezing CISV into numbers, I take this as a welcome reminder of the other side of the story. While measuring CISV activity still makes some sense to me, the article also links to areas that are just absurd...
The first ever Outgoing Interview - with Adam/SWE.

Adam impressed most people in the board with this sharp and structured analysis and provocative suggestions during his term as CISV Sweden's trustee. In 2007 he got elected into the International Executive Committee. As if that wasn't enough, he soon thereafter started to work as CISV Swedens 's national secretary. This summer he retired after two years busily innovating the structures of one of CISVs biggest NAs.


FTB: How did you experience the difference in doing a paid job for CISV compared to volunteering for the organisation?

Adam: The difference in tasks is not big. In almost all national, promotional and local chapters around the world the Secretary position is a volunteer job. The difference lies in the time you can focus on CISV. During the two years, when I had CISV both as my job (at least
40 hours per week) and as one of my volunteer commitments, many hours of the normal day was about CISV. Sometimes it became a bit too much. But almost all of the time it was a great thing - getting paid for what I was willing to do for free, and being able to do much more of

The past years I've been active in CISV programmes, local chapters, NA and PA development, and CISV International - working with various aspects of the organisation. Being able to tie all of that into the job allowed me to develop a unique experience, giving back to my NA,
and also developing me further as a CISVer, leader and manager.

FTB: What would you list as your biggest achievements during the last two years?

Adam: On an organisational development level I was pretty much interlinked with most of the larger development-projects in CISV Sweden. Meaning, I played a bigger or smaller part in most of them. Nothing could be contributed fully to me, nor could they have been achieved without the diversity within the different teams that worked on them.

During the two years we rewrote the statues for the NA and all chapters, developed a new webpage and implemented a new members-database-system, launched concrete local marketing tools, more than doubled our member base by adding an on-line community as a
chapter, developed a new training system ("Impact"), built an office, made our democratic processes more inclusive and creative, made our cooperation with LMOs more effective, and last but not least rallied the organisation behind a peace educational focus (seen concretely in
Mosquito tactics - A Book About Peace Education).

On a personal level I am proud of having been part in encouraging the development of other leading CISVers in Sweden, both in their roles inside CISV, as outside.

FTB: Sanna/SWE told me earlier this year, that she feels you have successfully turned CISV Sweden into a more professional NGO. What is she talking about?

Adam: The "professionalisation" is most visible in the expansion of the office. More staff in the office helps to better support the volunteer leaders of the organisation, so that they can focus on what is important and motivating for them (usually peace education rather than administration). Also, having more staff allowed us to develop systems (for example for training, information, members-data-base, marketing and evaluation) that could more easily be scaled up and continuously developed as the organisation grows and people change.

But mostly I'd say that the "professionalisation" is visible in the attitude change in which CISVers from Sweden today view them selves, their organisation and the work that CISV does. Basically, it its more fun to be part of an organisation that has a nice webpage, a cool
downtown office, great trainings open for all, and inspirational material (Mosquito tactics) that you can hand to your family and friends.

FTB: Can you tell us more about CISV Sweden's "quest for leaders"?

Adam: We wanted to make CISV Sweden work smarter and more together in different communication/marketing tasks. When building this we talked a lot about working in "campaigns", and by that we meant "communicating one thing, over a set period of time, thru different media".

The "quest for leaders" is the campaign we call "300". The message was "CISV Sweden is looking for 300 volunteer leaders" and the media we used was e-newsletters, ads on facebook, posters and the CISV Sweden webpage. On the CISV Sweden webpage we created a section where we put all the volunteer programme-positions in CISV Sweden (age 16+) for the coming year, app 300 different positions. The section of the webpage allowed the visitor to search on all positions, read more and click on a "I'm interested" on each position.

The results was that we got a lot of non-CISVers to click that they are interested in taking part in our programmes, and several also ended up in different programmes. But the evaluation also shows that we as an organisation were not ready (yet) to take on a lot of new motivated
volunteers a the same time. The campaign will be used again in the fall of 2009.

FTB: Being a paid CISVer did you ever experience any negative feelings towards the volunteers?

Adam: No more or less than before or after being paid by CISV.

FTB: Thank you.

When looking through the numbers today I realized that CISV USA (our strongest NA with a Balcony Index of 58) hasn't hosted a single Youth Meeting in the last 5 years. I doubt that they ever have. It should be added that youth meetings have always been a predominately European programme. Nevertheless IYM has achieved "programme status "in 2008 and thereby should be hosted by all NAs. Brazil (BI: 31) and Canada (BI: 27) another two large NAs haven't been hosting any Youth Meetings recently either.

I think they should.

Introducing the "Balcony Index".

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A tentative tool to measure the strength and sustainability of an NA.

I've been writing here a lot about strong and weak NAs, hosting numbers and statistics. Now, how do you define a strong NA? To measure whether an NA is strong, sustainable and supports the rest of the organization, I would suggest the following four criteria:

1.) Hosting numbers: Sending a delegation is way easier than organizing a camp, so I guess on counting hosted programmes is better than counting sent delegates. 
2.) Number of chapters: The more chapters, the more sustainable an NA is. If one chapter goes down the drain, another one may grow instead. If one goes bankrupt, another may help out. The more (independent) chapters, the better.
3.) EEC members: A strong NA should be able to contribute to the international work done. This becomes most obvious in the people that are in the top leadership positions of the organization.
4.) Mosaic: International camps are a matter of hosting and sending delegations. A strong NA runs a year-round programs for locals as well. If a kerosin-tax is introduced, international travel gets more expensive, international camps will go down. Mosaic will stay.

Now, many organizations use indexes to measure criteria that are otherwise hard to grasp:
ESPN recently presented the Soccer Power Index to rank national teams. Transparency International regularly sorts country by the Corruption Perception Index and The Economist invented the famous Big Mac Index.

So, to bring all those criteria listed above that characterize a strong NA together in one number, I herby suggest the use of the "Balcony Index (BI)". It shall be calculated as follows:

BI = Hosted International Camps + Chapters + EEC-Members + Mosaic Projects

And here are the results for 2008, reduced to the top 20 (full table here):

USA    58
SWE    48
ITA    45
NOR    32
BRA    31
CAN    27
FRA    27
GER    27
DEN    26
AUT    15
PHI    14
FIN    13
ESP    12
POR    11
COL    10
JPN    10
EGY    8
GBR    8
MEX    7
NDL    6

The ranking goes pretty much inline with my personal impression regarding the "strength" of the NAs - just France seems  little too high up there. Interestingly there is somewhat of a gap after Denmark, so I think it's reasonable to speak of a G9, representing the strongest NAs: USA, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and Denmark.

Obviously, the BI has a few flaws:

- Interchange isn't represented at all.
- The four factors are not independent, in fact they depend on each other
- "financial strength" is not part of it, which may play a huge role in sustainability.
- Also there is no criterion for something as "brand awareness", "publicity" or "media attention".

 Any suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Sidenote: When I presented the idea of the Balcony Index to Bebbe from IO during the RTF in Hamburg earlier this year, he suggested adding "number of cisv-shirts printed.", which I thought was funny and even a bit logical, but hard to track down.

Outgoing Interviews.

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Editorial Note.

Most CISVers that you hear giving presentations at meetings or read articles from in one of our publications are people in a position. However, I have the feeling that some wisdom and insights people usually only develop after they retire from their official role. It may even take some weeks or months to analyze and evaluate one's involvement, and take a look at things "from the balcony" rather than from within the crowd. Hence - in the spirit of this website - I decided to start a new series of interviewing people, who have recently left an official position in the organization. 

I've just finished the first interview of this kind, and I'm excited to present it here shortly.

Circles, Lines or Triangles

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A guest post by Sarah/USA.
In looking at what CISV has taught us, I think the way of acting within a group, like facilitation, and leadership skills, are at the top.  But then, what happens when you are in an environment where those skills are not helpful?  Of course, being able to work in a group is important in all settings, but in different ways.  At the moment in my work (in a New York law firm), I am expected to work in a group which I'll call a "line" -  each person as a hierarchy above the other so that if you drew the structure it would be a line (or, if it makes more sense, steps with one person on each step).  In that setting, the newer you are to the job, the less your leadership and facilitation is helpful - in fact, the better thing is to follow.  This is a very difficult situation for me as a CISVer, since I am more used to contributing ideas, making sure everyone is heard, and focusing on the end product.  Instead, I am having to "un-learn" some of the CISV methods in order to be good at my job. 
So I have been wondering whether CISV can make it harder than it might otherwise be to succeed in bureaucratic settings which, for many of us, is necessary at the beginning of a career even if it won't be the future. 
I asked some CISVers who have had what I'll call structural roles in CISV as well as program roles. Carla from Costa Rica has also noticed some of the same re-learning process in her jobs working at the department of education and culture at the OAS and now at the education division at the inter-american development bank.  But she has been able to make small changes to the setting - even organizing "national night" lunches! 
I mentioned this question to Teo from Italy, who is in business school here in New York.  He disagreed - to a point.  Even though he is in a corporate setting, business works differently from law.  He usually works in a group like a triangle - lots of people at the bottom and fewer as you go toward the top.  In that setting, being able to facilitate the work of your peer group, as well as the other skills, helps the product be successful and might help you stand out from that group and thus move up the pyramid.  (This is what I remember of what he said anyhow - maybe he can add more). 
Then James from the USA (who started a new business these last few years) weighed in that maybe it doesn't matter, because none of us really want to be successful in that environment anyway - but want to use it as a learning environment before moving on.  So perhaps we shouldn't change our ways, but only change to a new environment as soon as feasible?
As we look at the idea of what CISV teaches and focus a lot on the ASK model and other things - it is interesting to look at where CISVers are 10 or 20 or more years after doing programs, JB, etc. and whether maybe CISV works very well in preparing people for some types of lives or jobs but doesn't help them too much in others.  So to people in other work settings outside of CISV - what CISV skills do you think are really useful for helping you succeed at your job?  Are there any that you've had to "unlearn"?  Do you think the group dynamics of your work matters so much in the end, or is it the subject matter that CISV impacts more? 

Pacing down....a bit.

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Editorial note.

For the last months I have been eagerly trying to stick to a rhythm of two posts per week here at FTB. There have been evenings, where ideas just kept flowing, and I would pre-edit something like 5 or 6 posts ready to be published. Sometimes, I just couldn't wait to get my ideas out "to the public". Recently I'm realizing that FTB has lost a tiny bit of its initial fun, and even stressed be a little, when I had other things on my mind. So....I've decided to pace it down just a little bit, so that I don't get stressed and I still enjoy it. So, from now on, please don't expect more than 1 long article per week, which will usually be posted on Mondays.

However, to keep the page alive, you'll be finding more short posts, such as links, or pictures, or "thoughts" that I find interesting, without the usual "bling" = pictures, references, etc.

Also, I've contacted a few people, that I value for their views and ideas, and asked them to contribute, whatever they had in mind. So, I'm excited to present the first "Guest Post" shortly, and welcome anybody who wishes to "air" something that fits this webpage to send me an article.

First Aid.

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I don't write much here about my professional life, but as some of you may know, I'm a doctor in training to be a cardiologist. As part of my residency, I'm currently in the Intensive Care Unit, and have to deal with patients that survived after cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Whereas paramedics and emergency physicians are usually well trained, I find it shocking to hear how badly the non-medical people perform CPR: It's really just a few basic things you need to know to improve the outcome of people's lives...

How does this relate to CISV? Quite obviously, CPR is usually mostly necessary with people, who suffer from chronic or acute heart disease. Among the kids and leaders in most of our camps this disease is quite rare. More common are way less dramatic emergencies like minor injuries or trauma. However, how much more shocking would it be, if you made the wrong decision when dealing with a serious situation with a kid participant.

How much emergencies are we talking about? Gaby from IO tells me, there are about 240-270 medical incidents every year, mostly minor scrapes, allergies, and broken bones. Also, a few people have to go home for medical reasons.

What I'm hinting at, is that if you are going to be a leader or staff in a camp soon, I strongly suggest, you get your first-aid skills up-to-date. Some NAs require a first-aid certificate, I would go beyond that and suggest that you specifically inform yourself about first-aid and children of the respective age-group.

If there's no course available in your area, here's at least two websites, that can help you be better prepared:

- deals specifically with children.
- CPR-Dude is also quite informative:
- The American Heart Association even offers online courses for a few bucks:

Maybe NAs should also invite a first-aid trainer to their national leadership trainings, and focus in exactly the kind of incidents, that happen in camps. Or we even get CISV international to prepare a "first-aid"-reader with the most important rules for every camp.

(Oh...and just so that nobody gets me wrong - this is not an indirect online application to become a member of the international risk management committee!)

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

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