August 2010 Archives

International Staff Management.

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Three stories.

1. A medium-sized CISV chapter is desperately trying to fill staff positions for a village. They have a few promising candidates, but 4 weeks before the village is supposed to start, suddenly there's nobody. Not one single staff. Brainstorming ideas, and trying to do anything so that the camp won't get canceled they send e-mails about and are suddenly flooded with applications from experienced CISVers around the world, volunteering to be an international staff in that very village. The chapter is even in the comfortable situation to select some of the applicants and the village finally takes place as planned.

2. A CISVer with a ton of experience both being participant and leader applies for the position as international staff in a Seminar Camp. After being asked to take over the more responsible role as the camp director because of the chronic lack of experienced staff, he agrees to this "upgrade" and gets involved in preparations and bringing the rest of the staff together. Suddenly he is informed by an e-mail from the international committee, that two unfavourable reports, some dating back several years, have lead to the decision that he shall not direct this camp but rather be international staff instead.
Understandably upset he decided not to staff the Seminar Camp at all.

3. In order to expand the competence of their team, the staff of a summer camp invites an experienced CISVer from Israel to join in. The delegations are informed about the new staff member through the third precamp. Also Lebanon is invited to this camp and ever since a Lebanese CISV family got into huge trouble a few years ago, CISV international refrains from putting Lebanese and Israeli kids together in one camp - a rule that the particular hosting chapter was unaware of. After the CISV Lebanon is about to cancel their participation, the (reasonable) decision is made to ask the tentative Israeli staff, who is (understandably) upset, to stay at home.

I don't want to dive into the details of these stories, let alone try and figure out who's fault it was, and what exactly should be changed, but they illustrate that the way we are dealing with international staff is far from ideal in two aspects: Apparently there is a huge potential not being used (compare the costs of flying in an international staff with cancelling a camp). And if this potential is actually being used, a lot of collateral damage is generated by our current way of handling things.

Finding volunteers will be an ongoing challenge for CISV in the future, and at least for international staff we should try and create some form of an official, open, transparent, fair and efficient marketplace system to allocate motivated people to the chapters in need.

Win win win?

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On measuring our success and an innovative way of fundraising.

Last week's Economist has a must-read briefing on Social Innovation. Early on it pinpoints one of our key problems in social organisations that I've also covered here before:

[The] purpose is to find social innovations that have succeeded on a small scale and to help them have a far bigger impact. Officials call this "investing in what works". But how do you know that an innovation works? Businesses have profit; the social sector lacks a similarly simple yardstick. Often the things that are easiest to measure--say the number of people coming through the door of a community centre--tell you nothing about an activity's effects.

I really think one of next strategic priorities should be to try and find ways to measure our success. It's not enough to talk about the number of kids we send to camps, we need to see what kind of impact we are having. However, the article goes on to talk about innovative ways to pay NGOs for their efforts:

A potentially even more important British innovation appeared recently: the social-impact bond. This is a derivative tied to the performance of a non-profit organisation that is trying to tackle a difficult social problem--in the first instance, reducing the rate of reoffending by young prisoners. Private investors hand money to the selected organisation (including, in this case, a charity, St Giles) which then has the long-term capital to scale up its model without having to spend a lot of time raising funds. Depending on the recidivism rate, the government will pay investors in the first bond a return of 7.5-13%--or nothing, if the promised improvement is not achieved. In many ways the social-impact bond epitomises the new approach to social ills. It provides long-term funds for promising ideas; it transfers risk to private capital markets; and it costs public money only if the scheme provides specific social benefits.
Wouldn't that be fantastic? Imagine this: A donor or better "investor" gives CISV money up front and a government programme pays the donor an interest fee, according to our success (which, by then we should be able to measure). The "social investor" takes the risk, the goverment pays and we do the work. Or the other way around: The investor makes money, we get money, and the government only pays if there's any success. A real win-win-win I'd say.

CISV Shirts reloaded.

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Thumbnail image for cisvshirtlogo.pngNo more bells and whistles, but back online with a new layout and a new editor.

Check it out, and post pictures at will.

In Limbo.

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CISV left the Village doctrine but hasn't quite found its new identity.

Life was easy, when CISV was still mostly the Village programme: The name of our organization made perfect sense, the concept of a camp bringing kids together from different nations was easy to explain. And what a lovely story, that it all went back to Doris Allen, who read the NY Times and said, "We have to start with the children".

In the 21st century now, CISV consists of 7 programmes that should all be treated equally: Three of these (Mosaic, Interchange, and to some extent IPP) aren't really camps, two (Mosaic and IPP) don't specifically deal with children and one (IPP) even goes beyond the main concept of education by definition, by making a contribution to a community.

So what the heck is CISV? How can we bring it all together? Quite obviously it's all mostly about education. We're looking for cross cultural competence, based on the ASK-model. We're talking Peace Education (again) and we're building global friendship and active global citizens. But it's all getting quite complicated and somehow the key stone appears missing.

Apparently, with the loss of the Village programme as our centerpiece everybody is a little bit lost as what CISV really is. No wonder, we're discussing the tagline again, we just agreed on 4 years ago. No wonder we've recently created a dozen committees that deal with raising profile, education, evaluation and so on. No wonder, we had to throw the educational circle over bord and came up with 4 new areas. Similarly Section T got an overhaul and is now called "The Passport" and "Big Ed." And even if it seems like a minor point - our not-so-old branding guidelines are also being questioned

It all seems like a big mess, but hopefully some day it will all nicely blend together to a great  new identity that we all, from the IEC down to the village parent, can easily understand, commit to, and convey.

Oh, and it's a great time to be around, because dynamic times are also times where creative and inspired people can have influence and shape CISV for the future. But what that future looks like, we still need to determine.

Twitter: Failed.

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A solution still needs to be found to broadcast AIM updates.

During the AIM 2009 in Guatemala, which I tried to follow from home, I grew enthusiastic about a crowd-sourced way of distributing updates to anybody not present through Twitter. So this year I had the chance of attending the first half of AIM, and even spending a few hours in the plenary, so I chipped in and tweeted a few updates from the plenary.

Unfortunately the twitter thread turned more into an open-access chat room, full of insider jokes and comments on what was happening in the front. It was loads of fun for everybody present, but when I left AIM and tried to get updates, I noticed that I had to read between the lines, what was actually happening.

Finally on the last day of motion discussions and voting the Internet broke down altogether, and nobody ever made the effort to publish what had happened afterwards. Apparently these are the limits of crowdsourcing, and apparently we do need one or two individuals to be made responsible to broadcast AIM updates to the rest of the CISV world - either from the host NA or from one of CISV's official bodies, like the newish Internal Communication Commitee.

I really think this is one of many ways to simplify top-down communication, and reduce the time that our grassroots find out about important updates.  Or shall AIM remain another example of the infamous CISV bubble?

How alike am I to you.

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A few years ago I remember somebody joking that in CISV kids are prepared and trained in a way, that they shake off their own cultural background an obtain a "CISV culture", so that when they finally meet in a camp, they all have the same culture and will easily have a happy experience together. Of course, this is not entirely true, but the  main thing highlighted by this idea is that CISV emphasizes alikeness over difference - and that's a problem.

For the Village programme you could argue that finding out that kids from different nations are not so different at all could serve as one of the main objective., but for all of the other 6 programmes we should move beyond and explore and discover differences instead. I'm not talking about differences in obvious things like language, cloths, etc, but differences in the way we behave and think - the true deep-rooted strains of our cultural differences. I'm worried that we are still far from the stage of actually having the tools to do just that.

Still some work to be done.

Kudos to Tamara/USA for this one.

New bosses.

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Why we got the IEC we got.

Congratulations to Pilar, Laura, Basma, Chris and Brett for being elected as our new IEC (International Executive Committee). Thank you, Lupe, Sarah, Lene, Maru, Graeme and Teo for running for those positions - The fact that there are so many volunteers willing to take over responsibility in our organization draws a positive picture of the future. Lars and the Elections Committee did a great job in finding candidates and organizing the elections. I was especially impressed with skyping in Pilar for the Q&A session - without that, I don't think she'd ever have had a chance of becoming elected.


FTB endorsed 3 of those 5 candidates, so we're mostly happy. A few thoughts, however, should be aired:

Was the board of trustees so unhappy with the work of the past IEC, that they chose to elect a completely new IEC? At first it gives that impression, but the truth is that the trustess had but one choice to vote for continuity, and that was to elect Lene as the new president; No other individual from the old IEC ran again, and Lene only ran for that position. I do think that Lene would have easily beaten Chris, Teo and Pilar as a vice president, but with the current setup of trustees, and taking cultural views into account, Brett seemed to fullfill the expectations of a senior head of the organisation more than Lene. Brett furthermore represents a continuity of the tradition of Doris Allen and thus has seems to center on the village programme when talking CISV (Check out his article in IJBThinks). No situation could have better described Bretts view of CISV, when during the Q&A he dreamt up a new programme for CISV that would spin off CISVers into hands-on projects, pretending that IPP and Mosaic didn't exist. Also, many a trustee said behind closed doors that  Lene should rather prioritize her newborn baby, whereas Brett's current political aspirations were never really on the table. These rather conservative views of the electorate makes us wonder how we ever deserved such a rather progressive IEC as the last one.

In a recent article I spoke about the importance of getting things done among our group of leaders. People that have worked with her know that maybe next to Teo/ITA no other person among the candidates exemplifies this better than Sarah/USA. However, this is a quality that is hardly recognized during meetings, and having a cultural balance among the IEC members seems to rank higher in the list of priorities. Thus, Sarah never had a chance of winning, after Brett had become president. Basma and Pilar with their rather „exotic" cultural background apparently better complemented Laura, who easily won the second round of elections for executive trustee, especially after her impressive presentation of the AIM structures analysis. Again I wonder, how the heck did the board ever free itself from cultural limitations and agree on two Norwegians and one Swede in the past IEC?

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, FTB is optimistic with the current IEC setup, and time will tell if the trustees have chosen wisely. As much as I liked the old IEC and repsect their work done, they left behind a huge mess with the service committees. More big chunks of work lie ahead, if CISV wants to increase its impact on society and stay at the cutting edge of building active global citizenship.

(Did you notice my use of the tentative new tagline?)

Real Life Trustees.

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Today at AIM, the trustees told us what they do in their real life, so here are the statistics:

13 are students (sociology (2), anthropology, management, law (3), economics, finance, medicine, education, administration).

As expected the top 5 includes teachers (7), information technology people (4), doctors (4), lawyers (4) and working for NGOs (4).

Anybody worried about our budget should welcome the fact that we have two bankers two acountants, and one person working in finance in our board.

Other trustees apparently deal with interesting products such as refrigerators, essential oils, wine and "oil and gas". 

The others do stuff like sales and marketing, finance, insurance, politics, urban studies,
marketing, graphic design, botanics, American studies, business development, business development, education,, human resources, consulting, art museum, design, communications, human rights, career advising, civil service and financial advising.

Finally, one trustee is "at home", and one is retired.

The biggest laughs got the trustee, who presented himself as a "former industry spy".

Thanks to Lars/NOR who did the statistics.

Officers vs. Chairs.

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Almost unnoticed, power is being shifted from volunteers to the IO.

In an earlier post I suggested approving Mtn06 and Mtn08 and simply criticized the fact that we keep resorting our committees, but after some more thought I think these motions deserve a little more attention:

CISV is currently in a process of restructuring almost all international committees that don't deal directly with programmes. Within this process, a new Educational Department was founded last year, which consists of 4 committees that go by the acronyms EVR, LTC, EDC and IPT. Every committee has a (volunteer) chair (or is in fact currently looking for a chair), and the whole department is managed by an IO employee - currently Kiran as the educational officer.

Similarly, if those motions are passed, there will be a new Profile Raising Department, consisting of three committees (ICC, ORC and PRC) and a Organisational Development Department with two committees (SGC and OTC). Denise from IO will be in charge of the former, Bebbe for the latter.

Now, what I'm curious about, and I don't think this has been either formally discussed let alone fixed on paper, how the chairs of these committees will co-operate with the IO officers, and will actually be in charge? IO employees will have a huge amount of (paid) time available to spend on the projects, and won't be limited by a six-year term. Most of them don't have an extensive CISV background in participating, leading nor training and got to know the organisation through their professional perspective. Yet, I'm guessing that sooner or later, they will have far more authority in determining the way these departments and hence CISV as a whole will be developing.

If we complete the restructuring process by approving the two motions this year, we are embarking onto a significant shift of power from the volunteer part to the professional part of our organization, and I'm wondering if this is all good.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want to move back to the old situation, when IO was basically staffed by administrators. I'm glad we have people there now that have a vision and are competent and motivated to  shape the future of CISV. But having professionals not only act as a service structure to our volunteer base but actually deciding the future has some caveats: I'm worried that we lose a certain amount of democratic value, because these people are neither elected nor approved by the board. We are already having trouble filling volunteer chair positions - how much more difficult will it be if they act as "workhorses" for the department chiefs. Finally, with all its disadvantages, volunteerism has always been a core value of CISV, and from a financial point of view, has enabled us to offer high-quality international programmes for a reasonable price.

If indeed, we want to walk down that road, is should happen after a bit more discussion and in full awareness of what we are deciding here.

This is my last post discussing motions here at FTB, because being here at AIM I'll rather spend my time taking part in the most powerful way of communication, and that is face to face. I'd love to include those people who can't be here, but I'm afraid that can't be the purpose of this blog.

CISV Hydra*.

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I tried to draw a new organizational diagram, and this is what I got:


I know, I forgot the PR-Committee (PRC=People's Republic of China!)

*In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra (Greek: About this sound Λερναία Ὕδρα) was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast (as its name evinces) that possessed seven heads -- and for each head cut off it grew two more -- and poisonous breath so virulent even her tracks were deadly.


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Editorial Note

So, in 2010, for the first time in 5 years, I'm attending an AIM again. We arrived a few hours ago and I'm excited to meet old and new faces, looking forward to be inspired and experience the great atmosphere that made me take part in IBMs/AIMs from 1998 to 2005. During the next days I may still be posting articles here on the main website, but as an experiment, I'll switch my main attention to Twitter. Reading tweets marked with #aim2009 was a great way of following AIM last year, if you couldn't come, and I hope it will work out this year again (this is a nod towards Lars, Per and the others who twittered from Guatemala).

Check out aim2010 tweets here.

Update: It's #aim10 instead of #aim2010, sorry.

CISV Story Book.

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To develop the first Strategic Plan in 2004 CISV gathered stories from participants and parents around the world. Everything was compiled into one document, that is just as inspiring and motivating as it was 6 years ago. A true must-read:

CISV Story Book.pdf

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