August 2011 Archives

Revisiting Twitter.

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Twitter is a strange concept. Most of my friends in Germany have heard of it - especially after the Arab Spring -  but hardly anybody gets it. Why should I broadcast what I am doing right now into cyberspace? Why should I be following others? Facebook on the other hand with its default (really?) privacy setup of posting notes, links and pictures to selected friends seems much easier grasp. In fact, it's almost a trend to refer to Twitter as something that is a trend among nerds.

Personally, I've been following a few friends and other popular Twitter threads for a while, much like I use Google Reader and Facebook: As a personal newspaper and friends update thread. It's only once a year, during AIM, that I actually post stuff, and during AIM in Guatemala was also the very moment, when I thought - now I understand: With a common hashtag (#aim09, #aim10, #aim11 NOT #aim2011), anybody could chip into the conversation. In 2009 and even more in 2010 the #aim201 thread was dominated by cynical remarks of what was happening in the plnnary, much like the infamous chat room that was popular at earlier AIMs. It was hilarious for anybody present, but cryptic to anybody outside the AIM site. With News Of The AIM, we tried to fill that gap, and posted official, objective updates on what was happening in the most important sessions. People still made obnoxious comments, but hey - everybody can post as they like, as long as they do it under their name - and the fact that everything is public censored out the most evil ideas.

Most people gave positive feedback on our AIM-Twitter-broadcast, but maybe there's more in it for us beyond AIM reporting?
This new book suggests, that every organization should have a Twitter-strategy - something Martin brought up in a comment thread a year ago.

twitterbook.pngAs recent events in Japan, the Middle East, and Haiti have shown, Twitter offers a unique platform to connect individuals and influence change in ways that were unthinkable only a short time ago. In Twitter for Good, Claire Diaz Ortiz, Twitter's head of corporate social innovation and philanthropy, shares the same strategies she offers to organizations launching cause-based campaigns. Filled with dynamic examples from initiatives around the world, this groundbreaking book offers practical guidelines for harnessing individual activism via Twitter as a force for social change.

  • Reveals why every organization needs a dedicated Twitter strategy and explains how to set one
  • Introduces the five-step model taught at trainings around the world: T.W.E.E.T. (Target, Write, Engage, Explore, Track)
  • Author @claired is the head of corporate social innovation and philanthropy at Twitter, collaborating with organizations like Nike, Pepsi, MTV, the American Red Cross, charity:water, Room to Read, the Gates Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Case Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Kiva, the United Nations, Free the Children, Committee to Protect Journalists, Partners in Health, FEMA, Ushahidi, The Acumen Fund

With more than 200 million users worldwide, Twitter has established itself as a dynamic force, one that every business and nonprofit must understand how to use effectively.

So: Who's going to work through it a pick out the pearls for CISV? And who's taking on the Twitter Strategy for CISV?

Reinventing the wheel. Not.

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CISV needs to work on it's Organizational Learning.

One of the common misconceptions of IPP is that it is a service programme: Something you attend to help others. It is not. It is a service learning programme. The slogan "Go out, find out, help out" says it all: Helping out, is just one of its goals. The focus of an IPP is a sustainable, long-lasting educational effect on the IPP participant. Among the IPP (staff) trainers it has become somewhat unnerving, that anytime you explain IPP to somebody new, you have to clarify this misunderstanding.

Former IJR Gian/BRA invented a concept that was later called "Gian's curves": Every time a JB board changes, people start from scratch again to reinstate the quality established by the previous board. Only through JB training an actual development can be achieved over the years.

Bildschirmfoto 2011-08-12 um 09.29.45.pngGIANCURVES2.png

Every year there are 60% new trustees at AIM. At IJBC, I believe the amount of new juniors is more like 75%. Some committees have quite high turnover rates as well, so do chapter boards. Any CISV meeting you will go to, national or international, you'll find that less thatn 10% haven been around for more than 10 years. How can we make sure, that things learned in the past are still available today, even if the people are not?

We're not talking about individuals being trained, but about the organization as a whole moving forward. The concept is called "Organizational Learning", and I strongly believe CISV needs to embrace it more. This article - of which I have quoted before is a bit of a tough read but a good start. Looking at CISV, RTFs with all their training workshops are also a great addition to the way we work. Employing people at IO that not only administer, but develop the organization in a professional way also adds to Organizational Learning. I do think there are more ways to achieve this: Organizing our document archives in an accesible way would help. Using electronic media to give newcomers a quick entry into our somewhat complicated structures and procedures is another option. I'm sure there's a lot more ideas out there.

Back to IPP: During AIM in Indonesia I attended a session on IPP training and was quite surprised to hear two Italians, when asked to describe what an IPP is, that many people think an IPP is about working, when it is actually about learning. They knew so well, because both had been trained by Fred, an Italian who had been a member of the IPP committee from 2001 to 2005. Fred has long reduced his commitment in CISV, but the effect of his training lasts on. In some areas, our Organizational Learning curves are doing quite fine. 

Unrestricted money.

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Kevin Starr directs the Mulago Foundation and the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program. In his article over at the Standford Social Innovation Review, he explains, why he prefers giving unrestricted money to a few NGOs, that he likes:

Unrestricted funding on the basis of real impact is a lot more satisfying than worrying about line items in a budget. What is important is the impact per donor dollar: the cost per child's life saved, per family out of poverty, per island species saved from extinction. If we like that number--if we think they are cost effective in terms of impact--we don't have to get worked up about overhead costs or whether employees fly business class now and again.

Perhaps donors feel that they're being more responsible by restricting funding to a given activity when they can track that activity closely. They're not. An organization can faithfully carry out the activities funded with restricted money and still not have much impact. The attempt to achieve tight control and close observation can miss the impact forest for the operational trees.

Over and over again, as a recipient of donations and grants, CISVers have almost gone crazy with creating specific budgets and reports to satisfy the sponsor. Only very rarely we've received flexible financial support, that we could ourselves use the best possible way. Maybe some day we'll find a foundation that thinks the way, Kevin Starr does.

Online Conferencing.

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During my time in the IPP committee we started doing regular chat meetings - we called them VTMs: Virtual Taskforce Meetings. Too my knowledge, they're still doing it today, and other teams in CISV have followed. However, chats are quite slow, hard to follow, and most people start doing things on the side as not to wast time.

Of course there's a ton of software out there, that can make virtual meetings much better, many of which are quite expensive. They include videoconferencing, sharing of files, presentations and even virtual whiteboards. Personally, I have no experience with any of these but WebEx seems to be a good solution at reasonable cost. Click on the 3min tour to get an idea, what it can look like. Cost seems like nothing, if compared to real-world meetings, though.

A more low-tech solution for video-conferencing - without the magic but free - is offered by tge German startup Sifonr.

CISV Germany has conducted an online meeting recently, where one of the board members gave a virtual presentation and others chipped in - I see some potential there.

CISV in Circles.

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Suggesting a flat instead of a pyramidal approach to committee work.

Every bigger chapter usually has a village committee, that takes care of organizing kids into delegations that are sent away and preparing and running a village in the chapter itself. In a bigger NA, there usually exists a national village committee, that runs evaluations, distributes invitations among the chapters and such. Finally, there is an international village committee (IVC) that sets up the football pool (which NA is invited to which camp) and develops the programme further.

With all this talk at this years AIM of supporting chapters, and the new communication approach of the NOTA, which circumvented middle structures (much like the IPP Newsletter), I wonder if there is a different approach than the pyramidal one described above.

Say, every member of a chapter village committee automatically becomes a member of the "Village Circle" (I shamelessly stole the term from Google+) These circles would obviously have tons of members, and there would be the need of moderation. The prototype of such communication would be the "Wall" of a facebook page: The administrators post important updates, but everybody else can post, comment and contribute at will.

Wouldn't it make sense, if anybody recruited for "the village job" in a chapter would immediately become part of a such bigger, international structure? These "Circles", you could also call them "networks", would then communicate using e-mail lists, or a facebook group, whatever communication structure suits them best. There could be monthly online get-togethers, even online training, furthermore exchange of best-practise, discussions on programme development. In a way, this would be the "spider" in the "starfish vs. spider" discussion we had a while ago.

Besides the "Village Circle" there would be Circles for all other programmes as well. Moreover, we could have a "Fundraising circle", a "Profile Raising Circle", maybe even a "CISV Shirts Circle", that shares designs, and gets shirts printed collectively at a cheap location.

It would be much easier for motivated people to get involved in the international meetings through a structure like this, and with an open communication culture, the darn old feeling of having new things imposed upon all the time - common to many a chapter volunteer - may actually go away. Also, the other way around, experiences made in villages somewhere in the CISV world could be communicated in a horizontal manner, instead of trickling all the way up to the head of the pyramid, and then all the way down again.

World Vision, a Christian NGO, has indeed implemented this way of organization and calls the "Circles" Communities of Practise (CoPs):

To devolve ownership of these goals across the networks, the organization focused on strengthening communities of practice (CoPs), virtual gatherings of far-flung World Vision experts in areas such as education, health, agriculture, and water, whose shared experiences could drive institutional learning and change. As of March 2011, World Vision had 23 CoPs with a combined membership of more than 10,000, all using a SharePoint Platform nested within the organization's global intranet. Each CoP is staffed with a senior leader, who listens to needs across fields and sets a responsive knowledge-sharing agenda, abetted by a dedicated administrator who manages and stimulates ongoing collaboration and discussion around key issues.

CoP members engage in different ways and groupings: Some plug in to listen and learn; others actively develop, review, and collaborate on global documents, including strategies and standards for their respective areas. Ongoing discussions take place around best practices, advice and support for applying them, and research proposals to find better answers. The CoP itself is the one place where members and broader management can find all the knowledge assets for a given sector, analyze them, and use them to manage change. Most CoPs also have regular WebEx meetings, where members can discuss issues in depth, as well as an annual meeting where a subset of members come face-to-face to share and strategize.


Something for CISV to try as well? Which committee wants to go first?

AIM over.

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Just a few days ago I came back from Indonesia. AIM was truly fantastic - it was the first time since 2005 that I had taken part from beginning to end - and I'm very much motivated and inspired. So many great people, interesting people, and motivating ideas, great home staff... Of course not everything was great, and, as you might have guessed, I couldn't keep my mouth shut and broad-casted my point of view on a few issues instead: If you haven't discovered out News Of The AIM (short: NOTA) website yet, it's a great chance to catch up with what happened in Bali, for example by reading the daily summaries. If you're more interested in opinionated peaces, try the Corners:

Here's my take on international JB.
I quesioned the role of the board.
A call for a virtuous circle
My idea on how CISV could grow
A look at life/work balance during AIM.

Running the NOTA project was also great fun, we had a motivated team, and it was interesting to figure out, how modern media can help CISV get the message out to its members. Currently we're evaluating and compiling a report, which you can be sure to find here for discussion.

A guest post outlining visions by Teo/ITA.

Even though FTB is on hiatus, and the author is spending is energy elsewhere, I've promised to post Teo's guest post now, so maybe, people will be inspired, while AIM bumped everybody's minds deep into CISV matters. This post includes ideas and concepts for at least 10 regular FTB posts, so prepare yourself for a smoking head, once you've finished reading. But it's 100% worth the time. Cheers, Nick.

The ideas  come from a serendipitous moment on the beach of Rio in which my brain was spinning tring to put together different inputs I had in the last weeks:

1) discussions at the celebration of CISV 60th anniversary by CISV Italy spurred from a panel on how the competencies of design with diversity that you acquire in CISV are nowadays very relevant in many multinational companies. This discussion also generated an interesting digression on how companies might be interested on one side to the pool of talents in CISV (today hiring costs are very high), but also our leadership training tools. To generate those insights were former cisver now at high executive levels in the italian level of some multinational companies.

2) new promotional video by CISV Italy that tries to control the way the organization is presented by centralizing the identity
representation and avoid fragmentation. (

3) brainstorming with 2 very good and smart cisv friends about creating a startup that could use, together with out skills and
knowledge from our educational and professional background, our cisv ASK. This exercise was focused (and still is) to identify a nice for consulting services on the topics of: diversity, leadership, communication, team bundling, innovation, stakeholder engagement, community impact and CSR.

4) seeds of peace video: find the difference with CISV

5) buzz on social networking companies evolution and valuation:
LinkedIn IPO, Skype acquisition, Google and Apple new launches, Facebook and Zynga valuation, etc.

6) value based marketing such as Coca Cola last video

7) CISV Portugal motion about electing IEC as a team, idea that I love if it brings together the idea of a program platform


1) integrate participants from "real" conflict areas in our programs (see seed of peace example: Palestine, Pakistan, etc.) by:
- develop training material and train people to deal with people coming from "real" conflict, possibly hiring specialists
- fly people out and enable them to meet in "neutral" areas
- pay, maybe partially, staff and people/local chapters to "accept" such delegation in camps, to promote this strategy
- fundraise entities sensible to this issues (see coca cola video)

2) create non profit entity, completely controlled by CISV international, aimed at offering  services to companies in exchange of
fee to cover both the cost of the services (full time employees with competitive consulting salaries shall be hired) and program expenses, in order to lower participation and travel fees. The services to be
offered include:
- talent scouting within CISV database, for members that opt in the service. Possibly using tech partnership such as LinkedIn.
- training covering: diversity, leadership, communication, team bundling.
- implementing strategies: innovation, stakeholder engagement, community impact and CSR.

Separate organization will ensure autonomy, similarly to the insurance company.
Fundamental will be the presence in top school focused in the fields of business, conflict resolution, psychology etc etc (e.g. Kennedy school - Harvard, CIPA - Columbia, UN institute - Geneva, ...)

3) create technological tools to expand programs beyond the physical space to the Internet, possibly with the use of social network such as facebook. Partnership should be created in order to anticipate changes coming in society in the next 5-10 years and start thinking about how to include them already in the programs. Possible partners include Facebook, Skype, google.

4) centralized communication strategy, by realizing videos to be translated in all languages and available on the web to unify the brand perception and follow up the rebranding process, not only visually but also with content. it will just required to uniform the external image as we did with the creating of the passport internally. This would not mean stiffly creativity and autonomy of each NA but support them in promoting the organization in a coordinated way.

5) move office to location that enable:
- talent attraction, both full time and interns (today the "war for talents" is as such that companies such as UBS are considering
changing  location)
- networking with NGOs and corporation with funding availability (face to face meeting is still very important for these issues)


a) to make this world a better place we should reach more in all parts of society, with the appropriate means for each audience
b) one of the most impactful way to reach out is changing business as these are the most pervasive institution in society
c) more impactful work could be achieved having people from conflicting countries in our programs (both for our current participants and new target groups)
d) financing programs and the organization in general is becoming more challenging, while ideally participation fees should be lower to increase inclusiveness of the organization.

Integrating the pieces:

- Action 2 will increase revenue to support further actions as well as promote our values and knowledge in contexts much more powerful where a real difference can be made (see why sections point a, b and d)
- Action 1 will strengthen our content and image, to be used for action 4 (why section a and c)
- action 3 and 5 are just required to survive

Action plan:

sell this plan to the current IEC or to the next team to be elected in 2013, but for some items might be too late...

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