The nature of a chapter.

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On growth, Mosaic, CISV as a cult and the comfort zone.

Peter/GER, besides being "our guy at IO", sent out a Mosaic newsletter for CISV Germany, where he quotes a common problem of small chapters (roughly translated and shortened:)

"Our Chapter is only able to recruit new members if we can offer them something directly, i.e. the participation in a CISV programme. The number of delegations our chapter can send, however, is  directly determined by the number of programs, we host. So, to send more delegations our chapter should be hosting more, which again requites...

     a) Funding, b) volunteers (staff, organizing team, kitchen staff) and c)  a camp site

Since our hosting is  limited by these factors , our only prospect in terms of growth is, that people remain members of our chapter, even if they cannot participate "

As expected, Peter as a Mosaic-enthusiast, suggests that very programme as a low-cost, scalable and flexible alternative to our classic camp programmes. Even as an outspoken Mosaic-skeptic*, I think in terms of growth and sustainability (just think of travel costs and carbon footprint), he's perfectly right.

Nevertheless, even if the solution to the Catch-22 sounds obvious, I think really embracing Mosaic as a programme into a chapter will fundamentally change the nature of the way members of a chapters interact:

Old: Our CISV chapter is an organization that arranges the practicals for children to take part in an international camp, where they receive non-formal peace education through a programme developed by leaders, trained by us.

New: Our CISV chapter is a community of people that activley engage in various local and international programmes in co-operation with other organizations with the goal of educating active global citizens.

Personally, I'm all for the "new CISV", however, I think there are a few caveats: Volunteers would subscribe more to a "philosophy" than to practical jobs. Moreover, chapters with a strong local community aspect risk of  being regarded (even more) as a cult. Finally, people that meet to discuss sensitive topics may have to move out of their comfort zone - but maybe that's exactly what we want, right?

* without wanting to open a can of worms here, I just think even after rebranding Local Work into Mosaic, the programme still hasn't been able to shake of its teething trouble such as being hard to grasp, very vague in definition and hence unable to take off on a CISV-world-wide-scale. I tried to find an artcile, where I expllore the topic more, but apparently I haven't done so here on the Balcony website. Maybe some time soon...Mosaic-disciples beware!

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cisv germany, opposed to some other countries, works exactly like your "old" model...i myself was trying to figure out for a long time why? and i still haven't...
i just dont understand how some countries seem more into it and suceeding than others...i would love to see the "new cisv" but i'm not sure how we can really get there?

Can you explain this: "Moreover, chapters with a strong local community aspect risk of being regarded (even more) as a cult"? My impression would be the opposite - we seem strange to outsiders because our "culture" seems based on (child-like nonsensical and repetitive) traditions that aren't connected to a philosophy (e.g. a cultish image).
The expanded visibility of the purpose of CISV and the inclusion of other organizations and groups in our community would, to me, make us seem more open and accessible(it might even make us BE more open, but that is another questions) and therefore less strange.
Just curious how you drew that conclusion...

Sarah - as usual I have no proof of my assumption, but my impression is that an organziation with a prominent logo, insider language, hard-to-grasp-philosophy, strong personal interaction etc. is less cultish if it only relates to a kid's summer experience than if it involves your daily life and the whole family.
Take a classic religion like catholicism, which claims influence into an individual's life from birth over marriage to death - not only the Sunday service.

I was truly surprised to find myself quoted here. Someone actually seems to read my newsletters.

Within our Mosaic committee we recently racked our brains why the Programme is not working in our NA - just as Karo did. We tried to understand why some NAs, with equal prerequisites, are very successful whereas others are not. It becomes obvious that Mosaic is regarded as an additional burden in our NA - not as a "tool" or an opportunity to enhance and develop a Chapter in many respects. Unfortunately, it is a long-term process to change a mindset.
However, I see our problems deeply rooted in the structure of our Chapters and would agree with Nick to distinguish between old and new Chapters.
I agree with Sarah that a "transition" to a new Chapter would diminish the cult-image which is, in my opinion, mainly caused by our invisibility and a lack of understanding of our purposes. A strong local visiblity would give us the opportunity to give more people an understanding of our hard-to-grasp-philisophy, even within the Chapter. I'm sure that not all Chapter members are not entirely aware of our educational purposes. Without this understanding they cannot provide it to outside people.
But it also depends on what exactly we do locally. Some traditional camp-activites might indeed promote a cult-image.

It would be interesting to hear a voice from a NA in which Mosaic works well. I'm looking for some advice.

I agree with Sarah: the organisational culture is hugely shaped by the rituals of camp-based programmes. I would venture that community-based projects and programmes will almost always have a less insular atmosphere because they will tend to be: a) less formulaic and thus less ritualized; and/or b) in partnership with another organisation and thus less dominated by a single organisational culture; and/or c) more inclusive of participants new to CISV.

Strong local programming lends itself to a more open and accessible culture. I don't think that the "old" and "new" are mutually exclusive, and I think our challenge continues to be: figuring out how to build bridges between the two. If we don't believe in the "new", however, then CISV looses relevance pretty quickly and eventually shrinks into a marginal boutique travel organisation.

On a different note: the language of Mosaic-skeptic vs. Mosaic-disciple seems counter-productive to rich discussion about the programme. I too recognize the "teething" challenges of the programme, especially as one who is strongly invested in its development.

The pseudo religious language of believer / non-believer invites a polarized conversation. Is the question really: "Do you believe Mosaic should exist or NOT exist?" I hope we can find a more interesting starting point for the conversation.

Its also my experience that the people who misunderstand Mosaic the most or find it hard to grasp are almost always those who have very firm preconceptions about CISV and what a CISV 'experience' is --- ie: those people who have a long history with the organisation or, perhaps, you could say, those who are most cultified by its structured rituals.

My personal experience is that newcomers don't find Mosaic very difficult to understand at all. Just, y'know, for the record.

I suppose this is not the first post Alex is reading here, so I take your remark on my (usual) slightly provocative language with a pinch of salt as well, right?

Pseudo-religious or not, I'm sure everyone of us has his or her favourite programme in CISV, which doesn't mean that the others shouldn't exist.

But, let me explain a little further my perspective: Peter's view is nothing but new, and I also fully subscribed to it, when I learned about it in 1998 when Mosaic was still called Local Work through great examples from chapters in Colombia and Sweden. But throughout the years, at least in Germany, I must say that this anticipated disruption or better transition from what I called old to new never took place, and redefining Local Work in Mosaic didn't help.

To put it in another way: Maybe it's not that some chapters are just to stupid to get it and do it, maybe it's something in the nature of the Mosaic programme that cannot be easily adopted (by some).

And to pass the ball back: Calling the administration of the other CISV programmes the work of a "travel organization" doesn't help the discussion either - ;)

Thanks for the post Nick, this is a really interesting one!

From the original post many things came up in my mind beyond the success of the Mosaic programme. Which is why I love this post.... and will be going off on a few tangents.

I see the relevance of your definition of 'old' and new' chapters - I also appreciate the comment that our real challenge is bridging the gap between the two. I don't think that this necessarily means getting everyone onboard with the 'new' way of thinking - this is unrealistic and perhaps unfair to those who share a differing view, the communication and synthesis of a shared vision perhaps does need improvement.

In my mind, CISV GB is in the same situation as Germany. Though I would say - hurrah... we are finally hosting our first Mosaic project this year. This has come from years of promotion and failed attempts, and as you mention - it comes down to the fact that our chapter volunteers predominantly like task based responsibilities - they also see them as the most urgent. That is fair enough, it's the easiest way to recruit and manage volunteer efforts - and directly link volunteers to the reason they are helping (eg their children went away on a camp).

So... selling a vision getting people on board with CISV because of what we think and believe. Sounds good to me. It sounds exactly like what our new brand guidelines 'Just Saying' hopes to do with the 'Start with the Why'. I wonder if these can have that sort of influence on chapters operations? I hope so.

So, back to the GB Mosaic. Sounds like a great project, linked to our annual theme Conflict and Resolution, headed up by our strong NJB. It's in essence a National Youth Meeting. This is great - I hope like many Mosaics of this sort it will become an annual fixture for GB and a starting point for more projects of this sort. What a great idea.
(As a side point, you might have noticed that as an NA who likes practical camp based programmes our first mosaic is in the end a youth meeting - which you can drawn many conclusions from)

I have always thought that someone somewhere should be collecting information about national youth meetings, supporting them, sharing resources and ideas, when I was in the IYM TF, I thought that perhaps it should be us, a development of IYMs and YMs - I wonder who could support best practice sharing of this? They surely support chapters and NAs.. how can we develop them further?

Which brings me to my final point. I think that the programme committees have made some big steps in the past years in terms of working together, I think that this can only get stronger in the future with the great committees that we have right now. The benefits of this are moving at a similar place, working on common projects, reviewing educational materials and approaches at the same time, in a streamlined way. I appreciate that this is not easy as it involves so many people and different viewpoints or opinions. It has been nice to see this progression that last few years. If we are talking about getting the organization onto the same page (or maybe lets start with book) in terms of purpose, philosophy and methodology - let's start with the programmes. We have so many people in our Organization who participate in more than one of our educational experiences. We should work together more - as the success of one programme, experience or training could directly effect another.

As much as the make up of chapters can be 'old' and 'new' - some of the committees also have what I would class as 'distinguished' make-ups. There are many positives of this - I like that people 'specialize' and dedicate themselves to something that they are truly passionate about. Does that aid us to have a holistic vision for the organisation though? I think that further development of some great cooperation between committees (which has been happening recently between some) - is the future.

My personal opinion is that Mosaic plays a very big part in the future of CISV, in particular the development of where we are now - to where we are going (Or at least I hope so ;) )

this morning i wrote a comment and apparently did some mistake so it wasn't actually posted... so, i'll try again.
as peter wrote, we've been talking about mosaic in germany recently, thinking of what to do and how.
i agree with sarah and alex, that mosaic can be a way to lessen the "cultish" image of cisv – if mosaic isn't just another cisv camp locally doing the same stuff over and over again.
i personally see mosaic more as a tool than as a programme and i think, this what makes it less easy to grasp or explain compared to any of the other programmes. because it doesn't require a certain amount of tasks done in a certain time... but actually what is the first and most important thing is an idea and motivation. and then comes the shape. so in that way you start from a different place than in any other programme when beginning a project.
for me it is (at least in germany) great potential that isn't present in the NA/Chapter communication in the way it could be. that we don't only do "international camps, where (children) receive non-formal peace education through a programme developed by leaders, trained by us" but that we're also a great network in which one can develope leadership skills, own projects. resources and manpower to exchange ideas and try out something in a "playground". i think this of all the "programmes" i did, was my favorite.
and to me mosaic could be that - for anyone who is motivated to do anything. really, any dream they have of topic to tackle, - an offer to get help in structuring this into making it real.
that is, in my opinion also why it doesn't have anything to do with the "local work" as in lets go barbecue together once a year or month.
what i'm wondering is, if the NA is interested in this sort of development. i think it could have great potential. but i'm not sure that this is seen or wanted.
i personally don't think, mosaic needs a committee on a chapter level at all, but it needs a different kind of approach when promoting it, than being introduced as yet another programme. it needs to be known as a place/person people can talk to, when they have an idea and want to make it come true.

Wow, some good input here. Kudos again to Peter, who brought it up. To me sometimes it is quite suprising, which topics gain interest.

Aninia: Local Work by definition was always theme-based, just like Mosaic is today, it was just completely misunderstood. And to quote a German chapter representative a few years ago: Out chapter is planning a Mosaic now as well, we were thinking of throwing a party. See my point? New name, nothing changed.

I think we are still on the search for our "strategy". Sometime I feel that CISV is a jigsaw-puzzle, with each programme being a piece, where nobody actually has cared to check if the pieces fit together.

If we look at CISV today we can split our members into a few buckets:
- "Participants" (primarily aged under 21), participating in our international programmes, as well as Mosaic (when hosted for CISVers[*]).
- "Leaders", mix of previous participants as well as those joining CISV as adults. Participates as Leaders, Staff, IPP Participants.
- "Parents", typically parents of the Participants, or those Leaders that have been in CISV since being kids. Typically gives administrative/practical support when hosting programmes.

[*] Some Mosaics are generally arranged by CISVers, but participants are not.

"Old" CISV is/was fine-tuned. Participants came with Parents, and together with a few (rather) inexperienced Leaders you could put together a camp based programme. How to do it you get via inherited local check-lists, guides etc. Interchange is similar. This is what I call the instant-soup effect. The mix requires very little "creativity", and has few external dependencies. (Camp-site being the only one.)

Mosaic (and IPP) do not have these benefits. The balance is shifted towards having highly motivated, creative and experienced Leaders. This is probably the group in CISV that we are in shortage of. Unless it is camp-based there is fairly little for the Parents group to do. Depending on the type of activity a Mosaic also does not bring in any new Participants, even reducing the incentive - no kids today, no leaders tomorrow. As a Mosaic is something unique, with heavier exernal dependencies, there is also a higher risk of failure (e.g. that the partner org. pulls out.)

If I look at Norway - many chapters do not have an abundant supply of Leaders, maybe there are no higher-education institutions near-by. The chapters are typically Parent driven, and when the parents ask themselves "what can I do" their conclusion is "I can run a camp as long as I get 3-4 staff". Staff which does not have to do a lot of work before or after the camp if they get the necessary amount of Parent support. Quite easy to find.

To me it leaves Mosaic as a supportive programme to keep motivated, creative and experienced Leaders around. There are a lot of CISVers that want to do more than just doing the basic camps, that want to stretch themselves beyond doing a village every year, and we do need something for them. Consider it the graduate programme of CISV, but I cannot see how this should become the mainstay of CISV. How many people have been recruited to CISV purely based on Mosaic? (Participants, Leaders or Parents.)

With that I think that CISV as such still will remain focused around our international camps, simply as it is what we do best, and because it is what makes us special. It is what gives us most "bang for the buck".

Lars, I see where you're coming from, but wouldn't you say that the future and the future focus for CISV International should be 'making those pieces fit together', so that we are more cohesive as an organization? (I'm sure you'll agree with some element of that, I have seen similar words on this site ;)

I think that the the focus on certain programmes or the success of future programmes will come from the chapters, as it always has. Look at Summer Camp and YM - they have grown by 50% in the past few years because of the will of the chapters to host more. (According to last year's hosting plan, Mosaic has also pretty much doubled their hosting from 2006 to 2010) If CISV International were to focus on the educational similarities of some programmes and how one can strengthen another, some programmes will naturally grow more than others because of what the chapters want. This might be - as you say the camp based programmes. It also might be Mosaic or IPP.

Although I'm not with Lars in all his aspects, I think he leads us to an interesting point: If not all of CISV is for everybody, and the decisions what to host (or lead or participate) depends on the chapters (or volunteers, or participants), then are we ok with having different blends of CISV around the world (or within one country)?

I do think that the different programmes of CISV are so fundamentally different in many ways, that we are really still trying to find a common ground (check my post on tasks for the new educational officer and also the one called CISV in Limbo).

On the other hand, if you have a reasonably sized chapter, let's take Lisbon, and you are able to host all the programmes including Mosaic every years, than you really reap the benefits: Participants will be able to go through a whole CISV career, there's something for everyone*s taste, and there's surely more self-potentiation as the different programmes complement each other.

But for this you need critical mass, and I'd guess that 90% of chapters worldwide don't reach it.

The instant-soup-aspect, Lars mentions, is precisely something that I think makes the classic CISV programmes attractive for most of the bunch of volunteers. For those bored, there's Mosaic and IPP.

oh oh...I'm drifting far away from the original topic of this artcile. Sorry.

Laura: Yes, we need to fine out how the pieces fit together, and even be brave enough to adapt some when they don't.

Nick: I think having a hetereogeneous organization is the only thing natural. In some cultures Interchange is not doable, for others a Youth Meeting is too short and too far away, for other again a Mosaic does not fit what they do.

I would even question our ability to influence the chapters. If what we want to do is to push all chapters to do Mosaic we currently lack both the carrot and the stick. No direct benefits, i.e. hosting points, nor direct penalties if you simply ignore the entire programme, means that our normally very resourceful chapters will look elsewhere.


To reach some sort of consensus on who we are and do/should do/want to do we need a balanced view of all of our programmes. Lately we (the CISV International "crowd") have focused almost solely on Mosaic, IPP, Junior Branch and Chapters (to copy what says on the back page of Activate). One example is that all other printed publications have been cancelled in favour of Activate, which only covers 2 out of 7 programmes.

To me this looks like some strange sense of denial - "we" want to do local activities that change communities to show real impact, rather than the abstract, closed and by now a bit boring camp and exchange programmes.

From a CISV educational point of view this is the difference between 'abstract' learning in an educational institution vs. hands-on experience. My view is that without the 'abstract' learning experiences we also don't have a lot bring to the table when it comes to the hands-on experiences.

A quick word on Activate, for the record: this publication was originally called "The Local Work Magazine" (then later, The Mosaic Magazine) and was renewed by the board for many years to showcase exclusively LW and Mosaic content. A few years ago IPP content was introduced, and then in 2010, the choice was made to focus on "community partnership" content generally.

Activate does not come to be at the expense of other publications. As far as I know Interspectives (CISV's former research publication) and CISV News (a former online newsletter) were let go due to lack of content. Meanwhile, the Annual Review still gets published each year; and if you want a publication that "covers it all", you will find it there. Activate was not a wide spotlight that has become narrower. It's exactly the opposite.

But in terms of publications and profile, I think you've hit the challenge on the nose, Lars: our camps and exchange programmes are harder to tell compelling stories about. Their stories are too familiar (and thus uninteresting) to internal audiences, and too hard to communicate to external ones. This comes back to the question of which set of programmes tend more toward an insular image.

I'm not saying that camp and exchange programmes shouldn't be the focus of publications and profile raising--I actually think there is real potential there. But some work needs to be done by those programmes' disciples to figure out how to communicate those stories effectively. ;)

Interested in giving this "CISV working in the community" thing a try - THIS SUMMER? If you or a friend, family member, or chapter member is at least 19 and enthusiastic for a unique CISV experience RIGHT NOW - IPPs in Norway, Italy, and Canada would be thrilled for you to participate in their projects this summer. You can come back and help your chapter understand how "old" and "new" CISV can work together, not to mention have new motivation to work for all aspects of the organization.
I admit that this note verges on spam (apologies), but there have been a high number of late cancellations - many due to visa issues beyond anyone's control - and these IPPs need a few more people to ensure their success. Italy starts on 20 June and Norway on 24 June, so time is short!!
Please take a few minutes to reach out to a few people who might be interested. I am sure there is someone out there who is thinking "oh, I always wanted to do an IPP!" More information is on or contact for pre-camps, procedures, and other information or have your NA contact for an invitation.

Wow, so much to read - great discussion :-)

I have planned and conducted my "own" mosaic project ( with a group of Lars' Leaders (experienced CISVers), a group of exprienced non-CISV Leaders and a bunch of definitely-not-CISVish participants aged 13 to 17. I think that the 14 days of the main phase of the project have been the roughest, most challenging, most interesting and most educational (for myself) days I ever spent in a CISV-based environment. I further think that this project could not have been possible if it wasn't for a staff that a.) didn't want to do "another Village" and b.) was a bit "outside" its chapter, free to plan on our own and pretty much do whatever we like.

The mosaic project didn't help the chapter at all, and probably didn't help CISV Austria as a whole either - it was just something we did for ourselves (huh, very altruistic!), because we wanted to walk out of CISV's programme box and into the local community.

And maybe this is what chapters should look for - people who are tired of the pony song, flag time and camp meeting, and who would like a new challenge; with support from the chapter, but with enough freedom to make the project actually theirs. Mosaic - more than any other programme - allows for a dedicated, reasonable commitment with self-imposed limits and a lot of creativity within the context of CISV's educational goals; and even though no direct benefits for the chapter or the NA may be measured, it at least continues a tradition of all our other programmes - for no one ever measured how much World Peace has increased since the Village programme either.

nick, yes i get your point. i think the difference to local work (as much as i know) is the structure offered with mosaic. that's still open and giving a lot of space, but also can lead in order to help create a quality-project. anyway, i really wonder why it's so hard in germany to introduce the idea of something that isn't a "solely administrative project" to be organized, found a staff etc. but that there could actually be something to interest people, engage long active members and showing them one option of following through an idea.
flo is totally making my point in this. the project might not have had a direct effect on the chapter and people there. but apparently it was a motivation and learning experience for the staff and i'm sure that the participants learned and the purpose of cisv was served.
and would a "graduate programme" be so bad? i mean, really... is it really about doing programmes that bring us back families and more and more participants? of course, in a way it is, but shouldn't we keep focussing on our main aims also? and see how we can improve in them?
lars, you say cisv work is focussed on ipp, mosaic etc. but is it, really? i mean if you look at the numbers of camps being hosted etc and it's not like anybody is saying, we should get ride of the village and other camp-based programmes, is it?
and also the outcome of the rebranding-process clearly focussed on the camp-based activities (building global friendship...)

i hear the argument that for every social cause there is an organization doing projects already, so how are you supposed to come up with something original. which is true. and again shows that we're not promoting what we as cisv offer especially (rather than other organizations) in this programme - a place to not just serve any social cause which you can do anywhere. but a platform and network and support to create your own project to change something in your world!
what i'm thinking is that mosaic isn't promoted in the way that it could reach it's potential. at least in germany and i'm also taking responsibility in this, as i only realized this now and not a year and a half ago. my point is - mosaic compared to other things in cisv is maybe more like the jb. a place for self-development, making your own ideas come true in the frame of a network that you are already connected to but not purely inside it. and obviously also of learning by doing. and it is true that with this we're not reaching everyone or the average maybe, but this is something for people who want more. and why shouldn't we also promote it in this way? for the people who are committed and want to get more out of it than "regular program".
and i think by making it attractive to be an "alumni"/"graduate" we can have more people involved longer, without them needing to "enter" through jb. ... i don't know is this utiopian?
i think it could really support the "old chapters" to embrace the "new".

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