More about the Civil Society Forum

Civil Society Forum

The Civil Society Forum (CSF) is an open forum for people to come together...

...Creating the space for conversations that matter

    ...Developing mutually supportive ways of working (and living)

         ...Stimulating and supporting creative action and productive collaboration

             ...Building a world where all can flourish

The intention of the Forum is to support the processes of building a stronger civil society. This is based on a broad inclusive view of civil society as the arena where people come together to make a positive difference to their own lives and the lives of others.

The  CSF is an open forum for individuals, organisations and sectors to come together and to engage with the challenges and opportunities they face. It does this by:

  • Bringing together diverse interests, including individuals, central and local government, business of all sizes and organisations of all types
  • Stimulating and supporting strategic thinking and learning
  • Catalysing collaborative and systemic action, within and between groups and across sectors
  • Supporting each other to enhance our contribution in the arenas in which we operate
  • Releasing our best potential and thriving in the process
  • Experimenting with and promoting ways of working (organisational practices) that release our full resourcefulness and better serve the collective interests and wellbeing of all

And so, the Forum aims to address the challenges and opportunities we face in a systemic and life-enhancing way and build our collective capabilities in ways of doing this.

Through doing this the Forum aims to build personal, organisational and societal vitality, effectiveness and resilience.

The Challenge

We are faced with the consequences of economic uncertainty, high unemployment, disenfranchisement and disconnectedness, environmental damage and threat to sustainability on a range of levels. Worryingly there is also a growing disconnection between wealth and wellbeing; as wealth goes up, wellbeing is not and even goes down. This is a concern in itself and it increases the suffering resulting from the above issues.

Linked to this –some would say, driving this – has been a massive shift towards individualism and related increase in self-interest at the expense of others. Current approaches reflect this individualistic thinking that focuses on the parts but does not take into consideration the interconnectedness and how things work as a whole. Even with the best intentions.

This has created a greater need to invest in ways of working that better reveal and address blind spots and better serve the collective interests and wellbeing.

The forum has been established as a space enabling people to address this on many levels. It exists so that people can come together and experiment with what this means, address issues, collaborate, share what works, and be open to what emerges.

Read more short perspectives on what the forum is about:

– Colin Grant’s perspective.

– Esther Ridsdale’s perspective.

– Angus Jenkinson’s perspective.

Read more about the scope of the Civil Society Forum – here.

Please get in touch

We would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in knowing more about the Civil Society Forum. If you are interested in becoming involved, becoming a member, partner, etc. please contact us.

Convenors and Directors of the Forum

·       Esther Ridsdale

·       Colin Grant

·       Dr Frederick Holscher

·       Wilja Witcombe

Initial Advisory Board

·       Lucian Hudson – Director of Communications, The Open University, prev head of communications in 3 government departments (founding member)

·       Steve Johnson – Chief Executive of Advice UK (founding member)

·       James Miller – prev Chair and Chief Exec of Abermed Ltd, Chair of The Unreasonable Learners (Scotland)

·       George Por – Director of the School of Commoning

·       John Varney – NED, adviser & coach, OffComm advisory board member, Trustee of V&A, prev CTO of BBC and Director of Technology at Granada

·       Nick Parker – SW Chair of RSA, background in community safety and criminal justice

·       Jennie McShannon – Chief Executive of Irish in Britain, prev trainer in systems thinking on top government development programme

·       Tom Levitt – Expert on cross sector collaboration, author of ‘Partners for Good’ and 'Welcome to GoodCo'

 

What the Civil Society Forum is all about

All sectors of society face profound organizational and leadership challenges as we enter a new era.  Government does not and cannot have all the answers. How can we close the gap in the changing relationship between state and citizen? What role can we all as individuals, organisations and sectors (citizens) play in helping move forward?

Building a stronger society – one where all can flourish – requires us to raise our consciousness; tuning in to the big picture and tackling complex challenges together, and the Civil Society Forum has been set up to enable people to engage with these challenges and make the most of the opportunities. The Forum will provide an open, supportive space for strategic thinking and its implementation, collaboration and innovation.

The Forum will specifically support joint strategic thinking and act as a catalyst for joint and individual action, and more resilient, sustainable partnerships. It will act cooperatively, bringing people together and not ‘owning’ thinking but sharing ideas and perspectives and using resources creatively.

It will tap a vast pool of experience and expertise and belong to all who participate in it. Working together we will broker different needs and interests to work supportively, make the most of shared agendas and produce synergies between individuals and organizations.

 Diagram: Aidan Ward & Esther Ridsdale

Diagram: Aidan Ward & Esther Ridsdale

 

Themes

Themes include:

•    Adjusting ways of working (and living) to better serve the needs of all

•    Collaborative working – working within and across organizational boundaries and across sectors

•    Enhancing collective impact

•    Developing resilience and sustainability in organisations and communities

•    Doing things differently, delivering with less

•    Managing redesign of services and organizations

 

What we want to happen

•    We would like organisations, communities and individuals to be more strategic and proactive in shaping the environment in which they operate, to articulate a bolder vision of the future, and develop their confidence and skills in embracing complexity, risk and uncertainty. What do we need to realise this ambition? What are the insights, approaches, tools, techniques and resources that can enable change to happen? How can we work together more supportively and be conscious, compassionate, courageous and wise in moving forward? How can be become more resourceful, making a positive difference to our own lives and the lives of others?

 

CSF Role = Making connections;

•    Perceiving what is happening; surfacing pertinent things.

•    Identifying the most appropriate development activities. Out of the “busyness”.

•    Enabling people to get to the point of being ready to take bold action - and go beyond that point.

•    Complementing and reinforcing the work of other vehicles / channels for change in the civil society sector and across sectors.

 

Find out about some of the ways of working here:

Ways of working

Mutual Support

Position Statement

One of the main reasons why the Civil Society Forum will make a distinctive contribution is that most (Western) societies have a very sketchy understanding of what constitutes effective collaborative leadership, and we are limited by our current structures and mind-sets to produce better collaboration.Now more than ever we need to bring on a new generation of collaborative leaders who deliver on social outcomes that require high levels of public participation, and leaders to be more confident and competent in working across organizational and sector boundaries and managing the consequences. Civil society is in a unique position to demonstrate that it can act on a real social need by harnessing voluntary and paid resources and optimising a combined commitment across more than a single organization. Leadership needs to be re-thought, re-framed and refreshed so that the emphasis shifts from only fighting one’s own corner and delivering on one part of the solution to synchronising one’s contribution to support and improve the contribution of others. This means actively managing the complexity and risk that greater collaboration inherently generates, and receiving the support and challenge of the peer-group to deliver a sustainable transformation. Lucian Hudson, Co-founder, 23 March 2011

 

Endorsements

•    “As organizations struggle with the need to transform and reconfigure themselves in the coming months… This is precisely the time when we need what you’re beginning to pull together”, Steve Johnson, Chief Executive Advice UK

•    I think that the work of the network – which would have been a useful resource to share ideas and hear about the latest thinking in “normal” times – is of vital importance in these times of dramatic change, Mark Napier, Managing Director, Centre for Public Innovation.

•    “I have really appreciated the excellent work that you’ve been leading…  which has the potential to help transform organizational development and impact in the sector”, Charlotte Gardiner, Big Lottery Fund

•    “We now have real momentum and an invaluable asset that the sector can further build on”, Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications, Open University, former Director of Communications, FCO and two other Whitehall departments.

 

The multiplier – Big Society Barter

The Forum aims and is designed to multiply the effectiveness of all the actors involved in doing their part in enabling organizational effectiveness in serving the common good and building civil society; to serve as yeast in the dough. This has already been demonstrated in the forerunner work of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations Collaborative Learning Network (see the endorsements above).  A further ‘multiplier ‘ mechanism is being developed and will be iteratively evolved.

In current times money is a constraint and inhibits contribution, but modes of organising and governance are also not conducive to people pitching in and doing what they can to make a contribution. A process of enabling people to contribute in wider ways will not only reduce the expense of running The Forum, the costs of participating in The Forum– so enabling far wider engagement – but also multiply the contribution made.

Body of Knowledge

Theme: Improving efficacy – personal, organizational, cross organizational and cross sectoral – efficacy and contribution to building a world where all can flourish

The Forum aims to introduce thinking and approaches that will be useful in addressing the critical challenges and help build a world where all can flourish. The table captures some of what the governance team consider important to bring to the table:

Key focus areas

Strategies, methods & skills

Key focus areas

Strategies, methods & skills

·       Ways of working that effectively serve the individual and wider interests; promoting efficacy, sustainability and ‘wholeness’

·       Contributing to the building of a world that is sustainable and where all can flourish

Holistic thinking and approaches that will bring wholeness in our organisations and society. Systems thinking, holistic approaches, complexity approaches, sustainability, life-enhancing ways of working, integral approaches (personal and organisational)

·       Developing outcomes & outcome-based management

·       Redesign of services

·       Delivering more with less

·       Methodical approaches to improvement (of efficiency & effectiveness)

e.g continuous improvement & list below

·       Service redesign

Process reengineering/ improvement/redesign,  lean, continuous improvement, lean & other transformation approaches

·       Cross sector redesign

·       Advanced level service redesign

e.g. As above, viable systems approach, whole scale change

·       Collaborative strategy & management

Drawing on open space & systemic improvement approaches

·       Ground up working, supporting empowerment in organizations & communities

·       Participative management (& improvement) practices

Drawing on open space & systemic improvement approaches

·       Emergent leadership thinking

e.g. systemic leadership, servant leadership, community building, from ‘masterplans’ to ‘organic order’/participative management

·       Delivering public services

·       Managing the tension between delivering contracts and drawing on strengths of the sectors

Combining best from all sectors; innovative, bottom up, organic working with additional strategies to support operating challenges

•    Ways of working that effectively serve the individual and wider interests; promoting efficacy, sustainability and ‘wholeness’

•    Contributing to the building of a world that is sustainable and where all can flourish

Holistic thinking and approaches that will bring wholeness in our organisations and society. Systems thinking, holistic approaches, complexity approaches, sustainability, life-enhancing ways of working, integral approaches (personal and organisational)

•    Developing outcomes & outcome-based management

•    Redesign of services

•    Delivering more with less

•    Methodical approaches to improvement (of efficiency & effectiveness)

e.g continuous improvement & list below

•    Service redesign

Process reengineering/ improvement/redesign,  lean, continuous improvement, lean & other transformation approaches

•    Cross sector redesign

•    Advanced level service redesign

e.g. As above, viable systems approach, whole scale change

•    Collaborative strategy & management

Drawing on open space & systemic improvement approaches

•    Ground up working, supporting empowerment in organizations & communities

•    Participative management (& improvement) practices

Drawing on open space & systemic improvement approaches

•    Emergent leadership thinking

e.g. systemic leadership, servant leadership, community building, from ‘masterplans’ to ‘organic order’/participative management

•    Delivering public services

•    Managing the tension between delivering contracts and drawing on strengths of the sectors

Combining best from all sectors; innovative, bottom up, organic working with additional strategies to support operating challenges

The approaches support localism and sustainable development.

The approaches will help address the challenges faced in the third sector including the pressure to adopt the business like requirements of public sector contracting and external accountability whilst helping preserve the good facets of current working. They are also approaches which enable all sectors to enhance their effectivenes and contribution to the wider good and limit the negative consequences now and for future generations.

Most of the above methods could be seen as falling under the broad heading and stable of approaches termed ‘systems thinking’and ‘holistic thinking’ (including holism and complexity approaches). Broadly viewed these are disciplines for understanding the structures that underlie complex situations and intervening in ways that are sensitive to overall ‘well-being’ and ‘wholeness’ . These can be considered ‘win-win’ approaches to business / organization. This addresses the limitations of traditional business approaches which focus attention to localised success, hence are often achieved at the expense of others and even at the expense of the wider good of the whole.

[Esther Ridsdale, April 2011]

 

Needs and Approaches

Third Sector focus and how to address the needs. 

 
 

 

 

Feedback from the launch event, 20th April 2011

•    “Excellent start, very stimulating and thought provoking. I feel this is a very important vehicle for learning, influencing and hopefully action”,
       Nigel Newton Sawyerr, previously Collaboration National Support Service; the BASSAC Collaborative Benefits Programme

•    “Felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant,” Phyllis SantaMaria, Micro Finance Without Borders

•    “Good open discussion. It was interesting, informative and extremely thought-provoking and maybe the start of some answers!”
       
Karen Woolley, KLIC4 Training / Chair of Oxfordshire Rural Development Council

•    “Well done on a great event & really inspirational to be connected to other likeminded people who believe in collaborative leadership!”
      
Jennifer Morgan, WWF / The finance Lab

•    “Good thought provoking afternoon… I believe it is the future,” Simon Edwards, social entrepreneur