The focus of the Johannesburg conference was “Navigating Disruptive Change”. Over 100 senior executives of ICSO local NGOs attended. My top three take-aways from the conference were:
- Disruptive change is about scale, speed and surprise; the point being that it is hard to plan for, but imperative to be flexible and agile for.
- The topic of disruptive change has gone main-stream; no ICSO leader doubted its relevance, threat and opportunity.
- The regional NGOs in Africa were strong and vocal that large ISCOs in the north need not start programs or open new offices in the south; they need to partner with those already present. This is in itself a disruption for traditional ICSOs who are ripe for disintermediation if not embraced.
For further food for thought, I've developed a list of discussion questions, below, for executives to ask themselves in light of the coming wave of disruptive change.
High-Level Questions from the Disruptive Change report
Taking the next steps section of the “Disruptive Change” report, here are twenty-one high-level questions/problems that are faced by International Humanitarian and NGO CEOs...
- What disruptive technology change has impacted other sectors that could potentially impact the humanitarian sector?
- What technologies are on the horizon that may impact our organization?
- Have others taken a cooperative approach to service and program delivery that has worked particularly well? Have we?
- How have we used a positive mindset to embrace disruptive change as an opportunity rather than a threat?
- What types of leadership skills and approaches are needed for periods of rapid change?
- When and how has adaptability trumped preparedness in handling disruptive change such as disasters?
- When has organizational humility been a greater asset than organizational pride in times of massive change?
- When and how have we chosen to be a disruptor rather than prepare and wait for disruptive change to happen?
- What have been the keys to an externally focused rather than introspective organizational culture?
- How have we increased the speed of decision-making and what impact has it had?
- Where have we taken on significant risks in order to get greater returns?
- How have we upped the rate of experimentation and become more failure tolerant?
- What upgrades in knowledge management have paid off for our organization?
- Where have we been successful in making our organization’s disciplinary and organizational boundaries more permeable?
- Active disruptor, opportunistic navigator, or conservative survivor; which strategy has worked for us? Will it continue to work?
- Do we have global decision-making governance in place to make rapid decisions when a crisis hits?
- How can International Civil Society Organizations better use the opportunities of taking a virtual approach in implementing our missions?
- How has our organization become more resilient to political disruptions, threats to civil liberties, and crises due to climate change?
- How have think-tanks and industry organizations increased our resilience?
- What big questions are we not asking that we should?
- How would we uncover the new, unasked questions?
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