Stages of development towards an innovating organisation?

I am asked to identify four stages of organisation development towards an innovating organisation. The idea is that we use this in discussions within my organisation and discussions with our partner organisations to find our where we are in our organisational development processes to become a more innovative organisation.

So far, these are my first ideas:

Stage 1: The organisation sticks to its traditional way of working and is not innovating.

Stage 2: Innovation does sometimes occur within the organisation, based on the actions of a small number of individuals. Time and resources are made available for innovation on an ad-hoc or limited basis. There are no formal processes within the organisation to support innovation within the organisation.

Stage 3: The organisation recognises that innovation is needed to respond to organisational and programmatic challenges. Resources and time for innovation (e.g. pilot projects) are made available as a standard practice.  There are some formal processes to support the introduction and mainstreaming of innovations within the organisation.

Stage 4: Innovation is well-integrated into planning and implementation processes.  Time and resources are made available for innovation.  Learning from innovative ways of working and projects have been integrated into the planning and process cycles.  Innovative projects have moved beyond trials and are now part of mainstream projects.

Does this make any sense? Do you have any ideas to improve this and make it clearer?


A call to action

My pitch for the online platform for big developments projects. This initiative is part of A Call 2 Action.

Developing an online platform for development projects

The 1%Club, Akvo and others have started using online platforms to present and monitor relatively small-scale development projects, to build communities of supporters for each of these projects and to facilitate learning between the projects. These new ways of working, often referred to as development cooperation 2.0, have a lot of potential to be scaled-up and enable transparency, participation and learning in the bigger projects that receive a lot of the available development funds and involving the bigger international development organisations.

As part of the A Call 2 Action (#AC2A) initiative, a group has been formed that aims to explore the potential of an online platform for bigger development projects. This Action Plan outlines the process we envision to develop an online platform (with the working title Insight-out) where bigger development projects are monitored in a transparent way, where all participants in a project can form an online community around that project, and where learning between projects is facilitated. As far as we know, there are no such existing online platforms for biger development projects. By piloting such a platform for bigger developments projects, we aim to learn what organisational changes are needed in development organisations to become active on such online platforms and how it will change the way of working of bigger development players.


Transparency: the aim is to develop an online platform where development players are transparent about what they do in their projects and what results they are (not) achieving.

Participation: the aim is to develop an online platform that facilitates online communities around development projects. These project participants can be both people/organisations/companies that support the project (for example through funding or expertise) as well as people/organisations/companies that are being supported.

Learning: the aim is to develop an online platform that facilitates knowledge sharing between projects and between stakeholders on the online platform. By systematically tagging and mapping all project data and content (manuals, methodologies, etc.), existing knowledge and experience is more effectively shared and found.

Deliverables for #AC2A in 2011

At least three bigger projects have participated in the pilot and have been presented on an existing online platform and have been monitored real time online.

Online communities have been founded around these three projects that are made up by people/organisations/companies directly supporting or funding the projects and by people/organisations/companies that are directly being supported by the projects.

The project data of these online projects is tagged and searchable so it can be used for learning by others.

A final lessons learnt document is developed, describing the challenges encountered by the organisations that have piloted their projects on the online platform, describing the requirements of an online platform that can deliver on the goals listed above, and recommending ways forwards.

Approach: How to develop the online platform?

Step 1: Identification of projects

Step 2: Identification of the requirements for real time monitoring

  • Decide what kind of monitoring data / project data will be published
  • Map where / how this data will be collected
  • Develop manual on collecting and sharing data for real time monitoring
  • Decide on exceptions when certain data cannot be shared and describe processes to be followed
  • Identify and log all challenges encountered within participating organisations with regard to real time monitoring.

Step 3: Identification of the requirements for online community building

  • Outline the opportunities of online community building around projects
  • Collect ideas on how to stimulate/facilitate online communities around projects
  • Identify (innovative) ways to get feedback on projects and project results from both supporters as well as people that should have been supported by the projects.
  • Map / clarify the consequences of direct online project funding (opportunities and threats) for participating organisations.
  • In each participating organisation decide on a direct project funding model (incl. online payment tool and back-end arrangement for the tied funding)
  • Identify and log all challenges encountered within participating organisations with regard to online community building in general and direct online project funding in particular.

Step 4: Identification of the requirements for learning between online projects

  • Outline the opportunities of facilitating learning between the online projects
  • Collect ideas on how to stimulate/facilitate learning between the online projects:
  • Decide on process: how does knowledge / experience need to be shared and exchanged (e.g. workflow and form/packaging/tagging) on the online platform
  • Decide on content: what (type of) knowledge needs to be shared and exchanged (e.g. data and information, sills and competences).

Step 5: Bringing it all together on an online platform

  • Identify existing online platforms for smaller projects that can be used to pilot real time monitoring, online community building (including feedback from online community on project results and direct and tied project funding) and facilitation of learning related to bigger projects (>EUR 50.000).
  • Present the identified projects on one or various existing online platforms
  • Identify and log missing functions.

Step 6: Implementation

  • Keep projects up-to-date and project communities updated by adding continuous real time monitoring data.
  • Stimulate, facilitate the online project communities
  • Stimulate, facilitate sharing of learning between the projects
  • Identify and log all successes and challenges encountered during the implementation

Step 7: Evaluation and Recommendations for way forward

  • Collect and discuss all logs with information on the process
  • Communicate on a continuous basis on the developments
  • Organise reflection workshop with participating organisations
  • Ask feedback from online project communities
  • Bring it all together in a learning document with clear recommendations on ways forward


Insight-out en de platformgedachte

Onlangs gaf ik een pitch tijdens A Call 2 Action. Samen met wat oud-collega’s hadden we een idee uitgewerkt voor innovatie in de ontwikkelingssamenwerkingssector op basis van de platformgedachte.  Tijdens A Call 2 Action bespraken we het idee breder en vormden we een groep mensen die het komende jaar onder begeleiding van een coach het idee gaan uitwerken.

Hieronder een korte presentatie van het idee dat we als werktitel Insight-out hebben meegegeven. In deze blog probeer ik te motiveren waarom we denken dat Insight-out uniek is, voortbouwt op bestaande kennis en praktijken, gerealiseerd kan worden in een jaar, rekening houdt met de lokale omgeving en kan bijdragen aan een structurele verandering van de sector.

Uniek, maar voortbouwend op bestaande kennis/praktijken:

Als onderdeel van de ontwikkelingssamenwerking 2.0 beweging, zie je verscheidene online platforms ontstaan die op een andere manier invulling willen geven aan ontwikkelingsprojecten. De 1% Club en Akvo zijn goede voorbeelden van market place platforms waarop over het algemeen kleinschalige projecten worden gepresenteerd. Dit zijn projecten:

  • die zowel door individuen, bedrijven en donoren ondersteund kunnen worden (door geld of door het inzetten van kennis of netwerken),
  • die zich onderscheiden in transparantie door per project door middel van blogs, foto’s, en video te laten zien wat de voortgang van het project is,
  • waarop zich rond een project online communities kunnen vormen van mensen die het project steunen/leuk vinden en mensen die direct bij het project betrokken zijn.

Deze nieuwe manier sluit goed aan bij de toenemende behoefte van mensen om een meer directe relatie aan te gaan met projecten (in plaats van geld te geven aan een grote organisatie), om meer inzicht te krijgen in waar het geld naartoe is gegaan en wat de resultaten zijn, en om meer interactiemogelijkheden te hebben (commentaar op de voortgang, ideeen geven, etc.). Ook biedt het een mogelijkheid voor mensen in ontwikkelingslanden om zonder tussenkomst van “makelaars” als Oxfam Novib direct in contact te komen met mensen die in hun projecten geinteresseerd zijn. En kunnen ook mensen op wie de projecten gericht zijn meepraten over de kwaliteit van het project en in contact komen met anderen. Op een overstijgend niveau biedt zo’n platform met projecten ook de mogelijkheid om te laten zijn waar alle projecten zich bevinden op de kaart, kan er kennisuitwisseling gaan plaatsvinden tussen de verschillende projecten, etc.

Nu zijn deze initiatieven nog vooral gericht op kleinschalige projecten (bijvoorbeeld tot 5,000 euro). Als we het organisatorische systeem van ontwikkelingssamenwerking echt willen veranderen zullen we echter moeten kijken of dit model ook kan werken voor de grotere projecten zoals die nu worden uitgevoerd door grotere internationale NGOs. Pas als deze organisaties echt worden uitgedaagd op hun speelveld van grote projecten, pas dan zal de sector echt worden uitgedaagd om de manier van werken te herzien.

Ons actieplan is om eens te gaan testen wat er allemaal bij komt kijken om grotere projecten op een online market-place te zetten en te gaan piloten met crowfunding, grote transparantie m.b.t. de projectresultaten en het opbouwen van een community rond zulke projecten. Dit is uniek, want dit wordt nog niet gedaan met grotere projecten van de gevestigde INGOs. We zullen in het proces echt moeten gaan leren wat de specifieke uitdagingen hiervan zijn.

Het is niet de bedoeling dat we zelf een digitaal platform gaan ontwikkelen. We kunnen gewoon gaan piloten op een of meerdere van de bestaande platforms (1% Club, Akvo, PIF World, Worknets) en in kaart brengen wat voor extra functionaliteiten er nog gewenst zouden zijn.

Kan het gerealiseerd worden binnen een jaar met een kleine groep mensen?

Binnen een jaar kunnen tenminste 3 projecten gepilot zijn, kunnen de ervaringen in kaart gebracht worden en kan er een plan gemaakt zijn voor verdere ontwikkeling van een succesvol platform voor grootschalige ontwikkelingsprojecten. Dit is realistisch omdat binnen een aantal organisaties al ideeen bestaan om hieraan te gaan werken. In de groep die aan dit actieplan gaat werken zitten mensen van Oxfam Novib, ICCO en War Child en buiten deze groep van mensen die bij de AC2Abijeenkomst was, beschik ik over een uitgebreid netwerk van mensen die op dit terrein actief zijn (1%Club, Akvo, Partos innovatieplatform, etc.).

De lokale omgeving:

Dit initiatief is in eerste plaats gericht op het veranderen van de structuur van de ontwikkelingssector in “het Noorden”. In onze lokale omgeving lijkt er behoefte aan dit initiatief. In onze lokale omgeving in Nederland is, zoals hierboven al eerder beschreven, een groeiende behoefte aan meer transparantie over de ontwikkelingsprojecten, aan een directere band met de projecten en aan meer interactie. Mensen zijn meer en meer kritisch over de grotere ontwikkelingsorganisaties die vaak een “black box” zijn (de individuele projecten kunnen niet gevolgd worden) en waar vaak moeilijk mee te communiceren is. De sociale netwerk (Facebook) generatie zal meer en meer vragen om een andere benadering. Online zie je dat steeds meer makelaarsfuncties, de tussenpersonen, verdwijnen (de muziekindustrie, het reisbureau, de makelaar, kranten, etc.). Ook in ontwikkelingsamenwerking vervullen veel INGOs de rol van tussenpersoon. Dit initiatief kan dan ook in deze trend geplaatst worden.

Natuurlijk biedt een online market place platform voor ontwikkelingsprojecten ook veel kansen voor mensen in ontwikkelingslanden. Het kan voor hen transparanter worden waar er wat voor soort projecten bestaan, en hoe die gefinancierd zijn, ze kunnen zelf feedback geven op de projecten, kunnen zelf projecten aanbieden op de market-place, kunnen leren van andere projecten, kunnen een online committed community opbouwen rond hun projecten. De macht van de grotere INGOs kan daarmee worden doorbroken. De tussenpersoon moet gaan nadenken over een ander soort rol op het platform.

Duurzame en structurele verandering van internationale samenwerking:

Het initiatief is een eerste belangrijke stap op weg naar een andere inrichting van het systeem voor ontwikkelingssamenwerking. Door de platformgedachte door te voeren in ontwikkelingssamenwerking kan er een machtsverschuiving plaatsvinden in de sector en een hele nieuwe dynamiek ontstaan met als grote meerwaarde: efficiency, synergie, innovatie, transparantie, hernieuwd “draagvlak” en betrokkenheid, en kennisuitwisseling.

Ben benieuwd naar jullie reacties.

Oxfam Novib workshop Ontwikkelingssamenwerking 2.0

Deze workshop wordt aanstaande maandag 17 augustus van 14.00 tot 18.00 uur gehouden in The Hub in Rotterdam (in het kader van The Hub Summerschool)

Bob Overbeeke van Oxfam Novib zal zo nodig eerst kort wat vertellen / presenteren over web 2.0: wat is het, wat is er veranderd op het web?

Vervolgens zal hij ingaan op het organisatiedenken dat hier mee samenhangt: je bedrijf/organisatie als netwerk/platform, zelforganisatie, controle uit handen geven, co-creatie, etc. Dit zal eventueel nog aangevuld worden met wat lessen uit het boek What Would Google Do?

Dan kijken we wat dit betekent voor Oxfam Novib en ontwikkelingssamenwerking in het algemeen:

– Voor welke uitdagingen staan we als Oxfam Novib en als OS sector?

– Wat doet Oxfam Novib al?

Vertegenwoordigers van,,, (Worknets) en zullen dan gevraagd worden kort wat over hun OS 2.0 benadering te vertellen. En er is voldoende tijd om hierover vragen te stellen en te discussieren.

Tijdens de presentaties en discussies worden de belangrijkste elementen van OS 2.0 op een rijtje gezet, zodat we tenslotte op basis van deze kernbegrippen kunnen gaan brainstormen hoe OS 2.0 eruit zou zien. Is daarin nog een rol voor organisaties als Oxfam Novib?

Als je geinteresseerd bent kun je je aanmelden via twitter @arjencito

Social Platform for Development Cooperation: How does it work? What does it look like?

I would like to thank all the people that commented on my previous post, both on my blog as well as through the ecollaboration network. For me, the contributions confirmed the need for (and non-existence of) the open social platform for development cooperation organisations that I am proposing.

I will need two blog post to explain why and respond to all the comments and questions that I received:

  1. In this post I will be focusing on the technical aspect of my ideas: How does it work? What does it look like? How is it different from some of the suggested alternatives?
  2. In the next post I will focus on the process side of implementing the idea: How do we get organisations to join and use the social platform? What kind of technical support do they need?

How does it work? What does it look like?

The vision 

From the comments and suggestions that I receive, I get the feeling that some people don’t see the scale of the idea that I’m talking about. What I feel is needed for a more transparent, networked and collaborating development cooperation sector is a worldwide open social platform, that aims to integrate all the actors in development cooperation, in all the countries of the world. I visualise the open social platform as a world wide web within the broader Internet, where all development organisations have their web address (their organisational profile) and that will function as a natural starting point for them to access the information that they want to share and access on the internet? In the same way that a lot of people use Facebook as the platform on which they read news, write blogs, share twitter post, buy books, listen to online music, send messages, and donate to good Causes. The social network platform has become their Internet platform, and this is only just starting with more and more applications being build for Facebook every day. To my opinion, we need something similar for the development cooperation sector. Something of that scale and with the flexibility to keep growing and developing. 

For me this is something completely different than most of the examples of social networks that people have sent me, arguing that we don’t need another similar social network. The type of social network that I am referring to goes a few steps further than existing examples like WiserEarth or plans like Partner Up, not just in terms of scale and ambition, but also in terms of  integrated web 2.0 applications and openness. I am envisioning an open (source and content) social platform that can be improved by the users and in which everyone can develop applications that fit the needs of the users. I am very interested if the plans of CIARIS (to develop an application, called Shirikisha, that can give clear picture of all the connections between the organisations) are anywhere along these lines.

Some examples of the features

My ideas for functional features within the social platform are endless. Below I will give you a few examples that may help to visualise the idea. In the future I would love to work with the people of the Common Craft Show to explain to whole idea in Plain English, or with the creative people from Free Range Studios, but for the moment you’ll just have to do it with my own descriptions. 

Each organisation will have an organisational profile page. One of the challenges is doing justice to the various types of organisations there are. There are INGOs with HQ in London and offices in 30 developing countries. Or organisations like the Red Cross, with a Federation office in Geneve, National Societies, and hundreds of local branches. The connection and information needs of the HQ and Federation office are very different than those of the national offices of the INGO or the local branches of the Red Cross. Therefore I think that we need an option to create sub-profiles, that are aggregated at each level up. At the same time, we need to keep in mind (like Alberto Nardelli wrote in his comment) that “at the end of the day people, even if as representatives of an organisation, and not organisations, use social networks”. This brings up the question who’s is adding information to the organisational profiles. It could be one person, the communication department, or people from various departments of an organisation. But it must be possible to develop an application that various people in the organisation can use (upload documents, tag bookmarks, geotag project locations, update and describe connections, etc.) and that will generate the aggregated information on the organisational profile. So we are talking about social networks underlying the organisational profiles….are you still with me?

Another feature could be multilayered profile pages. One layer developed by the organisation itself, but anolther layer that presents the way beneficiaries and supporters see the organisation and the results of their work. On this layer beneficiaries could upload fotos, show long-term impact, share successes or lessons learnt from failures, validate the work of the organisation, link up with other people that are supported by the organisation and get to know their experiences. Supporters can subscribe to the cause, can start online discussions with the people who’s social needs are being addresses, leave critical remarks, and where the organisation can interact and engage with their audience. So again, a social network in itself that feeds into a layer of the organisational profile. This could even be linked to existing applications like the Causes application in Facebook).

On their organisational profiles, the organisations will be able to specify what kind of organisation they are (tags), what kind of work they do (tags), where they work (geotags, although not sure if you can also geotag regions), they can add their Connections (the organisations that they directly work with) and describe the nature of each connection (including tags). They can than add the applications to their profile that they feel they need, for example to share publications/ training materials / evaluations (tagged), to share videos (tagged), to present projects or campaigns together with other connections (tagged), to work on shared documents with their connections, to offer donation possibilities to their supporters, or to ask beneficiaries to provide their input for reports. The possibilities are endless and a lot of already existing applications can be used.

Based on all the tags (think that are generated, but also based on the location and the themes the organisations work on, an application can dynamically connect organisations around different parametres of similarity. This is the Neighbours function. Through this function the organisations can discover potential new Connections, or at least they can see who does similar work and make sure they coordinate their work with them. Based on the tags, the Neighbours function can not only show the organisations working on the same theme or in the same region, but also show organisations in other parts of the world working on similar project and using similar training materials.

And of course there will also be a Home page, with feeds from all the Connections and tags that the organisation wishes to follow. This is the page where employee of the organisations will have a look at every day.

Matthew Slater commented: “The complexity of organisations and relationships and projects in the non-profit world could be very hard to model”. I agree and this elaborated post probably confirms that. However, I think with the existing technology and with the developing semantic web, we finally have the possibility to do just that.

Another social platform for development cooperation?

I received some interesting reactions on the launch of my idea to start developing a social networking platform for all player in the development sector.

Commenting on the launch of this blog, Brit Bravo suggested to have a look at WiserEarth. This is a directory and networking forum that maps out and connects organisations that are working on social justice, poverty, and environmental issues.

Josien Kapma pointed towards an interesting blog post by David Wilcox where he discusses a number of web initiatives that claim they are the Facebook of the non-profit sector (the most interesting ones perhaps being My Charity Page and UnLtdWorld).

In the comment section of the Social Innovation Camp page where I presented my ideas, Brechtje Walburgh Schmidt suggested to have a look at Kanaal Sociaal Nederland. This is a platform where Dutch non-profits can share information about projects, publications and links with regard to various social needs they are addressing.

By email, I received comments from Dorine Rüter and Johannes Schunter. They both advised me to look at CIARIS, a Learning and Resources Centre on Social Inclusion that aims to strengthen development cooperation practicioners’ capacity to design, plan, manage and evaluate projects and policies to fight social exclusion. To do this, CIARIS collects information and knowledge and connects people.

Dorine Rüter also wrote that although she supports the idea of cooperation and keeping eachother informed in the development sector, her first reaction was: “not another portal!”. She stressed that I had to keep in mind that ICT-illiterate or resistant staff of development organisations may not be willing to invest time in yet another social platform.  

After reviewing all the suggested sites, it’s clear to me that none of them comes close that what I have in mind and what I think is needed for the development cooperation sector. CIARIS is an interesting resource centre and network of people, not a social platform where organisational profiles are linked to one another. Kanaal Sociaal is a knowledge data base and a directory of organisations working on social issues in The Netherlands, but it’s not a social platform using web 2.0 technologies. UnLtdWorld does use web 2.0 technologies and integrates a lot of the applications that I envision for However, they again focus on individuals.

What I am looking for is a social platform that gives a clear picture of all the connections between the organisations, using the basic applications of a open social network. In , everyone can see who are my Friends (the people that I indicated as my connections) and who are my Neighbours (the people that have a connection with my based on the content of our dynamic musical profiles). I think we need the same type of social application in development cooperation. Every organisation could have a dynamic profile (a much more productive version of our individual Facebook profiles) and could show with which other organisations it has linkages. For example an INGO with an office in Honduras has a profile that shows what it’s doing in agriculture. It shows linkages to 20 partner organisations (i.e. farmer associations and community based organisations) in the Northern part of the country, a link to a Fair Trade organisation in Germany, a link to the FAO, a link to consultancy agency that they hired for capacity building, and all their data (together with data from other offices of the INGO in Africa) feeds also into the master profile of INGO.  Each of the partner organisations they work with have a profile as well. That profile should confirm the connection with the mentioned INGO, but may also show lots of other connections they have. All connections have a discription specifying the nature of the collaboration (like in Facebook, where you can edit details about how you know your contact) and this could have linkages to for example shared project pages. All profiles are developing based on (geo)tags that the organisations linked to the training materials, evaluations and publications they uploaded, the themes they work on, geographical areas they work in, the organisations they link to, the articles they’ve bookmarked, etc. The resulting organisational profile pages can function as web 2.0 additions to the websites of organisations, or even replace them.

Such a global, open and dynamic social platform for organisations, generating very valuable “development cooperation data” does not exist at the moment. In my opinion therefore, this is not a proposal for yet another development portal or social network. It’s something completely new, with a totally different functionality than the examples suggested by the people that commented on my blog posts. 

The WiserEarth example suggested by Britt Bravo comes closest to what I have in mind, but still is a long way from what I am proposing. It has an impressive database of 108,000 user-generated organisational profiles and was developed to address a similar need as the one I have advocated in this blog. Most importantly, as part of the WiserEarth application each organisation can add other organisations to its network. Sadly enough, that network feature is not really working. There are only few examples on the WiserEarth site of organisations that have added the organisations they are linked to. Why? Is it because of the reluctance of employees of these organisations to be updating yet another social network. Or does it have to do with a broader reluctance of the development cooperation sector to provide openness.  

Development Cooperation needs a redesign in its architecture and a shift towards networked collaboration. However, it’s clear that it will be a challenge to roll out a global social network where all organisations are providing openness about their work and how they are embedded in local and national networks. That’s why this should not just be driven by the organisations themselves but also be pushed by funding agencies, the general public, and the people who’s needs these organisations are addressing.