As we start 2018, I’ve been reflecting on the concept of choosing one defining word for an entire year. Around New Years, many dictionaries and newspapers announce a word or phrase that characterizes the year gone by. For example, in 2017 Mirriam-Webster’s word of the year was “FEMINISM.” Oxford Dictionary chose “YOUTHQUAKE,” (deemed by some as a random choice.) Dictionary.com’s word was “COMPLICIT.” Collins announced its pick: “FAKE NEWS” (with runners up “ECHO CHAMBER” and “GIG ECONOMY” amongst others.) These words do a good job of conveying the divisions and angst of our times, but many also seem overtly political and slightly inflammatory. (The Telegraph for example chose “Covfefe”). For those of us in the international civil society sector, we continue to support the activism these words represent; while also trying to build bridges to decrease the polarizing effects our words increasingly produce. It hasn’t been an easy year.
If I had to pick a word-of-the year for PartnersGlobal, it would be Resilience. This has been a trying year for our organization and our sector as we adapt to new geo-political and funding realities. Those of us dedicated to peacebuilding and democratic governance have needed a heavy dose of resilience. (The process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress).
What have we learned about organizational resiliency in 2017 that will carry us through 2018?
Don’t Go It Alone: Challenging times and threats to democracy require organizations to band together and build on our collective expertise. In 2017, PartnersGlobal entered into a strategic partnership with the boutique Rule of Law firm, New-Rule. This has allowed us to increase our programming in the technical areas of police reform, access to justice, judicial accountability, public defense, human rights and transitional justice. With in-house experts accompanying our DC-based team, this new partnership has helped to galvanize our governance work and expand our technical networks.
Leverage Administrative Costs/Cultivate Peer Support: PartnersGlobal has enjoyed being co-located with the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) since 2016, and this year welcomed new office-mates the International Association of Women Judges. As three global networks, our open office is full of international gatherings, thought-provoking workshops, coalition meetings and fun fellowship. This arrangement is not only cost-effective, but provides needed energy and support for each other’s work.
Stay True to Your Core Mission: This was a year for renewed commitment to democracy and peace, and we found strength in our long-standing commitment to sustainable impact investment in local Centers for Change and Conflict Management. Knowing this investment is needed now more than ever, we continue to work closely with all the local leaders within the Partners Network; especially with the strong team of our newest member, Partners West Africa – Nigeria. And, we proudly launched two new affiliate Centers: Partners Lebanon and Partners Iraq.
Build-On What Is Working: Many countries are facing democratic deficits in the world, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel to tackles these problems. Our sector has broad experience with what works. For example, in 2017 our Partners’ colleagues from Romania shared with our Latin America team their unique Islands of Integrity methodology to tackle corruption in local governments. This award-winning approach carefully prepares specialized facilitators to work directly with government employees to diagnose their institution’s vulnerabilities to corruption and to develop Integrity Plans. Preparing a new group of facilitators in four countries in Central America was particularly inspiring this past year, and we look forward to expanding the Islands of Integrity program to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.
New Tools for New Times: This year we also reflected on how the changing world requires us to broaden our partnerships and expand our toolbox to respond to changing conflict dynamics. Together with AfP, we launched our Narratives for Peace initiative to uncover new ways we can confront divisive public narratives that are driving polarization and intolerance. By galvanizing diverse talents and perspectives and cultivating strategic partnerships, our Narratives platform is igniting conversations and connections between creatives and peacebuilders to amplify our voices and spur more peaceful narratives in 2018.
Share What You Learn: “Resiliency” has been an achievement in 2017, and is also now one of our main investments to better support the global civil society sector. Many impact investors and venture philanthropists seem enamored with new social entrepreneurs and start-ups. While fresh ideas and new actors are needed, PartnersGlobal also sees value in supporting long-standing NGOs to adapt, innovate, transition and evolve to face new challenges. PartnersGlobal is living resiliency, and we are spreading it in 2018. Together with the international network CIVICUS World Alliance for Civic Participation, we are piloting our new Resiliency+ Framework for civil society organizations around the world to explore new financial models, partnership approaches and program innovations to support democratic and peaceful change.
Our best wishes for a Happy New Year and a Resilient 2018!