Tag Archives: EU

Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research

Thirteenth International Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR)
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
10 July  – 13 July 2018

Conference Theme:
Democracy and Legitimacy:  The Role of the Third Sector in a Globalizing World


Conference organizers are keenly interested in a wide range of submissions, especially on topics related to democracy and legitimacy. In addition, ISTR is also interested in research which advances our understanding of theory, policy, and practice of third sector organizations. Conference themes include:

  • Democracy and Civil Society Organizations
  • Challenges and Opportunities of Advocacy by NGOs and Nonprofits
  • Governance, Management, Adaptation and Sustainability of Third Sector Organizations
  • Hybridity, Legitimacy and the Third Sector
  • New Models of Philanthropy and Voluntarism
  • Active Citizenship and Activism
  • The Third Sector and Development
  • Social Innovation and the Third Sector
  • Research on Teaching Third Sector Studies
  • Emerging Areas of Theory and Practice

Abstract Submissions
Contributions may take the form of a paper, a panel, a roundtable, or a poster.  The abstract must be less than 400 words in length.

Full details regarding submission specifications are found in the Call for Contributions.

Submissions for Panels, Papers and Posters
All panel, papers and poster proposals for the Conference must be submitted using ISTR’s online submission service. To submit your paper or poster abstract using this service, go to the ISTR website – www.istr.org/Amsterdam – and follow the link for ‘Submit a Proposal.’

Now that you’re awake, Brussels, here are next steps

A fat, middle-aged, politically-left-leaning woman from Kentucky – me –  is not surprised by the anti-European Union vote in the for-now-United Kingdom. I saw this coming. Why didn’t you?

The shock about the vote from “expert” economic policy advisors and political pundits on CNN and the BBC demonstrate shows just how profoundly out of touch they are with the thinking of so many everyday citizens, just like they were in 2005 about France and the Netherlands and how they felt about the EU. I predicted those 2005 results too, by the way. Back in 2005, I sat in Germany each evening after work, listening to all the experts on TV say over and over that there was no way French voters would reject the EU Constitution, and I thought, wow, you are all wrong and I can’t believe you don’t see what’s coming. And when the French rejected that Constitution, as I predicted, those same experts assured the world that the Dutch would approve it, by a wide margin. Again, I shook my head in disbelief at how out-of-touch they were. Three days later, Dutch voters rejected the constitution by 61.6% of voters.

I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, as we say back in my home state. But I listen. I hear. I heard the comments at parties and over lunches. I don’t speak French, or Dutch, or much German, yet I knew what a majority of people were thinking. Why didn’t you?

eu aid volunteersI was involved in creating the virtual volunteering strategy for the EU Aid Volunteers initiative as a consultant. I also was paid by the EU to research and write a paper, Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU:  Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion, for the ICT4EMPL Future Work project undertaken by the Information Society Unit of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Yes, I’ve benefitted from the EU. I’m pro EU – I think the common currency and common safety and trade regulations are a great idea. I think the common agreements about human rights are a great idea. While I think the EU needs a lot of reforms, while I think they’ve made a lot of missteps, I’m pro EU. But I also listen – and I hear the backlash.

My biggest problem with the EU is regarding communications: the EU has done a very poor job of communicating to everyday citizens about what’s happening, and why. It’s done a very poor job of making everyday citizens feel a part of the decisions that are being made about their lives. Whether the EU has or has not over-reached is someone else’s blog. I want to talk about just how the EU talks – and listens.

Here’s an example of an EU communications misstep. The flag requirement isn’t really the problem; the way it is communicated, and so easily spun by opponents, is a problem. Here’s another example of an EU misstep, regarding overturning a long-held Germany road rule. It’s these kinds of mistakes, over and over and over again, that have alienated people on the grassroots level. They feel left out. They feel marginalized. The “leave” votes are from people who feel very strongly that their language, their food, their values and even their history are under attack by the EU. I have heard these statements again and again from people in the UK that voted to leave the EU: “We are now in control of our own destiny” and “We’re tired of being talked down to.” You built this sentiment, EU. This is the result of your poor communications.

What now, Brussels? If you want the EU to survive:

  1. The EU must immediately employ the same citizen participatory decision-making in Europe that it demands of projects it funds in the developing world. You must discuss with citizens, not just officials. You must ask for feedback from them and show you have heard that feedback. You do a great job with social media. EU agencies and representatives are awesome on Twitter and Facebook. And that’s probably part of the reason people under 50 in the UK voted to stay in the EU. But, Brussels, you do a lousy job at traditional communications methods, and that’s part of the reason people 50 and over voted to leave. Traditional communications methods: lots interviews on TV, including on morning shows and other high-visibility talk shows. Interviews on the radio and local publications. Take your message directly to the citizenry, and get your feedback directly from them. Then show you are listening – talk about what you are hearing, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing. Say loudly when you have altered something because of the feedback of citizens.
  2. You must celebrate the culture and history of individual European countries. You must demonstrate that you honor individual languages and cultural practices and the different values and the different histories of different countries in the EU family. You are going to have to demonstrate that the word multi-cultural includes absolutely everyone – that’s how you get people to embrace that word, by showing that it includes everyone. You are going to have to have individual EU offices integrate that kind of diverse cultural celebration in all of their work. That doesn’t mean compromising on the standards of, say human rights. That doesn’t mean appeasing extreme right-wing groups. It does mean not freaking out that people want to say “I am French” or “I am Dutch” or “I am English” instead of “I am part of the EU.” I am a Kentuckian. I am a citizen of the USA. I am a citizen of the world. I am not a citizen of NAFTA. I’m no fan of David Cameron, but his comment that “It should be nation states wherever possible and Europe only where necessary” spoke to a lot of people’s hearts – not just right wing nationalists, but also many people who are proud of their heritage but don’t want to force it on anyone else. Ethnic, cultural and gender identifiers are each very personal, precious things, and people, even a left winger like me, are possessive of how they identify and want to be identified. That’s something to keep in mind if you work with… well, people. Nationalism doesn’t have to mean segmentation or segregation. It doesn’t have to mean walls. It can mean, “We’re having an Irish music festival and EVERYONE is welcomed!” It can mean there will be a French cheese festival in a small town in Germany and EVERYONE is welcomed to come try some and buy some (lawdy knows I did when I lived in that small town in Germany…).
  3. Talk about the people of Europe for whom life isn’t going well. Talk about what everyday Greek citizens went through – and are still going through – because of austerity. Show them sympathy. Show them compassion. Say why, ultimately, and clearly, their life will be better because of your economic reforms.
  4. Regularly talk about the benefits of EU membership for everyday people. Show it, in statistics and stories. Sell the ideal every day for ordinary citizens. Don’t just assume people know.

You can survive this, EU. But you are going to have to change how you communicate, quickly!!

EU Aid Volunteers on track to include virtual volunteering

eu aid volunteersTwo years ago, I had the pleasure of being hired to put together the online volunteering strategy for the European Union Aid Volunteers initiative. I provided:

  • Background on virtual volunteering – what it means in the EU context, what basic best practices have long been established, etc.
  • Details on the infrastructure and capacity that will be needed by host organizations and online volunteers in the EU Aid Volunteers initiative in order to participate, including policies and procedures and how to address issues around confidentiality and safety
  • Possibilities for how online volunteering in support of the EU Aid Volunteers initiative might look, in terms of applications, screening, assignment creation, volunteer matching and supporting
  • How to integrate returned volunteer alumni networks and peer-to-peer online mentoring into the scheme
  • How to evaluate the online volunteering component of the EU Aid Volunteers initiative
  • How the contributions of online volunteers might be recognized
  • Recruitment of online volunteers to support EU Aid Volunteers and volunteer sending organizations
  • How to address potential risks and challenges, like protection of personal data, protection of confidential data of organizations, fear of negative behavior online, lack of understanding of and support for volunteer management among some agencies, labour concerns that can arise with volunteer engagement, and what to call online volunteers that support the EU Aid Volunteer initiative.

What I loved most about this assignment is that it combined both my background in international aid and development and my background regarding volunteer engagement, particularly virtual volunteering. I don’t often get to combine them!

For the last two years, I’ve checked in regularly on the EU Aid Volunteers web page, managed by the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), to see how things are coming along with this initiative, particularly with regard to virtual volunteering.
eu aid volunteersAt long last, I saw this (at left) as part of the FAQ about the initiative on the EU Aid Volunteers web page .

Hurrah! I’m thrilled to see this. Virtual volunteering is coming! I don’t know when, and I don’t know exactly what it will look like – I made recommendations, but ECHO is under no obligation to undertake them, of course. But, it’s coming!

I have EU Aid Volunteers in a Google Alert, and I also follow @eu_echo on Twitter, to keep up-to-date on this initiative, in case you are interested in doing so as well.