Five Oaks Consulting

Organizational Culture

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The many ways in which informal power shows up in civil society organizations

The many ways in which informal power shows up in civil society organizations

Black and white picture of woman planting flag on tiny island in ocean

Our question

How can we as civil society entities be more self-aware of how *informal* power shows up in our organizations?

How can we as leaders and managers be more self-aware of how forms of power that are not related to positional power play out?

This has been on the mind of many of us in the past few years.

My colleague-consultant Esther Kwaku who also runs the neat social enterprise the Nerve Network and I did some work earlier this year which, amongst many things, surfaced insights around the fascinating ways in which informal power plays out in our organizations. Some of these ways you will be aware of; others may certainly cause you to reflect on what’s really happening in our organizations — even during our attempts to shift and share power. The result is a thought-provoking list, we think.

Adding a visualization

And then Dorothy Nyambi, CEO at the development agency MEDA and her colleagues took it upon themselves to commission a sharp graphic designer to visualize the list – so that they too could use the content. Thank you, MEDA!

The result

Result? Voila!  Download your copy of the visualization of the many ways in which informal power shows up here:

PDF version of the Informal Power viz

PPT version of the Informal Power viz

How does informal power show up in your civil society organization? Feel free to use the content as well in your work (please credit us as creators, of course). Enjoy having good conversations about this!

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man and woman near table

NGOs: Chasing Innovation, Funding & Impact?

NGOs: Chasing Innovation, Funding & Impact?

I recently joined Chris Meyer zu Natrup, MD of MzN International, for a 3-part short podcast series in which we had candid, thought-provoking – and somewhat provocative – conversations about the future of the nonprofit sector and the mindsets and mental models that shape the organizations of today.

Now we are back with a live Q&A session on April 7 from 8:30 – 9:30 am ET eager to your questions pertaining to: 

NGO innovation, in particular: 

– if nonprofits are at risk of becoming obsolete

– what NGOs need to do to survive and thrive in a modern, digital world

– what leaders can do to transform their organizations into better-equipped problem solvers and innovators in uncertain times

NGO funding, in particular: 

– the never-ending funding cycle and the seemingly outdated business model which most NGOs are forced to adopt

why some organisations continue to grow while others stagnate

– what NGO leaders can do to make their funding and business models more sustainable

NGO impact, in particular:

– if nonprofits can truly make and measure the impact they set out to achieve 

– why some organisations do not create the impact they desire despite the time and expenses they invest in their programs

– what NGOs can do to create a more learning- and evidence-driven culture

Please submit your questions for Chris & me here in advance and register here to join. We look forward to seeing you there! 

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DiverseTeamFacingBoard

Diversity training does not work. So what does?

Diversity training does not work. So what does?

For good reasons, there is lots of attention going to efforts to make our organizations more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive. Diversity and unconscious bias related discussion and training abound in our international social sector. Clearly, NGOs are following the lead of many corporations and government entities that have installed such training and awareness-raising initiatives. 

There’s only one problem

There is one problem with this. What’s the evidence that these initiatives actually are helpful? Not much, when you look at it closely. The research is clear and consistent: diversity training does not work, and cognitive awareness-raising has limited utility (see here for just one example of a sum-up of the research). 

So what does work?

So what does work? A focus on creating and encouraging practical, widely shared organizational habits and behaviors, such as on recruitment, induction, mentoring, task allocation, talent management, and performance management,  backed up by organizational systems. And backed up by publically transparent metrics and benchmarking. During a recent presentation to the Global Perspectives gathering of the International Civil Society Center, I offered some practical handles. Please see my presentation here.

Instead of talking, let’s focus on our organizational habits and behaviors

I know we love to discuss our values and principles, including when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. But let’s instead focus on some specific organizational habits and behaviors. Talk to me if this makes you curious, or you want more help!

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