Innovation for Change at ICSW – Day Two Recap

Innovation for Change at ICSW – Day Two Recap

Day two of the Innovation for Change initiative was a deep dive into  topics ranging from environmental crimes across Africa, to tools and datasets for researching restricted civic spaces, as well as the promises and shortfalls of the sharing economy in Latin America.

Environmental Abuses from Mauritania to South Africa

by Derek Caelin
Counterpart International

After reviewing reports and analyses of environmental crimes, oil trafficking and biosphere degradation, activists and campaigners from across the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia s discussed extractives, corruption, and depletion of natural resources.

The three main takeaways were:

(1) Government accountability. Although ICSW participants came from different countries they shared similar challenges  in holding   governments and international corporations in check around environmental conservation and oversight. From companies extracting fish waters designated for local fisherman, to corporations appropriating land from villages with false promises of development and infrastructure, to corruption  in  oil markets , participants acknowledged shared challenges s. By connecting diverse civil society actors to address these common environmental concerns, I4C seeks to create global communities of practice that can exchange experiences, skills and solutions for greater impact.

(2) During the session Jennifer Aciko shared how her organization, DefendDefenders, is strengthening the work of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa. DefendDefenders works in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia (together with Somaliland), South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

She stressed the importance of providing accurate and timely information to community members about their rights and also training them to document abuses. If community members can document violations they can improve the efficacy of presenting legal challenges to the corporations and governments carrying out environmental abuses. Other activists agreed that good, verifiable data helps them to conduct their work.

(3) Our group agreed that that academic research about the environment needs to be more accessible and readily available in order to be effective. Specifically, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals need to be grounded in local realities in order to be useful to communities. This will generate a greater impact at the local level.

The Era of the Sharing Economy and Shrinking Civic Space

By Gerardo Torres
Counterpart International

During ICSW members of the Latin America Hub featured live presentations, exercises, and discussions around the uses, benefits and pitfalls of the sharing economy for civil society.

The workshop began with an overview of the concept of the sharing economy and addressed some of the controversies, challenges, and opportunities that the sharing economy poses for the civic space. Four examples were presented of  how the sharing economy is being applied in Latin America and the Caribbean to address the region’s most challenging problems. Problems such as violence prevention, inclusion of marginalized populations were presented to the audience.

Amanda Cahill, director of the Centre for Social Change, used Duncan McCann’s definition of the sharing economy as:

The real sharing economy is where people genuinely do share skills, information, knowledge and/or assets with each other in a way that creates additional value for everyone. People are either linked geographically, by things like freecycle or tool lending libraries, or through an online community, like couchsurfing. These platforms allow people to connect with each other to exchange a good or service without payment.

The speakers presented the many resources the sharing economy can offer to civil society, such as attracting volunteers to organizations, exchanges of crime data, fundraising campaigns, connection of services to marginalized communities to name a few. These resources can help to create solidarity among civil society organizations and to counter the efforts of restrictive governments blocking access to funding.

The closing activity for the session used an interactive fishbowl format in which participants sat in an open circle to answer questions about how the sharing economy impacted the civic space.