The Spindle in 2020: Digital Power

A blog by Anne-Marie Heemskerk, Co-ordinator of The Spindle

agenda December 18, 2019

The world in which traditional development cooperation has emerged is changing drastically. Nobody will argue against the observation that digitalisation is the most disruptive trend of all. A trend that offers civil society a great number of opportunities, but just as many challenges at the same time. What are the trends in digitalisation in the context of development cooperation? And what are effective strategies and actions by development organisations in response and anticipation of these trends? What can we learn from best practices of the use of data and digital technology to boost our strategies on inclusive and sustainable development and improve our impact? What actions should we develop to harness countervailing civic power against AI for surveillance, inequality and exclusion and other anti-rights initiatives powered by digital technology?

In 2020 digital power will be a central and cross-cutting theme in the work of The Spindle. It’s a lens through which we look at considering all our activities in order to create maximum impact. The innovation awards, this year’s Spindle publication (in collaboration with The Broker) and the Festival will all be organised in the light of digital power in relation to civil society strengthening and inclusive and sustainable development. Our Civic Space Platform will pay attention to the digital civic space, how it can be used, and how human security issues could be addressed. The Leave No One Behind Platform will share lessons in addressing opportunities and threads of digitalisation in relation to diversity, inclusion and the Nothing About Us Without Us Agenda.

Partnerships on digital
The Spindle was set up by Partos to address the fragmentation of initiatives, the lack of resources, and to maximize the innovation potential among Dutch development organisations and their partners. This is especially important if we want to respond adequately to opportunities and challenges of the power of digitalisation. For our work on digital, we will strengthen our cooperation and build partnerships with parties in the technology sector, among academia and the private sector. We will coordinate our activities with the Digital Agenda of the Ministry of Affairs, and strive for cooperation where we see the added value.

Leading for the Future
Civil society’s leadership is facing a growing complexity of global challenges due to the ever-changing playing field. This is illustrated by The Spindle’s future trends report “Adapt, Counteract or Transform – The Future of Dutch Development Cooperation”. How are CEOs dealing with these issues? In 2020 we will organise a series of peer learning meetings for management of Dutch development organisations on actions in response to trends identified in The Spindle publication Adapt, Counteract or Transform. The series of meetings was kicked off at the Partos General Assembly in November 2019 to identify the most pressing topics and to discuss the preferred format. We expect the meetings will also importantly feed into the agenda of the program of The Spindle after 2020.

Another pressing issue is the issue of power in partnership relations. The Spindle started a series of meetings on this issue in autumn 2018 and set up a Shift-the-Power lab. The lab now concentrates on the development of a practical tool to make power in decision making visible so that measures can be taken to counteract negative effects on the power balance and the impact of the program. In 2020 we will focus on the implementation of lessons learned in the pilots where the tool was tested, and further development (including digitalisation) of the tool.


But first things first …
Lots of energizing plans and exciting times ahead! But first, the time for celebration and gathering is about to begin. It’s time to decelerate instead of to accelerate (what we often aim to do ;-)). We would like to thank you as part of our Spindle community. We are very grateful for last year and for everything that we could achieve with the help of our community. Happy holidays and all the best for 2020!

Next year’s focus: data and digitalisation in development cooperation

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Digitization Study Dutch NGOs

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Adapt, Counteract or Transform: are you future-fit?

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