The End.

I had hoped to close down FTB after exactly three years – the traditional duration of a CISV term. I got carried away with a few things that still needed to be said. Anyway, now is the time to finally say goodbye. Bang: I’ve written more than 260 posts and received more than 800 comments. Most of these were from Lars/NOR, Hani/LEB, Flo/AUT, Sarah/USA, Martin/USA and Teo/ITA. Thanks!

During these years, I actually discovered my passion for writing. I never thought I enjoy writing stuff as much as I did. Some inspiration for my style, I think, came from my daily readying of the Economist (which I liked to quote) on my way to work, which has a special spicy and sometimes quite funny way of discussing issues. Good read.

I’m quite aware that at times I might have been a little harsh, even if this was only brought back to me once. If I hurt your feelings (or gotten on your nerves), I’m sorry. I’m the kind of person that talks before he thinks and even if I consider myself a global citizen, I’m German enough to be perceived as rude in many cultures. Sorry again.

At times, I have been a little disappointed with the outreach that FTB had: Most posts got none or only very little comments, my site stats indicated only around 500 page visits a month. The truth, I guess, is that the stuff I wrote about appeals to a very little group of people: CISV-nerds with decades-long experience in both programmes and administration but still enthusiastic about making CISV even better. Of those, I think, I reached a bunch.

I’ve already explained the reasons for closing down before and made suggestions, where this creative energy could be gathered in the future, so I won’t go down that road again. However, I really hope that discussing CISV in all its details out there in the internet public finds another place somewhere on the web.

Now, if I had to summarize the message that FTB sent to CISV – and that is the posts AND all your comments –  it could be the following:

1) Let’s not be afraid of change. In fact, we should try and move faster and develop our content and administration to match the way the global society moves on. We can’t stick to Doris’s ideas forever, and in fact, I think she wouldn’t want us to.

2) CISV is a great organization and it’s a pain in the apple that we can only educate such a small amount of people (I consider roundabout 8000 small). Our philosophy, our tools, our programmes are really meant to reach more individuals, and we all need to make an effort that we will grow. Entering a virtuous circle is fun: More participants, more money, more projects, outreach.  That’s what we want. Ask the Portuguese!

3) As a global organization we should make use of electronic communication tools and social media as much as possible. It’s almost like Facebook etc. was invented for CISV. If we had the money, we should hire a dozen of geeks, who host hackathons and create beautiful and convenient applications for CISVers to use.

4) Numbers are cool. I guess, we shouldn’t hire a Central Informations Officer, but at least Helen and Bebbe at IO are quite Excel-savvy. Now, let’s dig those numbers, and try and figure out tendencies that we can correct or build upon. Challenge gut feelings with real numbers. An organizational dashboard would be cool, as a start. And somebody should keep working on the bubble charts. Oh, and don’t forget the Balcony Index!

5) Chapters, not NAs should be the centre of attention. I’m repeating it, until you kill me.

6) Mosaic should be renamed Local Work. Ok, just kidding.

Even if this post sounds like it, I never meant to preach – just provoke and inspire. I hope I did.

Good night and good luck.

Cheers, Nick

PS: In case you’re curious, where I’ll be spending my energies instead, here’s a few of my non-CISV-projects on the web (most of it in German): Foto-Tennis (if you like photography), Kardioklick (if you are a cardiologist), fusino (if you like betting and big football tournaments).

PPS: I’ll be keeping the FTB-twitter alive for a liittle longer, just in case I really need to air a thought, but somehow I doubt, that a 140-character-format will meet my needs.

iPhone App.

I’ve been owning an iPhone for the last 16 months, and I’ve been thinking for a while that there should be an app for CISV. Here’s the features I suggest:

– My address book: All contact details of people that I ever went to camp with. Also to all people who have important roles international and in my chapter. Basically a mobile version of a (improved) CISV friends.
– What is CISV? A 5-minute introductory video I can show my friends, that have no clue.
– All of CISVs most important definitions: What’s our mission, what are the goals of a summer camp, etc, etc.
– A calendar that reminds me of upcoming deadlines
– Links to the most important online resources.
– A list of vacant volunteer positions.

More ideas welcome. Anybody with a bit of free time for that? And I guess it should be for Android as well…

Mosaic And Interhcange

Part III of the Chapterization series looks at two neglected programmes.

(Check out part I and II, if you haven’t yet)

Finally I’ve managed to work myself through the data that Bebbe and Helen kindly provided on Interchanges and Mosaics hosted in 2010 and 2011. The first thing that I found appaling is the amount of cancelled programmes: Both Mosaic and Interchange face cancellation (or withdrawal or refusal) rates of around 50%. The second thing I noticed, is that we have no standard way of naming our chapters. In France the chapters go by regions (“Rhone”) but then in the programme pools, by cities (“Lyon”). Furthermore some chapters are written in the national language (“Wien”) others in English (“Rome”).  Sometimes even the lists switch between NAs and chapters (“Quito” and “Ecuador”). Oh, and then there are two chapters called Victoria (Canada and Australia) – the Brazilian Vitoria, at least, has a different spelling…

Looking into the numbers, it’s clear there are a few Interchange Afficionados: Lyon Graz and Lisbon, all hosted 10 or more ICs within those two years. Other chapters seem to take part in interchanges disproportionately little compared to the camp programmes they organize.

Adding Interchange and Mosaic data to the earlier hosting figures, which only included international camps, the picture of our 10 biggest chapter changes slightly:

Lisbon is now by far the biggest chapter in the world. Lyon, Modena and Campinas all are major Interchange and Mosaic players, so that they should be considered top 10 chapters.

If you look deeper into the numbers, you will see that there are 16 chapters around the world who are unable to host any of the camp programmes, but do participate in interchanges: No wonder, an interchange requires no camp site, no staff and very little fundraising. Turning the argument around, you could say: Compared to other CISV programmes it’s easy to host an interchange.

During last year’s AIM I suggested a growth strategy for CISV in a post on the NOTA website. My suggestion was to focus on Mosaic and Interhcange. The main reasons:

  • Both are comparatively cheap to host and light in administration.
  • Both are flexible regarding age and together involve CISVers of all ages.
  • Interchanges involve families
  • Mosaics have outreach and build partnerships with other organizations
  • Interchanges are easy to grasp (because less unique)
  • Mosaics involve the chapter members in CISV’s educational content
  • Both programmes suffer from huge cancellation numbers, hence have big growth prospects.

Now, let’s try and calculate how many more participants CISV could have if every chapter hosted one interchange and one Mosaic. I’ll be modest and calculate an Interchange with 7 and a Mosaic with 10 participants: There are about 110 chapters that didn’t host any interchange in 2011, makes 770 more potential interchange participants. Then we have about 180 chapters that didn’t do Mosaic, that would be 1800 participants. So, if we could actually implement a growth strategy that results in every chapter hosting those two programmes, we would add roughly 25% to our existing 8k. We would actually move into the 5 digit-realm with our participants.

Now, trying to summarize the three posts on Chapterization, I think it’s quite reasonable to boost the role that our chapters have in the organization at this point in time. Aiming at a different way we look at CISV we should perceive ourselves as an organization that exists in 194 places on 5 continents around the world. No mention of a country. We’re global, baby!

Combining Chapterization with growth, here are some steps we would need to take, to make that happen:

a) We need to create a definition of the role and purpose of a chapter. This paper should define basic prerequisites for a “CISV branch” to be considered a chapter. Two basic criteria for a chapter could then be the hosting of one Mosaic and one Interchange per year. Another one could be democratic structures and an active Junior Branch.

b) Every chapter that fulfills those basic criterias should receive a vote in our international organization. Of course not all chapters will participate in AIM, so giving proxies may become somewhat more common. The board may transform itself into a “parlament” (quote Lars/NOR) and  sessions may have to be run differently than today.

c) CISV chapters that do not fullfill the basic criteria should receive special attention by the international organization and supported with training and “hosting-point-indepented” invitations to international programmes. Ideally such “promotional chapters” will grow into full chapters over a certain period of time.

d) Every chapter should be charged with a basic administration fee. Most chapters are charging membership fees anyway, so transfering some of these to international should be feasible. This fee may be unpopular, but it will at the same time offer a second, steady route of income for CISV international and help gain independance from international participation.

e) For easier administration, chapters names should be standardized and could be given a certain numeric or alphabetical code.

Friends with benefits…

…and how “CISV memberships” could be taken to another level.

While watching the rather dull rom-com-movie with the same title, a notion came back to my mind regarding CISV memberships:

Every time CISV International budget get’s tight, people figure, that we have a somewhat strong dependency on our international programmes. Hosting one or two less villages automatically yields in a 5-digig reduction in our income. Basically, CISV International is a junkie, addicted to international participation: Reduce the number of programmes by 20%, and we can fire a few IO employees, reduce AIM to 3 days and shut down a few committees.

Let’s take a step back and look into the way we see ourselves: Most CISVers would agree that you don’t become a CISV participant, you become a CISVer. Joing a CISV programme makes you a CISV-person for life.This is also reflected by the strong opposition to calling CISV Friends CISV Alumni, as it was first suggested in 2001: It’s not like you graduate from CISV.

CISV chapters in Germany and elsewhere around the world exploit this idea, by asking (or demanding) families to become members in their chapters, and quite a few stay as part of the chapter for many years, even if the kids don’t take part in CISV programmes every year. I still believe my family is a member of CISV Darmstadt, even if myself nor any of my brothers have done a CISV programme since 2005. Passive members, if you like: Annual fee, but little in return.

This large, global “membership base” is one of our biggest assets, that we seldom think about.I wonder if anybody ever tried to calculate, how many “members” CISV has world wide. Two conclusions should be drawn:

  1. CISV International should try and support the chapters to make being a (paying) member more attractive
  2. CISV International should be allowed to charge a tiny bit of money for every member a CISV chapter may have.

While this new “membership fee” – which could be very small, like 1 GBP per member – would help generate a steady flow of income for the International organization and  prevent the next increase of the programme fees, here’s a few incentives we could offer CISV chapter members to stay on:

– A CISV e-mail addresse (
– direct postal delivery of our printed publications
– A membership card
– “friends with benefits”

With the last incentive, I’m thinking a “freemium”-concept for CISV friends: Anybody, who is registered, get’s to look at basic data. For those officially listed as “paying member of a chapter”, you get a pimped version with messaging, photo albums, etc. In the age of business networking, access to CISV friends’ contact information may be especially interesting.

The moment you cancel your chapter membership, your CISV e-mail addresse stops working, and your privileges on CISV Friends go away. Bang. Wanna change you mind?

As a nice side effect, these incentives would also support honest reporting of the number of members, when it comes to charging the fee, described above.

Best of 2011.

As in previous years, here’s a collection of most-visited, most commented and personal favourite posts on FTB. Enjoy:

– With two articles I tried to reflect on the Arab Spring: I took a look at CISV’s role and congratulated Rou for moving on.
– My comments on Kiran’s departure backfired a bit – I was criticed (by e-mail) for being disrespectful. However, as a tough guy, I took any kind of response as a compliment, and add this post to the list of important ones.
Carnivors no more what discussed controversially. However, meat is still served in most camps.
Two posts dealt with the dreadful issue of chapters cancelling programmes.
– Interesting question, still: Open recruitment or not?
– The idea of cost sharing with or without a spreadsheet called BasCos.
– The nature of a chapter was the most-discussed post of 2011. Thanks Peter/GER.
– The only guest post in 2011 came from Teo, and due to his Italian nature was a bit confusing. However, it contained a ton of inspiring ideas, that were (so far) undervalued.
– I openly criticized the Peace Fund and nobody dared to comment. Bummer.
– The question of uniqueness.
– The question, whether CISV still targets the conflicts around the world.
– The question, whether CISVers are fooling themselves.
– Looking at CISV USA’s forums I got a few things wrong. Bad research. Sorry. But the message of that post is still valid.
– A lot of people got excited about the Irish voting system. Unfortunately Max/ITA won’t make it happen.
Only Marcos is not a racist.
– A report from a workshop on being a chair.
– Finally, my last big project: A three-part (I, II) article on Chapterization. Part III is still in the works. (“How many and how big” is in fact the leading article in the stats, for reasons I’m unable to understand. I guess, some incredible infuential Facebook person posted a link…)

In 2012 I managed to write less posts than in 2011, which came as a result of the Peri-Bali-Hiatus and my commitment to NOTA. Also the arrival of a new family member, and the consecutive psychological issues of the family member that arrived before that diverted my attention a little bit…

Here’s the posts that I meant to write, but never did and most likely never will:
Seeds Of Peace is an NGOYSK. Also Fontys, because we did something with them. CISV Berlin hosted a cool project on the anniversary of the coming down of the Wall. Some NAs overhost (more than they get invitations for), others underhost – who’s who. Pushing vs. pulling information. The true cost of an AIM (including all travel). All names of all villages in one big cloud image, A website called, that Teo recommended. The “Networkes Nonprofit”, a research article Sarah recommended. “What business can learn from Nonprofit”, more good stuff from Teo I never came around reading… Rudimentary drafts of those posts are sitting there in WordPress and will probably stay until the internet explodes. Oh well…

And one big thank you to the busy commenters of 2011! You bring this place to life!


Ethan Zuckerman and why CISV is not fighting for its values.

I’m not a particular fan of podcasts. Mostly because I don’t know when exactly I should listen to them (e.g. no long commutes), but also because compared to reading, it’s not as easy to speed up, skip paragraphs or even pages. Nevertheless, during my morning run today I managed to listen to Ethan Zuckerman’s fantastic one-hour human rights speech, recommended by Chris/GER. Zuckerberg touches issues, I’ve mentioned before around here, like the Arab Spring, and Malcolm Gladwell’s criticism of online activism.

I’ve been figuring for a long time, why CISV hasn’t been able to grow and become more efficient during the last 15 years, despite the massive growth of free online communication tools and social media. Why are we still more or less the same kind of CISV as we were in the fax-ages? Gladwell probably gives the answer to this: Clicking “like” on facebook on the CISV International group still doesn’t mean the same thing as actively volunteering as a leader, staff or chapter board member.

The other question that came out of the speech for me, is the basic question, why is CISV not an activist organization. Most CISVers view CISV as an educational organization and frown upon people who move out on the streets on particular political issues. However, if we look at out educational areas, most people would agree on the following sentence:

CISV educates in the fields of Diversity, Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Development.

However, is it really such a big step to change that sentence into the following?

CISV fights for Diversity, Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Development.

International JB works closely with Peace One Day and staged some interesting public actions like the Human Arrows, which are clearly activist. Many CISVers in Egypt were very active in the Arab Spring movement, one even quit her top CISV position for activism. So, why the heck is it so difficult for us to take our message out of our camps onto the streets?

Many people have argued, that if we fight for specific issues, we lose our inclusive approach: Parents may not want to send their kids with an organization that for example actively participates in the anti-nuclear movement, even if it’s in the name of “Sustainable Development”.

But, if we continue to stick to a blurred and unspecific concept of a more just world and limit out efforts to the narrow space of our camps, we shouldn’t be disappointed that nobody really knows what CISV stands for and we’ll continue as an obscure NGO with limited impact.

TigWeb and our uninspired search for volunteers.

A link to the website of an organization called Tigweb (“taking IT global”) was sent to me by a friend, and at first glance the content and also very much the look and feel (loads of globes) seems like there should be a lot of overlap with CISV. As so often with NGO service providers,  it seems as a) they cater more to smallish organizations and b) CISV lacks the flexibility to squeeze our specs into the system provided.

Without looking too deep into TigWeb, I think there could be a ton of potential when looking for volunteers: I’m sure, that if you ask randomly people in colleges or high-school graduates whether they’d be interested in volunteering in a global organization, involving travel (yes that’s a sales point!) working towards a more just world, I’m sure you’d get a lot of positive feedback. Opposed to our search for participants, which can easily lead to the situation Ico/ITA once termed Growth Dilemma, I think, our chapters will always be able to offer opportunities to volunteers. These days, my impression is, that we’re mostly relying on former participants and parents.

I very much liked Adam’s nationalized effort to find volunteers for CISV Sweden, and I think we should be brave and endeavor into new areas of finding people, who are motivated to staff, lead, plan local activities or help out in any other way.


Language is an underestimated obstacle in becoming a global movement.

I just finished reading the latest issue of IJB Thinks, feeling mostly inspired by Maru/ARG’s article on the silly (or should I say stupid?) issue of regional (even cultural) balance in our leadership structures (anybody remember AIM 2010?) and the fact that that there apparently exists a co-operation with a cool French street artist, who’s work I’ve always admired. Also, the issue impressed me with great layout.

However, the title of the issue also brought back a notion I had in a conversation with Denise/IO last year, when we spoke about our rather new great working documents “Just sayin'” and “Looking Good”: We are an incredibly English-language dominated organization.

Only one year before I got elected NJR, it was still custom in Germany to have your English skills tested in the FAQ before the elections. Until today true leaders of our organization are usually brilliant in the English language, if they’re not native speakers anyway (currently 3/5 IEC members).

All of our documents, including the ones above, are published in English, and only rarely CISVers go through the trouble of translating them. In fact, the few attempts we’ve made in Germany that I can remember often resulted in mediocre results: There’s just no good word for “Education” in German, as an example.

Combining the two points above, yields in the situation that English-proficient national leaders don’t see the need of translating documents into their native language which adds to the effect of chapter boards feeling diconnected. “How show-offish of him to use those English expressons all the time” is a quote from a national board meeting a few years ago, refering to a presentation on something that was decided upon at AIM.

I’m not sure how to tackle this problem – I guess there’s no money to translate all our documents into 50+ languages that are used in CISV chapters. However, I think that at least we need a little more awareness, that every time a new document, a new statement, even a new “claim” is published, it will take years until it is applied in all countries, and this is – among other things – a language problem. Chapter leaders – many parents who may not be as much global citizens as our international leaders – will keep on using the old, out-dated stuff in their native language that somebody bothered to translate ages ago.
Changes in the way we present our organization, even changes to our core philosophy will take years to trickle down to the chapter level, because it’s mostly in English.

A possible solution would be, to translate important documents into Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Arabic by professionals (maybe CISVers that do this for a living) – that would cover just about 50%* of our chapters’ native languages. (I did actually calculate the percentage, it’s 51,76%.  And I hope you noticed, I’m refering to chapters here, not NAs, to promote the Chapterization-concept.)

We still wouldn’t be catering for regional language differences, though and it would be a huge effort (a new committee, anyone?) But I think this may have a profound impact of how the central body of our organization communicates with the grass roots. Despite the time effort, it would increase the speed at which we develop further and hopefully reduce the feeling of disconnectedness.

If we stick to English only – for reasons of cost or lazyness – we’ll have to wait until language education levels worldwide will have risen a fair bit before becoming a true Global Movement.

Or, we could switch to Esperanto instead.


Editorial Note.

I meant to make a clear cut, finish FTB after exactly three years on December 31st. However, Christmas chores, a nagging cough and other things have prevented me from posting the last few articles I have prepared, but need some refining.I still feel that stuff should be aired, so FTB will have to go into overtime (maybe penalties?).

Since I’ll be on vacation until mid-January with no intention to spend time with other things except my family, please don’t expect anything before January 15th. I wish everybody a good start into 2012, talk to you soon!


A more targeted strategy is needed for this serious issue.

Around 2001 I convinced my room-mate to become a leader in CISV. Everything seemed to be perfect, when the hosting chapter decided to cancel the respective Village. Somebody, whom I regarded as a potential perfect CISVer, who could have been a leader maybe several times i a row, was then lost to the organization. Not to mention the delegation that never went to camp since no replacement could be found, and may have never had the chance to experience any CISV at all. The boards in the sending chapters are also brought into a stupid situation, when their chapter loses a lot of credibility, for something beyond their power of decision.

According to the numbers below, kindly provided by Bebbe/IO, recently the number of cancellations have been going down again after the rock-bottom year of 2002. Nevertheless I regard 4 cancelled programmes in 2010 (equivalent to roughly 140 participants) still a serious issue. Especially relevant also  seems to be IPP – where 1 cancelled programme (2009 and 2010) counts for almost 20% of all participation spots.

What are the most common reasons for cancellation? I have no data here, but my guess would be:

  • Sudden lack of site
  • Failure to find staff
  • Failure to fundraise (or sudden explosion of costs)
  • political/environmental/health crisis

I know that IO usually tries to re-allocate delegations of cancelled camps into free available spots (of which some may exist), but sometimes the dates or location just doesn’t work out for the families. So I think a reasonable goal should be to reduce the number of cancellations to zero.

Creating penalties for cancellations – which come to mind first –  is a dangerous method: A chapter that cancels a programme for one of the above reasons is obviously in a lot of trouble already, and paying a fine or receiving less invitations in the future will only make things worse. Also, some chapters may not sign up to host in the first place, if some of their planning (campsite, money, volunteers) is still shaky.

I would rather envision something like a Chapter-11-bankruptcy: In case of an impending cancellation, a kind of emergency squad steps in: Emergency funds could be re-allocated, international staff could be paid to jump in, money could also provide the solution to the lack of a cheap campsite. Of course nothing could really help a chapter like in Egypt of Japan, where the political or environmental situation simply prevents any CISV camp to take place. The tricky issue of course, would be, how to prevent chapters from abusing such a backup strategy to get access to those funds. Funds paid out as an interest-free credit, repaid over several years could provide a solution.