Vision & Mission

The lab is...

a think tank and social innovation lab working with civil society leaders, researchers and funders aiming to develop and put into practice strategies that embrace the cultural and systemic root causes lying behind the social and environmental crises of our times.

We believe in...

the power of civil society organisations (CSOs) to play a crucial role in catalysing transformative social and economic change, and develop the ideas and strategies that are needed to address the challenges we face. Our current focus on single issues and short-term goals means that while we may win many battles, we are losing the planet.

Our vision is...

a Great Transition to a planetary civilisation; a transition to a new global political and economic order that has ecological sustainability and the good life for all at its heart.

We are facing increasingly intertwined crises. We are hitting or surpassing planetary boundaries on many fronts. Climate change, biodiversity loss, acidification of the oceans and shrinking freshwater resources seriously jeopardise life on earth. These crises have become highly interdependent and mutually reinforcing and are closely linked to humanitarian crises, such as rising global inequality, poverty and mass migration.

A key root cause of these crises lies in the global neoliberal political-economic system that is growth dependent and which serves the wasteful lifestyles of a growing global consumer class. This system systematically externalises its costs, primarily hitting the poor parts of the population in Africa, Asia and Latin America through exploitation of labour and an increasingly severe ecological burden, and increases inequality within high-income countries.

Humanity on this planet is now so interdependent that there are no national solutions to these crises. We need a Great Transition (Raskin et al., 2002; Raskin, 2016) to a planetary civilisation, a transition to a new global political and economic order that has ecological sustainability and the good life for all at its heart, and which preserves the rich and diverse cultural heritage in the world. It will inevitably mean the establishment of effective global governance, including a just and sustainable global trade and tax system, as well as stronger local and regional economies. The new arrangement will focus on fulfilling the real needs of all people instead of serving the wasteful consumption of a few, and it will preserve the living conditions for future generations and other species. The new system will be underpinned by more cooperative mechanisms and less by market mechanisms and will create a new balance between individual freedom and the common good.

The Great Transition is not a prediction, but a possibility. It is the attempt to engage in a non-violent process of deep cultural change from a capitalist-consumerist society towards one of global solidarity and wellbeing, with humans living in harmony with nature. Nobody has all the answers. Only a process of experimentation, innovation, deep political struggle and deliberation will bring us closer to a new social contract where large majorities in democratic societies find comfort and future generations can thrive.

Our mission is...

to foster a growing learning network of activists/CSO leaders, funders and researchers aiming to build effective civil society strategies towards a Great Transition.

The Smart CSOs Lab pursues its mission through the following objectives:

  • To challenge current practice and thinking in civil society and activism.
  • To build leadership and create strategically important knowledge on how activism can more effectively influence social and political systems towards the Great Transition.
  • To connect a growing number of CSO leaders and activists internationally and help them to learn effectively about system change strategies for the Great Transition.
  • To support CSO leaders and activists to develop more effective strategies for the Great Transition.
  • To develop capacity in activists and organisations in systems thinking, effective framing and other tools to enable them to overcome current issue silos and symptoms focus as well as to help them embrace the complexity of systemic change in their strategies.