• March 2012
    M T W T F S S
    « Feb   Apr »
  • Pages

  • Marginalia

  • Accumulations

  • Advertisements

Foundations of Movementarianism | Transnational NGO Strategy

 It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. –Winston Churchill, on Cold War Russia

Foundations of networks of alliances of movements and federations of local chapters of state and national communities of practice of …

Trying to make good, clean sense of international philanthropic actors requires some kremlinological guesswork of its own, as I have been pointing out now and again in these virtual pages.

Today, let me start with an example blogged last year for my Portuguese-language readers, in an attempt to interest them in the machinery of foreign lobbying and influence brokerage in their own backyard.

Following the classification of virtual organizations by Lethbridge, in terms of ECOLEAD’s  concept of the CNO and its prime component, the Virtual Organization Breeding Environment — «incubator» in the idiom of our VC friends — I say this scenario presents us with explicit, textbook cases of the VOBE and the Market Alliance approaches to flexible — the buzzword is «agile» — value chain-based «plug ‘n’ play» organizational strategy.

We start with the concept of the Virtual Organization Breeding Environment,

… an association (also known as cluster) or pool of organizations and their related supporting institutions that have both the potential and the will to cooperate with each other through the establishment of a “base” long-term cooperation agreement and interoperable infrastructure” [Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh 2005].

And now for some examples.

Like the Atlas Foundation, above, Movements.org — aka the «Alliance for» — not «of», take note — Youth Movements» — publishes a toolbox  of software and open social media strategies for NGOs and individual grant seekers, providing guidelines on how to apply to open calls for funding opportunities. For that reason, we classify it as a VBE Support Institution, like other resource pools that abound in this ecosystem — IFEX and IREX, for example.

The toolbox is meant to enable interoperability and rapid adaptability; in practice, it facilitates a mutually reinforcing set of thematically cohesive communicative actions by nominally independent bodies.

This relative openness — similar to the open call at PRX.org, an exchange for public radio content back home — is what qualifies the network as a market alliance, co-alliance, or value-chain alliance.

[… say  more ] …

Performing a link ecology of networked nodes is capable of creating a clearer picture of top-level collaboration schemes and strategies.

Which, however, are the top-level organizations in these flexible chains of interaction, said to be «unmanaged» and «emergent» in the absence of centralized control and command?

Well, Movements, for one, partners with IYFNet — a network maintained by the International Youth Foundation. It has also partnered with the U.S. State Department and the like — USAID, CIMA@Ned — at signficant industry events in the recent years. The Camp movement, e.g. …

Unlike Movements, on the other hand,

IYF Global Partner Network is by invitation only

There may be efficiencies to be gained from replacing active scouting with open bid solicitations using the global exchange model. In any cases, this policy difference may be seen as marking the difference between a Market Alliance and a Co-Alliance between core and non-core alliances.

In Brazil, IYF also cooperates with

  1. Associação Hope Unlimited do Brasil
  2. Blumenau Pólo de Software — Software Free Zone
  3. Comitê para Democratização da Informática Brazil — democratizing access to IT
  4. Fundação Abrinq — children’s rights
  5. São Paulo Rotaries
  6. Instituto Aliança com o Adolescente Brazil  — teen services
  7. Instituto de Hospitalidade Brazil
  8. Rede Cidadã Brazil

There are the usual interlocks among these. Brazilian NGOs tend to be somewhat in-bred even by K Street standards, and there is little interaction between the grassroots ABONG and the billionaire netroots of GIFE.

In all, meanwhile, IYF reports supporting 200 projects in 73 countries.

Among these, in partnership with IYF, Sylvan Laureate International sponsors the grant marketplaces and breeding environments of Youth Action Net, among whose projects is the iAM social entrepreneurship program at Sylvan’s Anhembi-Morumbi University.

Anhembi has been the locus of lobbying activities targeting federal, state and municipal lawmakers with proposals for the reform of Brazilian education law, which tends to the nationalist and state-interventionist.

Exemplary student voices — poster children — are selected under the iAM branding strategy to carry water for specific policy options, and public funding is provided for this purpose.

The political significance of this state of things may be demonstrated by this year’s mayoral race in São Paulo, which looks like it will pit Haddad, the current federal education minister, against the incumbent adminstration of Kassab — two Lebano-Brazilians, yes — which is likely to be contested by a past minister of health in José Serra.

Patrons of the Tax-Free Arts

Now, the International Youth Foundation’s board member for Brazil is Evelyn Berg Ioschpe,

co-founder and chair of the Group of Institutes, Foundations and Enterprises (GIFE), a national association of 123 private organizations that invest in social programs across the country. … In 2005, honored at the Brazil Foundation’s Annual Gala in New York for her education work in Brazil.

GIFE is one of two major communities of Brazilian NGOs,along with ABONG.

It  maintains an alliance with the — U.S. taxpayer funded —  IAF.gov, known as RedeAmerica

I am looking into this relationship based on publicly available sources … It could make a good chapter for SourceWatch, which has a blind spot when it comes to transnational collaborations


New York-based Hélio Mattar is a key man in the Brazil Foundation network, although the data normally dished up in a quick google seems lacking. Ah, here we go: He is a former federral development minister, as we know …

… In business, he was Vice President of planning for the food conglomerate CICA and its parent holding company the Bonfiglioli Group, and later served as President of GE Appliances in Brazil. Mr. Mattar founded several NGOs, including the Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility and the Akatu Institute. He was also a board member of the Brazilian Association for the Development of Leaders and the Abrinq Foundation. …

The Akatu Web site boasts an extraordinary number of institutional supporters — making it a useful target for a focused crawl …

GIFE will shortly hold its annual congress, with appearances by executives of foreign donors such as the Aspen Institute. It will feature Mattar’s old boss, presidential candidate and governor and mayoral «wannabe again», José Serra, as its keynote speaker.

But back to the Collaborative Networked Organization and its working parts. We want to be able to select each piece of the car — its drive train, its motor, its chassis, its interior, its safety features — and sort out related «interentities» according to their function.

Youth Action Net, for example, appears to count on the PR strategizing of Porter Novelli …


This in addition to the …

… Advertisers of youth-oriented products — such as Skoll beer and Nokia smartphones — are major contributors.

A problem that interests me is how to track coordinated viral campaigning by opaque value chains of virtual teams, often working at several degrees of separation from the principal PR agency on the account in question.

Innovation Media Consulting remains a textbook case in this regard. […]

Here we see a reflection of the agency’s advogacy for ADSML, an XML-based advertising standard, as well as itsapplication of topic-focused blogospheres — and especially blogs of the blogs.newspaper.com variety — which echo its Web content.

Several of the consultancy’s partners founded the World Association of Newspapers — actually an international association of associations —  which sponsors a variety of content and services for its subscribers. In this virtual ecology, SND.org — the Society of News Designers — stands out on account of its structural centrality.

If all this analysis sounds odd or abstract to you, I submit that it has already been shown on TV.

For instance, when “Eli Gold” of The Good Wife hears of a political smear campaign that might backfire on his candidate — the opposing candidate’s plastic surgery was medical, not cosmetic — he turns to a roomful of cubicles — the campaign «click farm» — and orders the assembled clicktivists to stop linking to the video in question.

TV shows nowadays bombard their audiences with cool uses of high-end mobile communications devices — pure, shameless merchandising — but some make intelligent use of the theme, as here.

For Edelman, read «long-time Microsoft propaganda machine». I am sorry to sound disgruntled, but the Redmond-based zaibatsu really cheeses me … In Brazil, MTV is a valuable piece — a rook, perhaps — in the content syndication wars among the major portals: UOL, Terra, iG, and Globo G1.

Among the donors behind Movements are the firms created by the founders of the ORG —

  1. Jared Cohen | Google Ideas
  2. Roman Tsunder | Access 360, GenNext
  3. Jacob Liebman | Howcast Media

Having plowed through hundreds, if not thousands, of virtual organizations, I believe I am getting a feel for the behind the scenes renegotiation of social contracts this strategy appeals to and applies wherever it can.

There is simple indicator for scouting out persons and institutions — taking into account the proliferation of  institutions of one person only,as well as individuals legally equivalent to corporations, after which a Brazilina business mag is named: Você S/A.

Instead of I, Robot, there is I, the Corporation.

Persons of interest will generally have passed through several sectors — private, goverment, and non-governmental quase-private-public — and maintains ties with these, formal or informal. This is, after all, what is meant by the metaphor of incubation.

Chairing the Brazil Foundation, for example, is Leona Foreman, whose personal network demonstrate a savvy approach to making good on her ties to Harvard.

Founding President and CEO of the Brazil Foundation, an organization that generates resources for programs that promote social change in Brazil. It mobilizes donations from individuals and socially responsible corporations in the United States and directs them to projects in the fields of education, health, human rights, citizenship and culture.

Before entering upon a 20-year career in Information Services at the UN, Forman was a journalist for the Globo network and Realidade magazine. (There tends to be less of a Chinese wall separating hacks from flacks here in Brazil. A diploma in journalism is acceptable as preparation for going over to the dark side, as my own wife has done plenty in her career.)

The foundation’s general counsel is from the firm of Jones Day,

And we continue on in the same way, slotting entities into their proper pigeonholes … identifying breeding environments, virtual organizations and virtual teams, with many examples of entities playing multiple VBE roles …

Brazil is reprented by two publishing powerhouses, Globo — RBS is a Globo television rebroadcaster as well as a publisher and radio producer — and Editora Abril, which recently rolled out its first foray into television with a program for the local PBS equivalent, TV Cultura. Several of the founding partners of I-MC were Abril executives, if I am not mistaken.

What does Microsoft Belgium care about world newspapers, anyway?

And what is Rafael Fernandez-MacGregor doing on the board of the Inter-American Foundation? Seeking a seat at the policy debate?

Not that Redmond would not be within its rights to seek to influence policy; I just wonder about the synergies between its corporate, philanthropic and lobbying goals.

The pissed-off Indian guys I met at the World Social Forum said it, and would likely say it again today: Microsoft seeks to hook young users on its products to the point where the option of another operating system become moot. This is why I, not an incredibly tech-savvy, nevertheless keep on using Debian.