Workshop journey pathways

The purpose of the Smart CSOs Lab is to learn about, and experiment with, fresh strategies for civil society organisations and activists, aimed at catalysing a Great Transition to an ecologically sustainable and just political and economic system. We do this through connecting lessons from theory and practice and developing a network of diverse activists and researchers. Our annual gatherings support our efforts in both of these aims, providing input for our research work, and directly connecting activists and researchers from a wide range organisations, backgrounds and places.

Thirty-three activists, researchers and funders from 12 countries joined our 2016 workshop. We met at the inspiring venue of the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona. For the two days between October 13th-15th we worked together around three core themes:

Re.imagining Activism Logo 2


To effectively support the Great Transition to a truly sustainable and just society requires re.imagining our activism from a different level of consciousness. From November 5-7 social change leaders and activists from cross-sectorial NGOs, grassroots, think tanks, academia and grant-making organisations met in Berlin to reflect on their own world views and to co-create concrete new ways for our organisations and networks to advance deep system change.

We were lucky to have with us filmmaker Rui Veras from the International Water Association. He interviewed some participants and filmed  impressions and views that participants expressed about the discussions at the conference. Watch the short videos here:

At the end of October we – 36 Smart CSOs members and friends from 12 countries – met in a civic centre located in the beautiful gothic quarter of Barcelona for our annual workshop. This time we digged deeper into two aspects: Getting closer to a common vision of the Great Transition and exploring concrete practical steps how to get there.

From June 23rd to June 25th we held a Smart CSOs introductory workshop at the La Bergerie eco-farm near Paris. It brought together activists/civil society change agents with a common inquiry about how to ‘break out of the system trap’ and work effectively towards systemic change. 

From October 9th-11th, the Smart CSOs Lab hosted the Civil Society in Transition Conference in Cologne, Germany. Change agents from civil society, academia and the funding community came together to share and develop new approaches and strategies for how civil society can become and be a driving force for the Great Transition to a truly just society living within ecological limits.

On November 29th/30th 2012 we held the Smart CSOs Storytelling workshop with Jonah Sachs in Cologne. This was within the aim of the Smart CSOs Lab on supporting civil society to develop effective strategies to enable a cultural transformation towards the Great Transition.

On May 14th/15th 2012 a workshop was held as part of the Smart CSOs Lab learning process. In this learning process we aim to foster new connections and relationships between change agents, get inspirations for new CSO strategies toward the Great Transition, align our strategic thinking as well as develop ideas to start experimenting with in our own organisations.

In March 2011 the international Smart CSOs Conference in London convened around 100 CSO leaders, academics and funders to collectively take the Smart CSOs thinking to the next level and to develop practical ways forward.