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Managers of Change: Brokering Transnational Capacity Building

Kristina Klinkforth Center for Global Politics Department of Political and Social Sciences Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

kristina.klinkforth@fu-berlin.de

Paper to be presented at the International Studies Association 2011 Montreal March 16-19, 2011

Abstract

Inquiries into the relationship of political information and political organization suggest that governing elites are determined by the nature of the information environment they operate in. These approaches can serve to explain transformations in transnational collective action and emerging processes of non-state global governance. I contend that the current informationabundant environment and innovative information technologies give rise to what I call skillbased social entrepreneurs in transnational advocacy. Skill-based social entrepreneurs are highly flexible information brokers performing three major tasks: (a) they develop tools that help traditional, advocacy-based NGOs devise targeted communication campaigns; (b) they engage in capacity-building by designing tools for information and know-how management; (c) they serve as networking fulcrums to connect different actors (funders, donors, NGOs, and advisors), offering scale-shifting and filtering capacities in transnational contention. The theoretical argument is supported by two case studies of skill-based social entrepreneurs.

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Managers of Change: Brokering Transnational Capacity Building

1. Introduction This paper discusses the effects of the current information-abundant communication environment and new information and communication technologies (ICTs) on transnational collective action. It argues that the rapid development and availability of new information technologies, including web 2.0 and social networking sites, satellite-enhanced GIS technology, and web-compatible mobile telephony, have changed the properties of political information, and, subsequently, the nature of transnational political collective action and their organizational manifestations.1 In the scope of this paper, I discuss a newly emerging organizational type, which I call skill-based social entrepreneurs. I contend that these new agents serve as information brokers for traditional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and support novel forms of capacity-building in transnational relations. The theoretical argument seeks to contribute to a new field of interdisciplinary academic research inquiring into the link of political information and forms of political organization. The past decade has substantially changed the properties of political information. The invention of the World Wide Web protocols by Tim Berners-Lee at the beginning of the 1990s opened the door for private use of the Internet. Today, it evolves into an interlinked universe of data and information available to a growing range of social actors. Web 2.0 networking dynamics further help levelling access opportunities to political information. They blur the classical separation of producers and consumers of information and start mitigating traditional gate-keeping processes in hierarchical organizational settings that have formerly

1 Within the scope of this paper, I define political information in a pragmatic way to avoid the complexities associated with epistemological considerations of the connection of data, information, knowledge, and truth claims. Instead, I agree with Bruce Bimber’s claim that political information may exist independently of the subjective and filtered understandings of particular individual actors. This pragmatic approach allows me to understand information as having certain attributes or properties. It can be scarce or abundant, costly or inexpensive; in the terminology of game theory, it can also be complete or incomplete as well as perfect or imperfect. See Bruce Bimber (2003): Information and American Democracy: Technology in the Evolution of Political Power. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, p.11.

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imposed constraints on the production and accessibility of information.2 These trends are further enforced by developments in ancillary communication industries such as the remote sensing satellite and GIS industry, as well as mobile telephony.3 I argue that these innovations in the information and communication industries create new opportunities as well as constraints for non-state actors to engage in transnational collective action. Furthermore, they serve as constituent factors for the emergence of novel service agents such as skill-based social entrepreneurs. I develop my argument on the basis of the assumption that new ICTs and an increasingly information-abundant environment exert enhancing, but also disruptive effects on traditional, advocacy-based NGOs. The effects are enhancing in that they create innovative opportunities for gathering information on a particular issue of transnational concern such as global health or global warming, for framing arguments about and potential solutions for this issue, and for scaling these suggestions to powerful audiences. New ICTs may enable civil society actors to process information into new and powerful forms of knowledge-building and political activity. At the same time, informational dynamics are disruptive in the sense that multiplying channels and voice amplification platforms in a networked environment create data noise and raise competition to be heard and acknowledged by target audiences. This dynamic aggravates Clifford Bob's (2005) observation that transnational causes need to be placed and marketed properly in order to focus attention on an issue and to find powerful supporters.4 Consequently, traditional NGOs are required to boost their communication

2 For an excellent discussion, see Clay Shirky (2008): Here Comes Everybody. The Power of Organizing without Organizations. London: Penguin Books. As a caveat, Matthew Hindman argues that greater access does not necessarily promote a general democratization of political information, and more leveled participation in political affairs. His findings point to a reverse dynamic; he argues that broadened web traffic empowers traditional and new sets of elites instead of a broadly informed citizenry; see Matthew Hindman (2008): The Myth of Digital Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 3 Baker et al. provide a good introduction to developments in remote sensing technology up to the turn of the millennium; see Baker, John C., Kevin M. O’Connell, and Ray A. Williamson (2001): Commercial Observation Satellites. At the Leading Edge of Global Transparency. Santa Monica, Arlington: RAND and ASPRS. On the enormous spread of mobile telephony, see also GSM World (2009): Mobile World Celebrates Four Billion Connections (11 February 2009). Online available at: http://www.gsmworld.com/newsroom/press-releases/2009/2521.htm (accessed 16 February 2010). 4 Clifford Bob (2005): The Marketing of Rebellion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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know-how and networking capacity to develop their full potential – “it is the ability to leverage the network that shapes to what extent the NGO can capitalize on new technologies.”5 I argue that, in the shadow of these opportunities and challenges, a new set of skillbased social entrepreneurs performing innovative functions for transnational capacity building is emerging. They are highly flexible formations that can take on different, contextcontingent forms. This paper inquires into their raison-d'être – what explains their sudden emergence as a new type of social actor, and the growing need for their specialized services? I contend that skill-based social entrepreneurs emerge as new network and capacity brokers between traditional, advocacy-based NGOs, and relevant audiences such as donors, experts, and advocacy supporters.6 They take on bridging functions in order to produce collective action synergies between these distinct actors. These claims are illustrated by two case studies. The Global India Fund (GIF) is a non-governmental Web 2.0 platform that connects an international donor community with local health NGOs in India. It provides a transparent platform for these NGOs, while, at the same time, providing donors with direct funding and independent monitoring options.7 The International Exchange (TIE) is a UK-based social enterprise that brings together small advocacy NGOs in Brazil and corporate communications agencies in the UK. While providing a challenging training to communications professionals, small advocacy NGOs in Brazil have a chance to be advised in professional communications campaigning without investing major funds into these endeavours.8 These organizations perform three major tasks. First, they develop tools helping advocacy NGOs devise targeted information and communication campaigns. Secondly, they

5 Lokman Tsui (2009): Saving Us from the Noise that Kills: NGOs as New Coordinators in a Networked Public Sphere. Available online at: http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/12/saving-us-fromnoise-that-kills-ngos-as-news-coordinators-in-a-networked-public-sphere/ (accessed January 3, 2011). 6 I use the terms traditional NGOs and legacy NGOs interchangeably. I refer hereby to organizations that define advocacy in a particular issue domain as their primary concern and act via tools such as awareness-raising. They are particularly dependent on using new ways of scaling attention while, at the same time, not necessarily specialized in communication campaigning via new media. 7 Global India Fund Website. Online available at: http://www.globalindiafund.org/ (accessed October 1, 2010). 8 The International Exchange Website. Online available at: http://www.theinternationalexchange.co.uk/ (accessed October 1, 2010).

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engage in capacity-building by designing tools that help traditional NGOs manage resources, data, and know-how. Thirdly, they serve as networking fulcrums connecting actors (funders, donors, influential NGOs and other civil society organizations), offering data filtering services and allowing for so-called scale-shifts in transnational advocacy. I begin with reviewing recent developments in ICTs and discuss emergent features of the information and communication environment which they engender. Subsequently, I discuss theoretical approaches to position my claim and illuminate the theoretical argument with two cases. The last section discusses the findings. This paper is interdisciplinary in nature and builds on findings from political science, political sociology, and political communication.

2. Broadcast Yourself – Are New ICTs Levelling the Playing Field? The “microelectronics revolution,” as the rapid technological development of the past decades has been termed by James N. Rosenau (1990), refers to a profound transformation of strategic interaction opportunities in the political, economic, and social realms due to major changes in the nature and availability of political information.9 Today's information and communication environment is rapidly evolving into a highly networked and informationabundant space largely detached from the limitations of physical place and distance. In this networked information ecology, different actors seek out their niche to marshal data, transform it into issue-relevant knowledge, and become hubs and nodes of the “Information Age.”10 Along the way, traditional forms of information gathering, storage, interpretation, and distribution – in short, of framing authority – are challenged, and, in some instances,

9 James N. Rosenau (1990): Turbulence in World Politics. A Theory of Change and Continuity. Princeton: Princeton University Press. One caveat is in order. Cohen and Schmidt argue that – although problems of the digital divide have decreased in recent years – countries can still be ranked according to their connectivity into the global information network; see Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen (2010): The Digital Disruption. Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power, in: Foreign Affairs, vol. 89, no. 6, pp. 75-85. 10 See Manuel Castells (1996): The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Vol. 1: The Rise of the Network Society. Massachusetts, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Inc. and Manuel Castells (2000): Toward a Sociology of the Network Society, in: Contemporary Sociology, vol. 29, no. 5, pp. 693-699.The term information ecology was coined by philosopher Pierre Lévy; see Pierre Lévy (1997): Collective Intelligence. Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus.

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macerated.11 These developments fundamentally change the opportunities and constraints social actors face in engaging in framing processes and collective action. The traditional broadcast system consisted of one-directional communication flows of highly stylized media products provided by broadcast media companies on the one hand and a consuming audience depending on the steady flow of political and entertainment information on the other hand.12 This well-established line between producers and consumers of authoritatively framed and hierarchically distributed political information started to blur irrevocably with the inception of the Internet as a publicly available communication tool. For the first time, the logic of peer-to-peer communications that had hitherto only been available in the limited framework of one-to-one telephone conversations was transformed into a mass communication logic. The one-directional communication mode of broadcast media proved to be seriously challenged by the many-to-many communication logic of the Internet.13 The emergence of Web 2.0 techniques took this dynamic to an even deeper level and irreversibly changed the logic of information production and distribution. As Clay Shirky contends, this “largest increase of expressive capability (...) makes the change unprecedented (...).”14 The digital revolution of the Internet was joined by two other revolutions. Mobile telephony has outperformed the popularity of the Internet by far; in particular in Africa, Asia,
11 Framing “refers to the process of selecting and highlighting some aspects of a perceived reality, and enhancing the salience of an interpretation and evaluation of that reality.” Robert M. Entman (2004): Projections of Power. Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, p. 26. 12 Rapid technological development which is transboundary and networked in nature started with the advent of global television in the 1990s. Transmission technology innovations and the inception of cable (news) networks such as CNN and Al-Jazeera allowed for global coverage of remote events and the world-wide distribution of images and frames – in short: of highly sophisticated media products. Yet, while audiences beyond borders could be reached with gripping television images and content, the one-to-many communication logic prevailed. Still, the debate surrounding the CNN effect opposes the view that broadcast media follow the “press beat” led by press conferences and interviews granted by politicians. Instead, scholars proposed that the power of gruesome images may set the foreign policy agenda and force policy makers into humanitarian interventions. For an overview, see Eytan Gilboa (2005): The CNN Effect: The Search for a Communication Theory of International Relations, in: Political Communication, vol. 22, no.1, pp. 27-44. A critical discussion on global media is provided by Kai Hafez (2007): The Myth of Media Globalization. Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press. 13 Shirky argues that the Internet poses a more disruptive challenge to print media than the advent of global television ever did, since the many-to-many transmission logic of the Internet presents a more fundamental challenge to the one-to-many transmission logic of all broadcast media; see Shirky 2008, p. 55ff. 14 Shirky 2008, p. 106.

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and parts of Latin America, the availability of mobile phones surpasses Internet accessibility due to their marginal need for infrastructure. By mid-2010, about five billion mobile phones were in circulation world-wide.15 In addition to mobile telephony, satellite technology and geographical information systems (GIS) have become available as a public tool. Until 1999, when Space Imaging, today part of GeoEye, launched the first commercial high resolution satellite, satellite imagery had remained under the jurisdiction of a small number of nationstates.16 Today, a growing range of privately run satellite provider companies operate around the world.17 In recent years, satellite-based GIS services and applications for satellite-related data interpretation have substantially broadened. In the first decade of the new millennium, high resolution imagery, as well as GIS services and interfaces, have matured rapidly.18 Satellite-enhanced mapping technologies applicable to cellular devices, geographical positioning systems (GPS), satellite data interfaces, and data interpretation tools create a growing market around the world. Even social actors without specific training or expertise are increasingly capable of wielding these technologies and infer issue-relevant information. Hence, such divergent causes as the monitoring of river pollution or animal populations can be conducted with the help of these technologies.19 Mobile phones are increasingly capable of combining web-based applications and satellite enhanced GIS services in one device. They are underway to becoming ubiquitous handheld computers that further detach the user

15 A comprehensive overview of recent developments is provided at http://www.itu.int/ITUD/ict/statistics/ (accessed February 15, 2011). 16 In 1972, Landsat satellite had offered satellite imagery for civilian use. However, this imagery remained above the 80 meter resolution range, and could only be brought to limited use, as opposed to today's high resolution satellites, which offer imagery of about 0.5 meters in the panchromatic range. See Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing. http://www.ccrs.nrcan.gc.ca/glossary/index_e.php (accessed August 7, 2010). 17 An inventory of commercial satellite imagery providers is offered by William Stoney (2008): ASPRS Guide to Land Imaging Satellites. American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Online available: http://www.asprs.org/news/satellites/ASPRS_DATABASE_021208.pdf (accessed August 7, 2010). 18 High resolution imagery allows clients to obtain imagery of 0.5 meters in the panchromatic, and about 2.4 meters in the multispectral ranges. 19 See Google Earth Outreach for examples. Online available at: http://earth.google.com/intl/de/outreach/showcase.html (accessed January 10, 2011).

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from the necessity of being physically stationed. “Smart” mobile technology therefore takes the digital revolution of the Internet to a new level.20 Increasingly, political information is multi-directional and channelled through hubs and nodes via exponentially growing network structures. These hubs and nodes are composed of traditional and novel framing agents with varying degrees of implementation power at their disposal. As argued elsewhere, “[t]hese newly emergent networks for information and communication exchange are highly flexible, transboundary, and de-territorialized in nature.”21 Access to political information thus becomes more symmetrical in nature, and the cost of obtaining information decreases significantly.22 Consequently, the authority over the framing and interpretation of information is not monopolized by centralized and hierarchical state and media structures anymore. Instead, a broad variety of actors evolve into stakeholders in increasingly frequent framing contests surrounding political issues. Non-state actors thus gain the capacity to obtain, provide, and frame information alongside traditional framing agents, thus gradually effecting a change in power relations in transnational politics. Recent research observes a number of new ways of collective action organization. For instance, new forms of protests have evolved. Protesters gather in the form of “smart mobs,” coordinating via mobile technology, and providing contextualization of their cause via blogs, videos, and social networking platforms.23 The outcome of such protests remains contingent. While the April, 2009, demonstrations in Moldova managed to force the regime to agree to re-elections, and the recent ousting of the authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt seems to confirm an emergent social media-induced power of the people, the June, 2009, Iranian post-election protests resulted in a clamp-down on activists and mobile

20 Smart phone technology can be understood as mobile telephony that is location-sensitive and increasingly capable of web-browsing; see The Digital Disruption. Transcript, November 3, 2010. Available online: http://www.cfr.org/publication/23326/digital_disruption.html (accessed December 20, 2010), unpaginated. 21 Livingston and Klinkforth (2010), p. 52. 22 As a caveat, it has to be mentioned again that the problem of the digital divide has not yet been resolved and that access to information remains costly in some societies. By and large, however, mobile telephony bridges this divide to a certain extent. For an overview, refer to http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/ (accessed February 15, 2011). 23 The phenomenon of smart mobs has most vividly been described by Howard Rheingold (2002): Smart Mobs. The Next Social Revolution. Transforming Cultures and Communities in the Age of Instant Access. Cambridge, M.A.: Basic Books.

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networks as well as an apparent strengthening of the regime.24 Yet, smart mobs have demonstrated that seemingly spontaneous gatherings of people and new forms of coordination amongst them have transformed individual citizens into a force to be reckoned with. Sustainable forms of civil society activity can be observed in Kenya. Ushahidi.com is an initiative set up by a group of activists and journalists after the 2007/2008 outbreaks of postelection violence. Ushahidi, meaning “testimony” in Swahili, is a platform that allows anyone with a mobile phone or Internet connection to send in testimonials of violent incidences around the country, which are then located on Google Earth maps. This way, singular observations are transformed into networked community knowledge, providing an understanding of the situation on the ground independent of official statements or (broadcast) media reports.25 This new form of “crowdsourcing” individual observations and transforming them into new forms of event-mapping speaks to the transformative power of new ICTs on the informational landscape.26 Regarding more traditional and advocacy-based legacy NGOs and defined activist networks that concern us here, Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink have shown in their landmark Activists beyond Borders (1998) that social entrepreneurs may utilize information strategically to “bypass their state and directly search out international allies to try to bring pressure on their state from outside.”27 In this boomerang model of transnational advocacy, domestic civil society organizations react to the unwillingness of state governments to respond to social and political grievances by scaling their cause to an international level.

24 Oliver Blondeau and Laurence Allard (2010): In the Eyes of the World: Mobiles, Iran, and Video, in: Foundation pour L’Innovation Politique (February 4, 2010). Online available at: http://www.fondapol.org/home/research/all-publications/publication/titre/in-the-eyes-of-the-worldmobiles-iran-and-video.html (accessed March 20, 2010). For the Moldova case, see Ron Synovitz (2009): The Revolution Will Be Tweeted – Moldovan Protesters Exploit Social Networking Sites (April 23, 2009). Online available at: http://www.rferl.org/content/The_Revolution_Will_Be_Tweeted__Moldovan_Protesters_Exploit_So cial_Networking_Sites/1604740.html (accessed January 3, 2011). See also Charlie Beckett (2011): After Tunisia and Egypt: Towards a New Typology of Media and Networked Political Change, in: Polis. Journalism and Society. Online available at: http://www.charliebeckett.org/?p=4033 (accessed February 15, 2011). 25 See ushahidi.com (accessed December 20, 2010). 26 Meanwhile, the Ushahidi model has been applied to monitoring processes in post-earthquake Haiti, Gaza, the Congo, and others. 27 Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink (1998): Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, p. 12.

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These shifts in framing capacity and coordination engender shifts in transnational and international power balances – by responding to discursively scaled pressure dynamics, nation-states increasingly lose ground for issue framing and regulation to non-traditional actors in global politics. Yet analyses of these efforts tend to almost exclusively focus on success stories.28 While voice amplification opportunities have multiplied for traditional NGOs, however, they also have to come to terms with the new power they may wield. Legacy NGOs have to become more skilled at maximizing these opportunities. NGO communication officials and communications professionals in the field doubt that capitalizing on the new information ecology is always an easy fit for legacy NGOs. Today, these NGOs “often face competition for attention from a range of other sources and perspectives in the virtual world.”29 As every organization theoretically has the same opportunity at maximizing web-based voice amplification opportunities, the space to get the message out is facing new limitations due to heavy competition. If NGOs want to attract and retain visitors in the increasingly crowded and competitive online world, and turn them into supporters, they need to provide timely, easy-to-find information, genuinely involve their audiences, and keep up with the latest trends. This is a tall order, particularly when many of the web destinations competing for their audiences' attention have commercial muscle behind them.30 Growing levels of competition therefore carry disruptive potential for legacy organizations. An ancillary development represents an even bigger challenge. With the expanding universe of networked and nested ICTs, the amount of available information is growing exponentially.31 The total number of websites has exceeded 206 million by May 2010. In August 2009,

28 Clifford Bob has made this point powerfully by analyzing why some local movements succeed in mustering support while others don’t. He points to the fact that small social movements are likely to fail unless they observe rules for properly marketing themselves, see Bob 2005. 29 Denise Searle (2010): Blogging or Flogging? Why NGOs Face Challenges in Embracing the Internet's Potential. Online available at: http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/02/denise-searle-bloggingor-flogging-why-ngos-face-challenges-in-embracing-the-internets-potential/, unpaginated (accessed January 15, 2011). 30 Ibid, unpaginated. 31 For a discussion of exponential network growth as well as network wealth creation, see Shirky 2008.

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website counts even peaked at 240 million websites.32 In just one year, from June, 2007, to June, 2008, the number of social networking sites grew by 25 percent; this trend has continued in recent years.33 Mobile telephony has shown immense growth rates – only recently the world-wide market shows signs of saturation. Capturing this explosion of channels, venues, and information accessibility, David Shenk (1997) coined the term “data smog.” He argues that coping with data smog represents the most challenging feature of the Information Age.34 Coping with it effectively requires resources, personnel, and know-how that not all legacy organizations can muster. While resource-rich legacy organizations such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace have the capacity to invest in utilizing the new information environment effectively, resource-small legacy organizations have much less capacity to do this successfully.35 I argue that the tasks of cutting through the fog, coping with growing data noise, filtering and managing relevant information, as well as reaching out to valuable supporters, represent challenges that skill-based social entrepreneurs effectively address in their services for legacy NGOs. They act as filters for data noise, enable legacy NGOs to service new communication channels in a sustainable way, and take on proactive network functions. To sum up, the above discussion of the new qualities of the current information ecology has shown that it exerts multiple, and seemingly contradictory, effects on traditional, advocacy-based NGOs. On the one hand, we observe an information-abundant environment, providing a more symmetric distribution of information access and framing capacity on the part of transnational civil-society actors with novel opportunities for collective action. On the

32 Netcraft (2010): May 2010 Webserver Survey. Available online at: http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2010/05/14/may_2010_web_server_survey.html (accessed March 3, 2011). 33 ComScore (2008): Social Networking Explodes Worldwide as Sites Increase Their Focus on Cultural Relevance (August 12, 2008). Online available at: http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2008/08/Social_Networking_World_Wide (accessed March 2, 2011). See also Muhammad Saleem (2010): The Current State of Twitter (18 March 2010). Online. Available at: http://mashable.com/2010/03/18/twitter-infographic/ (accessed March15, 2010). 34 David Shenk (1997): Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut. New York: Harper Collins. 35 Natalie Fenton (2009): Has the Internet Changed How NGOs Work with Established Media? Not Enough. Online available at: http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/11/natalie-fenton-has-the-internetchanged-how-ngos-work-with-established-media-not-enough/, unpaginated (accessed January 10, 2011).

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other hand, networked environments increasingly challenge legacy organizations, coercing them to adapt or even transform their practices. I contend that these abilities are developed and nurtured by skill-based social entrepreneurs. The following section provides an analytical approach to these issues and discusses a number of prevalent conceptual approaches.

3. Narrative Shifts and Implications for Power Balances in Transnational Politics The previous section described changes in the properties of political information and the information landscape. This section provides a conceptual discussion of the subsequent opportunities and constraints for legacy NGO activities. I proceed in two steps. First, I review theoretical approaches hypothesizing the link between political information, elite-building, and political organization. Secondly, this discussion serves as a basis to sketch out newly emerging collective action opportunities and constraints for legacy NGOs on a conceptual level that explain the emergence of skill-based social entrepreneurs. I begin the first step of my conceptual review with Benedict Anderson (1983). The idea that the nature of political information and command of ICTs affects power elites and relations between social actors is not new. Anderson enlightened our understanding regarding the conceptual development of the nation as an “imagined political community” in the 17th and 18th century, as well as of national sovereignty epitomizing the Westphalian nation-state system and replacing the divinely-ordained feudal society as a frame of reference for political order.36 Anderson argues that the possibility to “think” of the nation as a new form of community – and with it the sovereign nation-state represented by a national government – is deeply connected to the advent of print capitalism, in particular to the emergence of novels and newspapers. These print products created a feeling of

36 In Anderson's view, the nation as an innovative community type is imagined because its members cannot know each other personally, yet feel associated with this community or fraternity beyond the constraints of physical encounter. The nation is imagined as limited and sovereign because its members draw “finite, if elastic, boundaries beyond which lie other nations.” Benedict Anderson (1983): Imagined Communities. London, New York: Verso, p. 7. Ernest Gellner makes a similar point by arguing that the nation as a concept is invented, thus refuting a primordial understanding of nationhood. Ernest Gellner (1964): Thought and Change. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. According to Anderson, the sovereign nation-state presented a replacement of other types of community – the religious community and the dynastic realm that both subsided with the advent of Enlightenment and the Westphalian order, see Anderson 1983, p. 12ff.

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connectedness and simultaneity of fate between the members of a nation – they created “complete confidence in [the nation's] steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”37 Print capitalism and the subsequent development of powerful administrative languages and signals in the Westphalian nation-state thus helped create a new political form, a new “morphology” of order, and therefore a new way of organizing political collective action.38 Anderson, although primarily concerned with the generation of the modern concept of the nation, has given us first cues to the link between information technologies and power elites. The newspaper emerged as the primary forum transporting political information to the members of the nation. Consequently, the printing press, interpreting decisions by national government and reproducing centrally coined signals and national symbols, for the first time produced a state-centric and hierarchical information power house.39 This argument is in line with Max Weber’s observation that national administrations and bureaucracies emerged as effective structures for managing informational needs and problems of the nation. The creation, distribution, and storage of political information were costly at the time and had to be managed and supervised carefully in a hierarchical command structure.40 Similarly, Bruce Bimber (2003) argues that a central dynamic of the modern state is the development and exercise of power associated with asymmetrically distributed information (…). The state is more than an allocator of services and values; it is an apparatus for assembling and managing the political information associated with expressions of public will and with public policy.41 Today, Bimber argues, the necessities to organize information in a centralized and hierarchical manner have changed dramatically. As discussed in the previous section, information has changed from being scarce to being abundant and readily available to a broad range of actors. In turn, new manifestations of post-bureaucratic political organization

37 Anderson 1983, p. 26. 38 Anderson 1983, p. 46. 39 Robert Dahl contends, in this context, that the development of political institutions in a nation-state system can be understood in the context of informational problems crystallizing around policy demands. Robert A. Dahl (1989): Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press. 40 H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (1958): From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press. 41 Bimber 2003, p. 17.

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governed by emerging elites are taking form. Based on these observations,42 Bimber concludes that a given set of properties of political information, for example the cost of obtaining it, and a concurrent set of opportunities and constraints on the management of political information will result in “the appearance of characteristic political organizations and structures adapted to those opportunities and constraints.”43 It is this theoretical understanding of the interplay of informational conditions and governing elites that fosters my argument about the emergence of skill-based social entrepreneurs. Other scholars in political science and related fields apply these ideas to a global policy context. James N. Rosenau provided a first account of new forms of political authority in global politics through contentious politics as early as 1990. He claims that traditional, state-centric venues of authority such as courts, commissions, and political decision bodies face increasingly competitive arrangements, and that this development is connected to the rapid development of ICTs and their utilization by non-traditional actors in global affairs.44 He contends that venues for developing policy images and framing policy responses have become increasingly informational and relational in nature. Rosenau conceptualizes his new relational forms of authority by drawing a continuum on which forms of coercive power capture one pole and forms of “persuasion” or contention capture the other. While coercive politics largely depends on material capabilities and power monopolies, Rosenau's politics of persuasion are inherently discursive in nature. Actors employing this relational form of authority do not command large political or military capabilities. Instead, they utilize their capacity to marshal data and transform it into relevant, issue-specific knowledge in an increasingly interconnected environment. This new form of authority is de-monopolized, multi-faceted, and discursive in nature, and it is gaining growing importance vis-à-vis the Westphalian system of state-centric information management.

42 Bimber limits his observations to the nation-state context. In his impressive account of governing elites in the context of the changing history of American democracy, he nonetheless observes various stages of centralized and multi-centered elite structures that have emerged as a response to “information revolutions.” The interplay of informational conditions and elites structures he calls an information regime, Bimber 2003, p. 23. 43 Bimber 2003, p. 18. 44 James N. Rosenau 1990.

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The emergence of relational forms of authority gains particular relevance for broad and “messy” policy problems such as global health challenges or global warming.45 This new set of problems becomes increasingly available for non-state actors to develop expertise, manage information independently from state bureaucracies or broadcast media coverage, and frame potential solutions alongside, or in competition with, nation-state actors. In turn, the efficiency of Max Weber's bureaucratic system of hierarchical information management slowly dissolves in the wake of particular, complex, and uncertain policy problems.46 While nation-state agencies redefine their role as information brokers in trans-governmental networks47 and mediators between different actors and interests, the state-centric information and power monopoly characteristic of the Westphalian system is irreversibly waning. Two innovations have come into focus. First, a new set of civil society actors arrives on the global stage as proactive competitors for relational authority, thus creating new and increasingly symmetric power balances.48 A general increase in NGO activity and relevance has become the subject of broad research in this context.49 Secondly, going beyond the

45 “Messy“ policy problems are characterized by a high degree of uncertainty and complexity, and they are often technical in nature. The complexity of such trans-boundary policy problems, as well as the uncertainty regarding potential policy solutions and possible outcomes increasingly go beyond the capacity of a single national administration to cope with, let alone manage, them successfully. See Steven Michael Ney (2009): Resolving Messy Policy Problems. Handling Conflict in Environmental, Transport, Health, and Aging Policy. London: Earthscan; Marco Verweij et al. (2006): Clumsy Solutions for a Complex World: The Case of Climate Change, in: Public Administration, vol. 84, no. 4, pp. 817-843. 46 The idea that certain “types“ of policy problems – namely those which are of a highly technical and complex nature – are more prone to the framing activities by non-state actors has also been considered in Sean Aday and Steven Livingston (2008): Taking the State Out of State-Media Relations Theory: How Transnational Advocacy Networks Are Changing the Press-State Dynamic, in: Media, War, and Conflict, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 99-107. 47 As an example, see Anne-Mary Slaughter and David Zaring (2006): Networking Goes International: An Update, in: Annual Review of Law and Social Science, vol. 2, pp. 211-229. 48 Peter M. Haas and others claim that epistemic communities, expert groups with scientifically grounded knowledge in a particular issue domain, have become increasingly indispensable for policy coordination. Haas, Peter M. (1992): Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination, in: International Organization, vol. 46, no.1, pp. 1-35. As argued in the previous section, however, not only groups with expertise and tangible knowledge have started to act as discursive authorities. Instead, a multiplying number of actors with only modest training and little expertise are empowered by new technologies. In this context, Rosenau anticipated what he calls a skill revolution, see James N. Rosenau (2003): Information Technologies and the Skills, Networks, and Structures that Sustain World Affairs, in: James N. Rosenau and J.P Singh (eds.): Information Technologies and Global Politics. The Changing Scope of Power and Governance. New York: state University of New York Press. 49 Kathryn Sikkink and Jackie Smith (2002): Infrastructures for Change: Transnational Organizations 1953-1993, in: Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker and Kathryn Sikkink (eds.): Restructuring World Politics. Transnational Social Movements, Networks, and Norms. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.

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study of new capacities and discursive authorities of non-traditional actor groups in transnational affairs, entirely new power and governance structures develop beyond the nation-state. Sociologists like Manuel Castells (1996) argue that the digital revolution and related developments lead to a landscape of flows of people, finances, goods, and content. This system of networked flows – among which new forms of transnational advocacy play their role – supersedes the old Westphalian system of national borders that used to determine economic and political order.50 Today, networked interactions in the economic, political, and social realms not only help bypass traditional power centers. Instead, they form a new structure of hubs and nodes – new centralities – that take on traditional as well as new information and regulation functions.51 Again, these accounts build their argument on the assumption that informational conditions engender novel power structures and elites.52 I now turn to the second step of my conceptual review: a discussion of opportunities and constraints imposed on legacy NGOs by information properties. I begin with considering two primary opportunity effects. The first opportunity is generated by newly evolving framing capacities of civil society actors that I have already discussed. The ability to gather, frame, and distribute information, thus acting as new framing agents, is a major opportunity to develop discursive forms of authority in an increasingly symmetric and information-abundant communication ecology. The second opportunity builds on the enhanced networking potential of civil society organizations. Due to the new availability of political information and information channels, NGOs can formulate their claims independently of intermediate organizations such as broadcast media or state agencies. Instead, they may reach out to potential venues of contention and support on a global scale and in a direct fashion. Doug McAdams and Sidney

50 Castells, Manuel 1996. 51 The evolution of global city regions serving as new regional centers serves as a prime example. For instance see Saskia Sassen (2000): Cities in a World Economy. 2nd. Edition. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. 52 See also Robert Latham, Saskia Sassen (2006) (eds.): Digital Formations. IT and New Architectures in the Global Realm. Princeton: Princeton University Press. In essence, Latham and Sassen contend – and insofar trail along the lines of Castell's argument – that informational shifts bring about new organizational forms, functions, and elites. Like Castells they argue that new formations and functionalities of collective action are not confined to the nation-state. Instead, they are transnational and trans-boundary in nature.

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Tarrow (2003) coined the term “scale shifting” for this innovative capacity.53 In their view, scale shifting is “a change in the number and level of coordinated contentious action leading to broader contention involving a wider range of actors and bridging their claims and identities.”54 Scale shifting can be achieved by two major processes: diffusion and brokerage. Diffusion points to a process by which coordinated collective action spreads along the lines of previously existing alliances and linkages between actors. More importantly, brokerage denotes a process by which previously unconnected sites of contention are interlinked, allowing for innovative synergy effects between collective action sites and contenders.55 As a networking capacity, scale shifting complements framing capacity in building discursive authority in global politics. Yet, while evidence undeniably underscores these new opportunities, substantial constraints are imposed on legacy NGOs at the same time. As discussed in the previous section, not all legacy organizations can maximize the promises of the networked and information-abundant communication environment in the same way. In the above section, we have identified two major challenges: rising levels of competition and growing data noise legacy organizations have to cope with. The role of an information surplus – or data smog as Shenk had termed it – is critically reviewed by scholars of behavioral economics. They reassess the well-established assumption that the opportunities for the coordination of collective action grow with the amount of information available.56 Instead, they argue that abundance of information

53 Sidney Tarrow and Doug McAdam (2003): Scale Shift in Transnational Contention. Online available at: http://falcon.arts.cornell.edu/sgt2/contention/documents/ST%20scaleshift%20jun04.doc (accessed February 16, 2010). 54 Ibid, unpaginated. 55 Ibid, unpaginated. 56 Game theorists regard the role of information as essential. A perfect information environment (an environment in which all players know every move of every player in the “game” so far), and a complete information environment (an environment in which all players know the rules of the game, the available strategies, and the available pay-offs) will enhance opportunities to collective action and cooperation in sequential games. Neo-institutionalists like Elinor Ostrom observe that transparent game structures as well as monitoring capacities and conflict management mechanisms play an essential role in the development of governance institutions of common pool resource problems. See Elinor Ostrom (1990): Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; and Robert Axelrod (1984): The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.

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increases decision costs for political actors. Behavioral economists are therefore interested in the process of decision-making by rational actors rather than of the outcome of their choice.57 In so doing, they agree with the rational choice model, in which the implications of resource scarcity and transaction costs are an essential feature. Behavioralists claim, however, that decision-making as a process creates a different type of costs. Both, the ability to evaluate all information regarding choice options as well as the quality of a decision are not only determined by the amount of information available to the decision-maker, but also by the amount of information a decision-maker is able to take into account. Any decision thus requires deliberation costs – as more information and potential options become available, deliberation costs are on the rise. Consequently, the cognitive scarcity of a decision-maker is in the center of behavioralists' analysis. According to Mark Pingle, “[c]ognitive scarcity forces a decision maker to decide how to allocate cognition and this implies that a deliberation cost is incurred when a set of alternatives is evaluated.”58 In order to lower deliberation costs as more information becomes available – in order to cut through the information noise – legacy actors therefore need to enhance filtering capacities. I contend that if they cannot muster them on their own, they may turn to the services of skill-based social entrepreneurs acting in this capacity. Clay Shirky (2008) points to a similar idea when he argues that today's communication logic follows a “publish, then filter” model.59 Today, social actors need to engage in substantial filtering of available information regarding a specific topic, the causes of a problem, solutions, potential allies and supporters, available strategies, and potential follow-up problems. Consequently, enhanced filtering necessities and heightened demands to create meaningful information for their target audiences challenge legacy NGOs. The challenge of evaluating options and allies, while, at the same time, being recognized as a relevant “signal” in the data noise also provides a starting point for Clifford
57 In this claim, behavioralists differentiate themselves from game theorists. They argue that decisionmaking itself is a process which is subject to costs and therefore needs to be considered as an essential component of a decision situation. 58 Mark Pingle (2006): Deliberation Cost as a Foundation for Behavioral Economics, in: Morris Altman (ed.): Handbook of Contemporary Behavioral Economics. Foundations and Developments. New York, London: M.E. Sharpe, p. 340f. 59 Shirky 2008, p. 81ff.

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Bob’s argument. He contends that small NGOs in particular face the problem of mustering the support of more powerful allies such as donors or internationally operating NGOs in an increasingly competitive setting, in which numerous NGOs, local initiatives, social movements, activists etc. seek attention and support by increasingly utilizing ICTs. Bob argues that successful NGOs and social movements manage to marketize their causes properly – and that this constitutes a distinguishing factor vis-à-vis failing initiatives.60 This capacity is a skill that often determines the survival of local movements and NGOs with little prospect of sustenance without international aid and attention. The ability to frame their cause and to marshal the support of international supporters is essential to an initiative’s or NGO’s success. At the same time, however, the prospects are aggravated by a growing number of competing contenders.61 Again I argue that these NGOs increasingly seek the help of skill-based social entrepreneurs that serve as information filters and capacity builders. The idea of new transnational agents engaging in filtering and promotion activities is also discussed in the context of power law distributions. Power law distributions are known from a variety of fields such as free markets, wealth distribution patterns, or language systems. They point to the inequality of distributive systems, in which attention usually focuses on a small number of highly popular goods or causes. For example, out of myriads of songs, only few will become great hits while everything else available at the market will fade out into a “long tail” of less wanted products.62 In language patterns, only few words will be used constantly such as pronouns or auxiliaries. Contrarily, highly sophisticated words will not be used as much, but rather blur in a long tail of words that are not essential for understanding or speaking a language. In line with the regular pattern of power law distributions, Shirky (2003) shows in his analysis of the popularity of weblogs that only a

60 Clifford Bob (2005): The Marketing of Rebellion. Insurgents, Media, and International Activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 61 The Zapatista movement in Mexico may serve as a prime and well-researched example. See Bob 2005. 62 This example is discussed in detail by Chris Anderson, see Chris Anderson (2004): The Long Tail, in: Wired Magazine. Online available at: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail_pr.html (accessed March 3, 2011).

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small number of blogs focus the attention of a large number of readers.63 For our concern, this means that only a small number of NGOs and causes will make their way into the top range of attention-focusing agents while others remain in the long tail among other more obscure choices. Since many organizations lack the know-how, capacity, and skills to improve their placement in the power law distribution, the demand for brokers of this capacity is constantly rising. More importantly, Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine (2004), argues that new filtering agents or information brokers are also essential to lift inhabitants of the long tail out of obscurity. No matter how small a group or cause is, filtering agents help building viable niches for small NGOs and connect other interested agents to them – they enhance the discoverability along the long tail. Thus, skill-based social entrepreneurs serve as brokers for causes and small legacy NGOs that would formerly have faded into oblivion. Today, as they draw on the services of skill-based social entrepreneurs, they may carve out niches in the long tail, manage and shape their profiles, and focus attention of interested audiences. In line with Bruce Bimber’s observation I argue that this unique and novel skill of offering information brokering services on the part of skill-based entrepreneurs promotes a new kind of elite-formation that is highly transnational, networked, and non-state in nature. They promote a new ordering principle in a networked information environment and therefore herald the emergence of a profoundly new governance structure. To sum up, the current information and communication ecology provides an environment for political collective action in which political information is abundant and available at low cost, and grows exponentially into information networks. Following Bimber's model, this endows legacy NGOs with new opportunities but also significant constraints. These dynamics create the urgent need for information brokering and capacity-building for legacy NGOs in transnational advocacy. I argue that this capacity-building is increasingly provided by skill-based social entrepreneurs. They act as filters to create synergies between

63 Clay Shirky (2003): Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. Online available at: http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html, unpaginated (accessed January 3, 2011), unpaginated.

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different actors, they enhance profile building capacities, and they train legacy organizations in effective information management. The following section demonstrates how two skillbased organizations help promote these capacities in their client organizations.

4. Brokers of Transnational Capacity-Building: Two Cases This section discusses two cases of skill-based social entrepreneurs, the Global India Fund (GIF) and The International Exchange (TIE).64 I develop three arguments. First, skillbased entrepreneurs enhance legacy organizations’ capacities to market their profiles and scale their demands to powerful allies. They serve as filters identifying the needs of different actors and brokering connections between them. Secondly, skill-based entrepreneurs enable legacy organizations to manage information internally and transform it into relevant knowledge in their respective niche. Thirdly, skill-based entrepreneurs serve as new network fulcrums by proactively knitting meta-networks between different agents and spheres. The Global India Fund was founded in 2007 by George Washington University professor Amita Vyas, a researcher in the university’s Department of Prevention and Community Health. In 2007, she joined a trip to India with Population Services International (PSI) to produce a film on HIV/AIDS prevention programs and local health NGOs in India. These NGOs are mostly small and resource-poor, often relying on international donor structures such as United Nations programs. Termination of internationally provided and globally institutionalized funding options often halts organizations’ efforts to implement and monitor prevention and treatment projects. Opportunities for these NGOs to directly tap into a global donor community were not available until recently. In the language of Chris Anderson’s long tail, these small organizations faded into obscurity once they were off the radar of big funding organizations. The Global India Fund changes this situation profoundly. After her journey to India, Vyas encountered a heightened interest in supporting local NGOs in the United States and within her international contact base. Yet potential donors were hesitant to donate to local NGOs in India due to commonly shared concerns and
64 The case description is based on analysis of the organizations’ web pages and communications material as well as in-depth interviews with their founding members.

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reservations regarding questions of accountability and transparency. Vyas addressed and channelled these concerns and impediments to donorship into what became the Global India Fund, an interactive web-based platform enhancing both NGOs’ as well as donors’ capacities to engage in humanitarian action.65 GIF’s multi-functional and interactive online platform provides potential donors with a range of “smart” giving options for donating to the local health NGO of their choice.66 They may donate either directly or store their aid in donoradvised funds and grant options, allowing them to distribute their financial aid on the basis of NGO performance over time. In turn, local NGOs have the opportunity to present their profiles and proactively demonstrate accountability regarding financial aid flows. Thus, the GIF platform fulfils two primary networking as well as filtering functions. First, donors develop a direct action and monitoring capacity in a web-based and networked way, independent of the reports provided by intermediary organizations. GIF provides them with the opportunity to choose between a myriad of organizations – which they wouldn’t even know existed without the GIF platform – according to their particular interest. As Vyas contends, people don't want to just write a check to a foundation anymore. They want to feel connected to it, they want to see it. (…) What they need is someone to say, here are profiles, here is the information, now you make the decision.67 Secondly, local health NGOs gain a voice by being able to present themselves to potential donors directly. Over time, they may carve out niches of activity, thereby sharpening and developing their profiles. GIF enables donors and NGOs to get in direct touch with each other, as well as with their peers to share best practice examples. In so doing, GIF does not act like a traditional funding organization. While it provides NGOs with a set of parameters for measuring their performances, no bureaucratic and institutionalized reporting system is in place, which often places heavy constraints on how NGOs can utilize the received funds. The GIF platform allows NGOs, to a certain extent, to decide on how to demonstrate
65 See http://www.globalindiafund.org/about.html (accessed January 10, 2011). 66 This online platform was built in cooperation with Samhita, a local IT enterprise supporting learning efforts; see samhita.org (accessed January 10, 2010). 67 Interview with Amita Vyas, July 30, 2009.

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accountability. Incentives to excel in this task are provided by the market dynamics assumed to evolve in the platform: as NGOs do a better job at showing that they follow accountability standards, donors increase investment due to heightened levels of trust in the organization’s work.68 Vyas claims, NGOs need to hear that we recognize that you [local health NGOs in India] too are smart and you know what you are doing. And here are donors who are interested in learning about what you are doing. So we are here to bridge that and to connect these communities and inspire philanthropy.69 The GIF platform, by serving as a “bridge” or filter between different actors from different spheres who would otherwise have no opportunity to connect, enables both sides to develop new forms of networking, communication and coordination, knowledge management, and monitoring. In short, GIF’s mission is about “connecting people at this global level that otherwise would not be connected and doing it in a smart way, so that people feel empowered.”70 Thus, GIF provides a vehicle for promoting scale-shifting capacities of both local health NGOs and the international donor community. Compounding the network filtering logic of the endeavour, GIF formed at a time when the idea of networking as a primary interaction mode and “Facebook” as its organizational expression gained track: We are now talking end of 2007, early 2008, when Facebook and Twitter and all the social media were beginning to take off. And here I was on a personal level on Facebook. And I am thinking: well, this is exactly what we need for NGOs. There needs to be a Facebook for NGOs. (…) Nothing like that existed. Aside from getting a list here and there from organizations, there was no place where you could really look at the landscape of 1.2 million NGOs in this country [India].71

68 At the same time, the risk associated with this assumption, is recognized. The GIF platform feeds on mutual trust and a credible win-win-situation for both sides. If this trust and credibility are compromised or undermined, the project is most likely doomed to fail. Due diligence processes with the NGOs, regular visits by GW staff, and measured donor accountability are at the core of the efforts to develop a safe system. GIF sets a minimum of parameters such as legal structure around NGOs. Field visits provide sample tests on whether the given information is accurate. 69 Interview with Amita Vyas, July 30, 2009. 70 Interview with Amita Vyas, July 30, 2009. 71 Interview with Amita Vyas, July 30, 2009.

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Providing this “Facebook” option, i.e. allowing donors to filter and choose local health NGOs along the lines of project-specific sectors, and coupling it with a smart donor vehicle also triggers legacy NGOs’ internal capacities of data management and knowledge transformation. What we want to be able to do is to provide a simple matrix method for these NGOs to give us those data points. And over time (…) you can then track that. You are now amassing data that you can use. We can do some outcome evaluation and monitoring on that organization which will feed back to that organization.72 While the novel information management capabilities GIF provides to its clients strengthens NGOs’ capacities to utilize the gathered data to improve their performance over time, newly generated knowledge may also be externalized to epistemic communities and other knowledge brokers in the transnational arena. The capacity that we have as public health professionals (…) is to look at those trends over time. You could build lots of different dash boards. You could build dash boards for organizations, you could build dash boards for the number of donors GIF has and where the money is going and where around the country geographically, by health domain, by state. There are a lot of analytics that can happen. What we can provide in terms of service to an NGO is to feed it back to that NGO.73 These knowledge-building effects among NGOs, donors, and external knowledge brokers create a sustainable feedback loop into the original system, thus allowing for interactive social learning effects over time. By sharing best practice examples in an interactive, dynamic, and networked setting, GIF allows for continuous structural innovation within the community. GIF served as our first example of a skill-based social entrepreneur. Its primary goal is to connect different actors in different niches, thus enabling them to scale their respective potential and creating webs of knowledge. The International Exchange (TIE) represents our second case. It was founded in 2008 by Philippa White, a communications professional who was born in South Africa and grew up
72 Interview with Amita Vyas, July 30, 2009. 73 Interview with Amita Vyas, July 30, 2009.

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in Canada. She worked for six years in London, UK, at advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett and BBH. During that time, she gained first knowledge of the NGO sector in Brazil, and the dire conditions some local NGOs and initiatives face. Often, these NGOs “lack the knowledge, understanding, human resource, time and/or money” for delivering targeted communications and networking efforts – despite their desperate need to connect with donors, sponsors, and supporters to keep their work running.74 TIE engages in promoting these opportunities. Its mission is to select highly qualified communications professionals working in major communications companies from developed countries, and to pair them up with NGOs in developing countries.75 Similar to GIF, TIE recognizes the need that many small and resource-poor organizations face on the ground. Consequently, they set out to broker ties between actors who populate different spheres of non-state political engagement and create win-win situations and opportunities for mutual growth and development. For NGOs in Brazil, TIE creates unique opportunities to benefit from the know-how of communications professionals. The communications professionals, in turn, have the opportunity to prove themselves on the ground in a challenging, multicultural, and multilingual environment, thus achieving a new level of professional and personal development. The communications companies employing them benefit from the opportunity to develop leadership skills in their staff in an interesting and economic way, while, at the same time, seeding knowledge about an emerging market country. Again, TIE serves as a filter between different actors, identifies their needs, and connects them in line with their respective interest. In so doing, TIE and their clients take on a range of different projects. One example is presented by TIE’s work with the NGO Iracambi and a communications professional from Mindshare London.76 Iracambi is an NGO dedicated to the conservation of the Atlantic

74 TIE (undated): The International Exchange (aka TIE). A Leadership Development Opportunity that Places Communications Professionals from Companies in Developed Countries to Work on Shortterm Placements with NGOs in Developing Countries, Assisting Them with Their Communications. Presentation. Internal Document. 75 TIE website. Available online at: http://www.theinternationalexchange.co.uk/pages/page/what_is_tie (accessed January 2, 2011). 76 For more well-documented examples, refer to TIE’s case study section at http://www.theinternationalexchange.co.uk/casestudies/casestudy (accessed January 20, 2011).

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rainforest in Brazil. Due to land-cultivation needs of the local population, the rainforest faces often illegal mining and logging. Iracambi seeks to create projects that make the conservation of the rainforest more attractive than its destruction. The organization’s projects encompass the generation of different income sources for the local population such as ecotourism or cultivation of medical plants in the rainforest; land use studies employing GIS analysis; forest restoration projects; and community education efforts. In so doing, it works with a small staff of employed personnel and volunteers from around the world. Operating the GIS projects in particular requires incoming experts. Yet Iracambi faces continuous shortage of funding for its projects. In addition, it cannot ensure a steady inflow of qualified volunteers. Communicating the need to stop biopiracy activities to the local population is a further growing problem. Prior to the TIE placement, Iracambi did not succeed in devising targeted communications campaigns for any of these diverse audiences. Iracambi therefore needed to sharpen its niche profile, adapt its message to different audiences, and create a coherent communication strategy [providing] them with a clear sense of direction, enabling the organization (…) to tell this story clearly to a variety of different audiences. (…) With a better communication strategy, Iracambi [is] able to secure the funding it needs to continue its work in the future, improve its image with the community (local, national, and international) and attract more people to work with and volunteer for the organization.77 The TIE placement helped devise a proactive, coherent, and targeted communication campaign tailored to Iracambi’s audiences.78 Similar to GIF, TIE therefore engages in promoting NGO profiles by developing communication know-how and network capacity of small NGOs in Brazil, thus brokering scale-shifting and outreach opportunities to primary actors in the commercial sector. Like GIF, TIE responds to a growing demand for these services.

77 TIE (undated): Proposal for Short Term Communications Specialist. Iracambi. Internal document, unpaginated. 78 An evaluation of TIE’s work with Iracambi and the conversion of the campaign strategy into higher income and inflow of qualified personnel is currently underway.

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Communication is currently seen to be a luxury by many NGOs. There is a strong and ever increasing demand for support in the area of communications within the NGO sector, and currently there is a significant deficit in terms of the support available.79 TIE serves as a new broker or filter in the transnational space engaged in building legacy NGOs’ communication and scale-shifting skills while, at the same time, granting staff development opportunities to communications companies. TIE envisions itself as a kind of exchange programme - just rather different from the ones you used to go on when you were twelve. The difference is, with TIE you get an exchange of ideas, experiences and skills. An exchange of knowledge, culture, norms and values. You get an exchange of reality.80 These two examples demonstrate that a novel type of social entrepreneur, which is performing skill-promoting functions, emerges in the shadow of the ambiguous informational effects of new ICTs and information abundance on legacy organizations. Skill-based entrepreneurs respond to the growing needs of small and resource-poor legacy NGOs. They scale their advocacy opportunities by linking them with powerful players in different network segments. Skill-based entrepreneurs serve as novel agents for promoting organizational change by brokering capacity-building of legacy NGOs. These new kinds of social entrepreneurs are highly flexible in nature and vary in their respective organizational forms. In this paper, I discuss two different organizational types, one taking the legal form of a non-profit NGO (GIF) and the other taking the form of a forprofit social enterprise (TIE). Furthermore, while TIE is physically headquartered, GIF is a pure network enterprise; it is headquartered in a virtual environment with various members and participants operating from the United States and India. Both agents offer similar and novel services as information brokers, however, and are therefore representatives of a new category of actors that I call skill-based social entrepreneurs. They represent novel filters
79 TIE (undated): Proposal for Short Term Communications Specialist. Iracambi. Internal document, unpaginated. 80 TIE website. Online available at http://www.theinternationalexchange.co.uk/pages/page/what_is_tie (accessed March 2, 2011).

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cutting through the data noise and connecting actors on the basis of shared project interest. Furthermore, they help small NGOs to develop and thrive in their respective niche segment, thus engaging in transnational capacity building. These observations fit into the larger discussion of new agents fulfilling similar purposes in adjacent fields or particular regions. Steven Livingston (2010) argues that “centers of innovation” in Africa fulfil similar roles; these are usually technological monitoring initiatives such as Ushahidi, which I have briefly discussed above.81 Chris Anderson, in discussing long tail dynamics in economics, argues that Facebook, Google, Amazon and other new and virtual businesses celebrate their huge successes because they offer exactly the kind of information brokering and filtering capacities we observe in transnational advocacy.82 All of these agents fall among the category of “post-bureaucratic” organizations as Bruce Bimber has described them. They can be “less hierarchical, more adaptable to changing circumstances, and networked.”83 Furthermore, these organizations “have virtual presences, meaning they occupy an information space more than they do a physical one.”84 Finally, they represent new elites in the transnational arena. By actively changing the processes and constitution of actors that develop stakes in transnational issue domains – however small and obscure they may be – skill-based social entrepreneurs slowly promote changes in the landscape of transnational governance.

5. Concluding Remarks This paper inquires into the relationship between properties of political information as well as political organization and elite-formation. It builds on the claims of scholars from the fields of political communication, international relations, and sociology, arguing that changes in the information environment catalyse changes in power balances between social actors. While some authors confine their observations to domestic politics in a nation-state setting, their

81 Steven Livingston (2010): Africa’s Evolving Info Systems: A Pathway to Stability and Development. Washington, DC: Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Research paper No. 2. 82 Anderson 2004. 83 Livingston 2010, p. 41. 84 Ibid., p. 41.

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findings can also be applied to transnational relations and global politics. In this paper, I am particularly concerned with the rise of a new type of transnational agent that I call a skillbased social entrepreneur. The study seeks to explain their emergence and increasing interest in their specialized services. I argue that the current informational effects on transnational advocacy are ambiguous for legacy organizations. Today, an information-abundant ecology opens up both new opportunities and constraints on realizing voice amplification benefits and collective action opportunities. On the one hand, NGOs may utilize more levelled access to political information to gather, manage, and disperse political information. They act as framing agents, enabling and scaling narrative power shifts in transnational issue domains. On the other hand, in particular small and resource-poor NGOs face problems of maximizing these opportunities. Often, they cannot muster the necessary networking capacity and communication know-how to compete effectively in the new networked space, and stand out as worthy causes to supporters and powerful allies amongst the growing data smog. I contend that these seemingly contradicting dynamics open up space for new, skillbased types of social entrepreneurs performing innovative functions in transnational collective action. Their clients are often small and resource-poor legacy NGOs seeking ways to carve out a stable niche for profiling their activities and for enhancing their communication and networking know-how. I propose that these NGOs may develop and polish these capacities by employing the services of skill-based entrepreneurs. Furthermore, I contend that – fuelled by the opportunities and challenges provided by the current informationabundant communication ecology – demand for these skill-promoting services is on the rise. Two examples show how skill-based social entrepreneurs promote capacities of legacy NGOs externally as well as internally. Externally, they help legacy NGOs devise targeted information campaigns to pitch their profiles to supporters and allies. Internally, they help develop information management capacities of legacy NGOs, which may then be externalized for utilization by epistemic communities and other knowledge brokers.

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By engaging in these activities, skill-based social entrepreneurs advance major data filtering and network-building effects by acting as innovative linkage brokers between local and global audiences. Consequently, they are on the way to weaving meta-network structures in transnational civil society. This parallels a development that has been described in the context of international organizations. Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson (2005) argue that “[m]ost theories about organizations assume implicitly or explicitly that the members of organizations are individual persons. However, a large and growing number of organizations are ‘‘meta-organizations’’ whose members are other organizations.”85 I argue that the evolution of meta-networks can also be observed in transnational relations, and that skillbased entrepreneurs play an essential role in this development. In so doing they present themselves as highly flexible formations that take on different and context-dependent organizational shapes. The scope of these network-building effects remains subject to further research in a newly emerging and interdisciplinary field of inquiry. Developing this research agenda will be of high relevance for international relations scholarship in order to understand new networked regulation and governance processes of transnational and global issue domains.

85 Göran Ahrne and Nils Bunsson (2005): Organizations and Meta-Organizations, in: Scandinavian Journal of Management, vol. 21, pp. 429-449. Ahrne and Brunsson distinguish between organizations with individual members and organizations whose members are other organizations. Such associations or meta-organizations can be found in the United Nations or the European Union. While NGOs like GIF or TIE do not offer formal membership, their client base is nevertheless constituted of organizations – legacy NGOs – instead of individuals. On this basis, I argue for the similarity of the developments.

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