Leading with Influence: The Strategic Role of Civil Society in Protecting Democracy

@ ILA Annual Global Conference “Leadership in Turbulent Times”

13 October 2017, Brussels. 12:15 – 13:15


There are clear reasons to worry about the health of democracy in 2017, and to be concerned about the disruptive trends related to increase of populist leaders, cultural polarization and economic disorder. Experts tend to agree that we are living what could be a pivotal moment in the world’s history, again.

In 2016, we have witnessed the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.[1] Traditional democratic leaders and public institutions have been considered unable to manage effectively the endless crises affecting our world (economy, social, security, political, environmental, etc) and to protect their citizens. These crises have gradually fuelled public dissatisfaction, the rise of anti-establishment sentiment in Western democracies, led to xenophobic responses and to the rise of populism. Jointly with a revival of nationalisms, we are also observing more tensions and conflicts related with natural resources, and, overall, more repression against opposition actors (parties, NGOs, etc). And, last but not the least, we are witnessing multiple crises and attacks to multilateral fora and to the European Union project, an undertaking that was supposed to last forever, as a force of peace and stability in the region and in the world.


For all these upsetting trends, the world today requires courageous leadership and audacious new thinking about how to preserve Ethical leadership, democratic values in governance, reinforce rule of law and manage fairly and transparently the relationship between citizens and their elected representatives. This process requires the mobilization of the best collective intelligence. Independent and transparent civil society actors – think-tanks, NGOs, INGOs, foundations, parties, media outlets, community actors, civil groups, etc – are more than ever fundamental. Any democracy needs them to act as monitors, evidence-gathering partners and normative inspectors of political leaders and state officials.


This panel is diverse: Senior European and American voices, women and men, both results-oriented practitioners and scholars working in leadership fields for many years. They will explore and inter-connect the big global trends with their national/thematic realities, addressing leadership implications in the political, governmental, social, civic realms.

They will examine the trends in their sectors, share new ideas, and analyse the questions below through the lenses of their unique expertise.



  • What makes civil society key in promoting democratic values today?
  • What is new in the world context we live in? What trends exist and how are they changing Policy-making?
  • How does this changing context affects the work and the necessary strategies for civil society actors?
  • How can informal leaders make political and public leaders accountable to ethical standards, inclusion and sustainable leadership?
  • Managing ethical dilemmas: Concrete tips to ensure more participatory, inclusive and democratic decision-making in times of turbulence, populism and technological revolution.


Chair: Claudia de Castro Caldeirinha, Director of RedScope Consulting, Leadership Advisor/Author (co-organisor).


Confirmed Panelists:

  • Dionne Rosser-Mims, Associate Dean, Troy University, USA (co-organisor).

On African-American women’s political leadership development. The importance of informal networks and community-based leadership. Bringing value to and humanizing globalization.

  • Von Nkosi, Founder and Chairperson at the Institute for Local Innovations (ILI), USA.

On collaborative community development, knowledge capture and cross-generational transfer towards more democratic systems. How to engage leaders across generations, foster resilient communities, and thriving organizations at the community level.

  • Joanna Maycock, Secretary General, European Women’s Lobby, Brussels/EU. TBC

On European civil society and their roles in defending democracy. On trends, challenges and opportunities.

  • Mike Hardy, founding Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace. Social Relations at Coventry University.

TBD: Intercultural Dialogue, youth engagement, and so-called ‘soft-power’ global strategic partnerships.