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In the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), by director Ang Lee, a young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation. At a certain moment in the film, the young warrior comes to Master Li Mu Bai in desperation because of the constraints surrounding her. Master Li Mu Bai answers: “No growth without assistance. No action without reaction. No desire without restraint. Now give yourself up and find yourself again.”

Civil Society needs to reinvent itself each time when faced with new challenges. New attitudes of governments and businesses can certainly be genuine – but can also be lip-service to voters and consumers. And often, no initiative is taken without some political pressure. Wisdom comes with knowing yourself, as Aristotle famously stated, and each new challenge requires a new approach, sometimes fierce and outspoken, sometimes diplomatic and in negotiations.

In 2015, Oxfam Novib – and its global Oxfam Family working with numerous CSOs worldwide – and SOMO, an independent, critical, not-for-profit knowledge centre on multinationals, joined forces in a programme called ‘Towards a Worldwide Influencing Network’. This Strategic Partnership ‘Towards a Worldwide Influencing Network’ covered three themes, each with its own Theory of Change: Right to Food (R2F), Finance for Development (F4D), Conflict and Fragility (C&F). The evaluation of this Strategic Partnership demonstrates that many of the CSOs that were part of this programme have worked in the spirit of Master Li. They have successfully learned, adapted where needed, and successfully employed various strategies and tactics that can be summarised as ‘Paper Tiger, Roaring Dragon'.

This title also reflects the intentions of the Dutch government paper ‘Dialogue and Dissent’, which has financially supported this partnership. The policy encourages its grantees to enter in dialogue when feasible, and to stand up when needed. The evaluation consists of an assessment of in-country programmes per theme, an assessment of global initiatives per theme, and an assessment of the cross-cutting theme ‘capacity development for influencing’.

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