7 Responses

  1. Matt Watts
    Matt Watts March 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    The author correctly identified the failings of the INGO sector (e.g. accountability, duplication, etc.) and I would suggest those are valid concerns in an era when few western countries (i.e. traditional sources of INGO funds) appear to be awash with cash.

    Overall, I enjoyed the article, although I disagree with the claimed link to xenophobia.

    Shape up or ship out. That’s an attitude that can be addressed by some of the article’s suggestions. Xenophobia is an irrelevant consideration in my opinion.

  2. Nilesh
    Nilesh March 22, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Very interesting take on the current situation and lot of it applies to Indian context as well. With rising Indian middle class the sector seems to growing, however at the same time International NGOs are facing fund crisis and the reason you have rightly communicated is the ‘Getting own house in order’. Good read. Sharing it within team.

  3. chaamjamal
    chaamjamal March 19, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    NGOs in poor countries serve the prorities of the donor countries and often they benefit the host country but not always. A case in point is energy poverty pitted against the climate change agenda of the SDG. So in cases where a poor country desperately needs to increase fossil fuel emissions, foreign funded NGOs are preaching climate change and renewable energy and so in. These NGOs are serving their own financial needs and not the needs of the people. There is a gross disconnect here between the values and priorities of donors and those of the host country.

  4. Ross Wyatt
    Ross Wyatt March 19, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Hear, hear Paul. INGOs (who do great work as a general rule!) have done little in recent decades to engage funders, the public and policy-makers in genuine dialogue about the impact of their work and how it might be enhanced. Instead, “success” is still frequently measured in fundraising growth and similar non-impact measures. We estimate $120-150billion a year is generated by a sector which continues to define itself by what it isn’t! (Not-for-profit). The good news is that increasingly we are seeing the emergence of real efforts to become a true “for-purpose” sector. One that is characterised by transparency of impact and an equal-footing dialogue with funders and policy-makers in creating the necessary changes to lives, and the system in which those lives can be allowed to flourish. With the tragic decline in humanitarian values in national leadership, it is more imperative than ever that a strong voice arises from the humanitarian sectors, to speak loudly, and with rigour, to redefine what “prosperity” and “progress” mean to all of society, not just the wealthy.

  5. Chris Roche
    Chris Roche March 18, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Paul you may want to look at this paper which Andrew Hewett and I wrote in 2013 which had a similar title to this blog. We suggested eight things (listed below) International NGOs might want to consider it they want to remain relevant. There are some interesting overlaps and differences of emphasis with what you are suggesting.

    1. INGOs should clarify their identities and present themselves and indeed act as vehicles for social change and social justice, and should no longer present themselves as aid organisations.
    2. INGOs should focus their development programming on challenging unequal power relations and the political, economic and social processes that drive these.

    3. More INGOs should ask themselves if they should cease direct service delivery programming, especially in middle income countries

    4. INGOs should also focus on building connections between their supporters in their home countries and communities and their organisations in developing countries.

    5. INGOs should aim to ‘bring it all home’ recognising the porous boundaries of global social justice concerns.

    6. INGOs should have clear guidelines for their relationship with ODA agencies including being clear about their response to the conditions that come with funding.

    7. INGOs need to transform their organisational structures and ways of working to emphasize nimbleness and flexibility

    8. INGOs could begin a more coherent and focussed discussion on whether institutional growth is necessary for INGOs to be effective vehicles for social justice

    1. Paul Ronalds
      Paul Ronalds March 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks Chris.

      I suspect its not the lack of awareness of the need for change that is holding the sector back nor the form the change needs to take (although we might disagree on some of the detail), but the ability to lead impactful change agendas within INGOs.

      Many INGOs have diffuse global governance structures and a plethora of stakeholders that make negotiating change difficult. Freeing up resources to invest in new approaches is fiendishly difficult when there are so many competing demands. And there is an overwhelming lack of capacity to manage these complex change processes inside INGOs.

  6. Iain Haggarty
    Iain Haggarty March 17, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Enjoyed this article.
    So agree with your comment: “There are enormous opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness in the sector if CEOs and their boards are prepared to put ego to one side and genuinely consider the benefits of merging with organisations that share a similar mission.”
    Mergers and territory sharing aside (both good by the way), there also needs to be a meaningful examination of the quality of outputs and their actual, rather than assumed, contribution to stated outcomes.
    I have witnessed incredibly shoddy project outputs from INGOs on the ground. It is not enough to simply state that ‘not for profit’ must automatically mean ‘more cost efficient’ – if the outputs are poor then any supposed savings become meaningless.
    Global politics aside, it may also be that INGOs have lost some local support due to confusion between their sometimes simultaneous roles (eg advocate or contractor?). Let us not forget the obvious clangers such as World Vision in Israel with the apparent diversion of more than $40 million in donor funds to terrorist groups.
    Room for improvement indeed as is the case at the end of any golden age. Your article points the way for some opportunites for much needed reinvention in the sector.

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