Handing over ownership to local NGOs already placed in the community

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Here is an interesting piece posted in the Guardian Professional's Global Development Professionals Network. The CEO of a former INGO that focused on child care and protection, explains the organization's shift from directly-funded programs to its establishment as a hub to connect a series of locally-placed organizations in different countries in order to facilitate the sharing of expertise.
EveryChild is shifting its funding away from the delivery of direct programming to funding a new global alliance of national NGOs, Family for Every Child. The alliance pools the expertise of up to 50 organisations that specialise in providing child care and protection. Instead of spreading funds across 15 direct delivery programmes, EveryChild will fund the sharing and amplifying of members' expertise so that they can improve their own programmes and collectively have more influence.

The move to an alliance model is not only to achieve greater scale and reach, although growing from 15 partner organisations to 50 members is not to be sniffed at. It is also about development principles and an acceptance of change.
She then goes on to discuss why more international organizations don't do this, since they spend so much time talking about it.
If local organisations working closest to communities have the best knowledge and are able to respond most appropriately to needs, why don't more INGOs genuinely transfer power rather than just talk about it?

I think it's because there is a conflict of interests. The INGO federal model in particular has been very successful – organisations that use it spend billions of dollars and their programmes reach millions of people. Global brands like World Vision, Oxfam or Save the Children have immense power. They can access governments, and their representatives are the first to be asked to attend regional and national consultations. Their reluctance to give up this power and influence is because they fear that local NGOs might not be able to replicate it easily.

...

The other challenges to working in an alliance exist in any global organisation, for example overcoming barriers of different time zones, languages and cultures. If you add requirement to achieve member sign off and consensus, there is a risk of slowing down response times and watering down policy positions. In our research, these practical considerations came top of the list of risks.

But probably the biggest challenge is overcoming prejudices and the mutual suspicion between INGOs and national NGOs. The assumption held by many in the north – including initially EveryChild – is that national NGOs in the south don't have the skills and experience to play a more significant role in international development and that their weak systems are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. And the assumption by many NGOs in the south is that INGOs are full of empty rhetoric who will never give up power because of self-interest.

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