Over the last 70 years, International NGOs have become key development actors in global relief and development. The question for the next 20 years is whether these organizations will continue to evolve and realize their full potential or risk becoming outdated, failing the people and partners they intended to serve.
In Ahead of the Curve: Insights for the International NGO of the Future, my colleagues Kyle Peterson, Adeeb Mahmud and I begin to answer this question. We explore the disruptions facing INGOs today – increasingly complex global challenges, the role of business as a development actor, the empowerment of individuals, and an increasingly fragmented funding landscape – and identify four ways INGOs can transform the way they do business to create greater impact.
The four approaches highlighted in the report were drawn from the experience of forward-looking INGOs who have found ways to stay head of the curve. They include:
- Enhancing direct implementation, which is already underway among many leading INGOs, by leveraging technology, informing programs with cost-effectiveness data, and making other operational improvements to program design and implementation.
- Influencing systems change by setting ambitious, system-level goals and targets, conducting systems mapping of the ecosystem in which a planned intervention is taking place, identifying critical development gaps (beyond what is identified in an RFP), and leveraging their own assets as well as those of other organizations, to fill those gaps.
- Harnessing the private sector through shared value that creates jobs, new products addressing critical needs, and prosperity in local communities. Of particular interest to readers of this blog, we have found that leading INGOs are expanding beyond philanthropic partners to become mission-oriented vendors for companies.
- Leading multisector action, turning pro forma partnerships into rigorous collaborations for complex problem-solving. As development practitioners know, the paradox of partnerships is that what is often intended as mechanism to deliver impact all too often becomes little more than a mechanism to distribute funds.
In the report we highlight examples of these approaches in action, as well as findings from survey data and interviews with more than 100 INGO CEOs, donors, academics, and other development practitioners, and offer practical recommendations for how INGOs can put these ideas into action.
FSG worked with Elefint Designs on the design and development of the website and report.