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Responses to ‘Are INGOs ready to give up power?’

December 20, 2019
On Wednesday, we republished this timely thought piece by Deborah Doane, which interrogates the power held by large NGOs and calls for a shift of power. The article clearly hit a nerve. Questions around #ShiftingThePower bring up enormous systemic (and existential) considerations that pose direct challenges not only to the structures we operate in, but also to our own behaviors.
Featured image for “Are INGOs ready to give up power?”

Are INGOs ready to give up power?

December 18, 2019
Deborah Doane opens up a provocative and necessary discussion around the power held by INGOs, and how we can shift it. Deborah Doane is a Partner at Rights CoLab, and a writer and consultant working with civil society and philanthropy. She is steering a project on reimagining the INGO. This piece was originally published on OpenDemocracy’s Transformation series. “Shifting power

How does an INGO like Oxfam help Africa get a good deal from its Natural Resources?

June 26, 2019
I recently caught up with Gilbert Makore, Oxfam’s Extractive Industries Adviser in East Africa recently. You can listen to the 25m podcast for more nuance, but here are some extracts: The East African moment: ‘The region sits at a very exciting point – it’s one of the emerging oil and gas producers in the world, with significant gas resources in

How can Daniel Kahneman help organizations get better at Strategic Planning?

June 11, 2019
Oxfam is embarking on another round of strategic planning – a protracted process of research, debate and negotiation that sometimes make me wonder whether ‘INGO’ should really stand for ‘Interminable Navel-Gazing Ordeal’. Why the negativity? Partly because I worry that much of what is painfully agreed then sits on a virtual shelf until the next exercise 5 years on. The

How should INGOs respond to growing nationalism in the UK?

June 6, 2019
Guest post from Matthew Spencer, (@Spencerthink) Oxfam’s Director of Campaigns, Policy & Influencing Kirsty McNeill, my counterpart from Save the Children UK, asked me this question last year and it’s been troubling me ever since. I had a vague answer, but wasn’t entirely convinced. We have no mandate to take sides on Brexit, but I reasoned that INGO’s enabling the

Big demographic tides are sweeping the world: how should aid organizations respond?

May 24, 2019
Recently I spent half day BS’ing (breeze-shooting, obviously) about future trends and challenges for international organizations like Oxfam. Confession: we’re supposed to hate these, but often they’re really fun. A table on demographic shifts got me particularly excited. Great human tides are sloshing around the globe, populations are moving geographically, and their age make-up is changing rapidly. All that has

A rant about gender (and other) consultants and how we can avoid them

May 1, 2019
Guest rant from CARE International’s Elizabeth Cowan Ask a group of international development people about external consultants and the conversation that ensues resembles group therapy. Everyone has a story of pain and frustration, of feeling cheated, misunderstood and unsatisfied. Sometimes we cry. There was the external evaluator we paid $60,000 to tell us our project was “doomed from the start”.

Six things INGOs need to fix to be fit for the future. Mark Goldring’s outgoing reflections

April 29, 2019
Guest post by my former boss Mark Goldring, first published in the March edition of Governance and Leadership Magazine. Mark was chief executive of Oxfam GB from 2013 until January 2019. This article is based on a talk given to Civil Society Media’s NGO Insight Conference in November 2018. My last year as chief executive of Oxfam was dominated by the

Will aid help or undermine Mindanao’s new start? Scott Guggenheim is worried.

April 24, 2019
Community Development guru Scott Guggenheim emailed some provocative thoughts on my piece last week on Mindanao, with much wider relevance to the localization debate, so I asked him to turn it into a blog. I like your piece but I’m a bit longer in the tooth than you and so slightly less optimistic. You are entirely right that the MILF

Are INGO advocacy and campaigning up to today’s challenges?

April 16, 2019
This post by Oxfam researcher Ruth Mayne was originally published by the UK network of development NGOs, BOND We know from successful campaigns in the past, such as the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century, that it is possible to achieve intentional systemic change, and that civil society can play a pivotal role.  But are civil society’s current approaches to

What is different about how INGOs do Adaptive Management/Doing Development Differently?

February 8, 2019
Earlier this week I chaired a fascinating discussion on the findings of a new paper on an adaptive management (AM) experiment by Christian Aid Ireland (CAI). The paper really adds to our knowledge of AM/Doing Development Differently: It looks at the work of an INGO, when most formally identified AM practice and research involves big bilaterals like DFID Linked to

Whither Large International Non-Governmental Organisations? Smart new paper.

October 5, 2018
I’m glad to see Penny Lawrence, an Oxfam big cheese for 12 years before she resigned so publicly last February, has been busy reflecting and talking to other leaders (and me) about how large lumbering INGOs need to change. She has put together a useful paper on the topic (a source of endless fascination to INGOs, maybe not so much to