Can we future-proof our NGOs?

By Toby Porter, Devex

For a sector that prides itself on innovation and change, is it time that we international nongovernmental organizations fundamentally revisited what it means — and what it takes —  to deliver our programs in the countries where we want to operate?

I became CEO of HelpAge International in late 2013. I joined from Save the Children, where my last major project had been to assist with the takeover of MERLIN. The decision of the MERLIN Board to call time on their organizational independence and seek a merger had a rather personal resonance for me — my first mission as a humanitarian worker had also been MERLIN’s first mission, a vaccination program in Nagorno Karabakh in 1993.

I wonder now as I wondered during the due diligence stage of the takeover process two years ago — in a sector that is rightly questioned for its profound shortage of proactive, mission-driven consolidation — why does there appear to be so few stages or options between complete operational independence among different charities, and a board instigating a final merger or winding-up process?

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