On the Road with InsideNGO in NY, Boston & Raleigh

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May 01, 2017

On the Road with InsideNGO in NY, Boston & Raleigh

By Marie McNamee

Director, Program & Member Services InsideNGO

In early April, InsideNGO concluded its winter/spring 2017 U.S. regional cross operational roundtable gatherings. Approximately 115 members attended in NY, Boston, and Raleigh.

A common theme

Concerns over the impact of the new administration on funding and mission were top of mind for members everywhere. Panels in each city kicked off the roundtables by sharing the impact on their own organization. For those that get U.S government funding, many are having more serious discussions on funding diversification. Like several member organizations, Management Sciences for Health noted they had merged with another NGO that does not receive U.S government, which helped to diversify their portfolio.

In regards to travel and the attempted Executive Order on Restricting Immigration, others noted that some staff are hesitant or just not willing to come to the U.S. for meetings or training. This has generated discussion in the workplace of what travel is necessary and how to improve virtual meetings and trainings. Several roundtable attendees noted that many colleagues who are citizens of the countries named or who have traveled to them for work have always had difficulties in coming to or returning to the U.S. This event has just heightened awareness.

There was also some thought-provoking conversation on the future. Will scarcer funding and increased competition dampen the community’s voice on issues of concern so as not to offend the donor? Will it cause us to lose our spirit of partnership? Will mergers be a more pervasive business strategy? Donors increasingly want to bypass the traditional international NGO and work directly with local organizations. Patience for long-term projects has diminished and more immediate results are demanded. Oxfam CFO Mark Kripp posed the question, “Will this sector become a dinosaur?”

Moving Forward

Many members shared that they are having numerous internal discussions regarding how to proactively address new realities. Those involved in women’s health are working to identify local organizations who can take on more of the work. Numerous roundtable attendees said they are looking at how to reduce costs and streamline operations, from increasing the number of staff who telecommute in order to reduce the amount of office space needed, to developing internal business process improvement initiatives. The idea was posed as to whether organizations can band together to share operational resources. This is not a new idea but perhaps now takes on a bit more serious consideration. Would international NGOs consider pooling together their accounting, human resources, and other operational expertise as shared services rather than having separate units? Certainly, donors may appreciate the proactive steps to streamline costs.

In times of flux and rapid change, stress and anxiety increase. Members acknowledged this was the case in many organizations and noted that it was important to address these issues in a timely manner. InsideNGO shared that it was offering a webinar, Remaining Resilient in Challenging Times, with a panel of leading staff care professionals. (Note: More than 100 people participated in this April webinar, which was hosted by InsideNGO in conjunction with DisasterReady.org/Cornerstone On Demand Foundation and featured presenters from the KonTerra Group, Duty of Care International, and Headington Institute. InsideNGO members who missed the event can access the recording through the Member Community here).

So, will we become a dinosaur? The work of this sector is critically important and there is still much more to be accomplished. Although we may need to re-engineer how we work and improve how we demonstrate value for money – one important takeaway is that in our membership, no organization is alone. We encourage organizations to continue the dialogue that the roundtables have started, sharing ideas and increasing collaboration. InsideNGO will continue to host topical gatherings that respond to concerns and provide solutions. We welcome your ideas for future topics.

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