Weathering the Storm: Ensuring Resilience

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March 07, 2017

Weathering the Storm: Ensuring Resilience

By Tom Dente

President and CEO

I was speaking with a CEO of one of InsideNGO’s larger members last month, and he said, “It feels like we are in the eye of the storm. Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell if this will be a tropical depression or a Category 3 hurricane.”

In our discussions and at our events with members across the community, we find that many are feeling this way, as political, policy, and funding changes and their secondary effects are only just emerging.  What is also shared, however, is an equally strong sense of resiliency, both as individuals facing new demands in this changing environment, as well as organizations exploring new actions to adapt. 

How might organizations respond to the need to be more resilient? Some have suggested the classic 3C approach: collaborating more, competing more, or consolidating with others (or a combination of all three). Each approach has different requirements. Collaborating more, especially with non-traditional actors, takes a different set of partnering skills. Competing more requires working with boards and across senior leadership teams to answer often difficult questions: What is the unique value that we bring? What are the capabilities we have that allow us to deliver successfully? How do we sustain a repeatable model from funder management to program results? Finally, consolidation, while less common historically across our sector, offers different possibilities for resiliency as evidenced by recent examples from InsideNGO members, such as RTI’s acquisition of International Resources Group (a subsidiary of Engility); Grameen Foundation and Freedom From Hunger; and Oxfam Ireland and Goal.

Cycles of disruption and stabilization are not new to our sector, our organizations, or our programs. However, the frequency of disruption combined with the shortening time to react and stabilize is creating the need for new organizational and operational readiness. Addressing these needs and supporting the 3Cs or other approaches requires two valuable assets that are not found on an NGO’s balance sheet: its culture and its networks. 

Cultures that encourage embracing thoughtful risks, inclusive idea generation, knowledge-sharing and partnering, an openness to learn from failures, and learning and talent development offer resiliency advantages. Externally, being able to gain early-warning insights, knowledge, skills, and capacity from the networks an NGO engages in provides additional resilience. In fast-changing times, strong cultures and robust networks may offer more advantages over traditional strategic planning and internal capacity alone.

As we look ahead, InsideNGO is your network for organizational and operational excellence. We exist to make accessible the expertise, insights, and capacity from more than 330 diverse global organizations, their partners, and solution providers. With every interaction across our community, you strengthen this shared capacity. Over the next year, we will be doing more to expand and enhance this network—our essential community. The challenges ahead in weathering this environment may be significant, but I believe that the resilience of the individuals and member organizations in our community will bring new shared creativity and innovation for the betterment of all.

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