Hauser Institute Reports

Jayawickrama, Sherine, and Alnoor Ebrahim. Building and Governing a Democratic Federation: The ActionAid International Story. Cambridge: Harvard Kennedy School, 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Like many international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), ActionAid International (AAI) confronts a very different external context than it did when it was founded 41 years ago. Traditional “aid” or “charity” is now widely recognized as being insufficient for addressing persistent poverty and inequality. The role of the state and local ownership in developing countries, as well as the role of social movements, is on the rise. Geopolitical influence is being realigned – away from the United States and Western Europe – in a multi-polar world. Technology is putting more capabilities into the hands of ordinary people to access and share information, and to network and act with others. At the same time, poverty and rights violations still persist. Like its peer INGOs, AAI is confronted by increased competition for resources, intensifying demands for accountability, and heightened scrutiny by governments – all against the backdrop of AAI’s own increasing ambitions for impact and growth. To be successful, AAI’s business model and governance model must enable agility and efficiency, as well as legitimacy and accountability in the forms of citizen voice and demonstrable results. This report explores AAI’s internationalization journey and the governance model that has emerged in the course of that journey. It describes the evolution of AAI’s governance model and draws key lessons for peer INGOs. The paper is based on a governance model review recently commissioned by AAI and conducted by the authors2 under the auspices of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. This review drew from 60 interviews, group discussions, 80 survey responses, desk review of key internal documents and a review of lessons learned from four peer INGOs3 . While the report of AAI’s governance model review (an internal document) articulated specific findings and recommendations aimed at strengthening AAI’s governance, this paper seeks to tell the story of AAI’s internationalization journey with a view to providing useful insights to individuals and organizations external to ActionAid (and serving as a useful briefing document to new ActionAid staff and new members of ActionAid governing bodies at all levels).

Jayawickrama, Sherine. Diversifying Membership and Building Inclusion in Governance: Lessons from Plan International’s Experience, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

For INGOs whose business models, organizational structures and governance systems originate from an earlier era, significant changes in the aid landscape demand a fundamental rethinking of identities, roles and relevance. This paper examines Plan International’s experience with respect to transitioning country offices into members of Plan International in their own right. It draws out the major lessons to be learned from Plan International’s experience with organizational evolution in Thailand, India, Colombia and Brazil, and proposes a framework for an organizational evolution agenda going forward.

Oxfam International: Moving Toward "One Oxfam", 2012.Abstract

Oxfam International is moving from a system in which multiple, autonomous Oxfam affiliates could work in any given country to a single management structure (SMS) in each country, but with a continuing commitment to preserving a diverse confederation. This has been a complex process that aims to deliver greater impact, efficiency and recognition. This paper examines the major features of change and explores the key lessons learned in the process.

Save the Children International: Advancing New Structures, Systems and Governance to Deliver Impact at Scale, 2012. save_the_children_advancing_new_structures_systems_governance.pdf
Developing Managers and Leaders: Experiences and Lessons from International NGOs, 2011.Abstract

This paper is an exploration of how international NGOs (INGOs) approach the development of managers and leaders. It discusses the context, practice and lessons related to management and leadership development in a handful of large INGOs, including ActionAid International, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps and Save the Children.

Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector, 2011.Abstract

The perceived role of brands, and attitudes towards branding in the nonprofit sector, appear to be at an inflection point. While some in the sector are skeptical about brands, believing that the brand is essentially a fundraising tool, many are embracing a more strategic role for their brands in driving long term social goals and building internal cohesion and capacity. An 18-month study on the role of brand in the nonprofit sector resulted in a project overviewStanford Social Innovation Review article, and four case studies on nonprofit branding.

Working Through Ambiguity: International NGOs in Myanmar, 2011.Abstract

Based largely on interviews with personnel from INGOs and donors present in Myanmar, this paper explores the operational modalities of INGOs, and examines how INGOs consider the impact, ethics, effectiveness, and accountability of their programs in Myanmar.

Adaption and Change in Six Globalizing NGOs: Drivers, Tensions and Lessons, 2010.Abstract

This is a set of case studies and snapshots that explore the global structures and governance systems of six INGOs – Save the Children, Oxfam, Médicins Sans Frontières, World Vision, CARE and Mercy Corps – undergoing various degrees of reform and change. The synthesis paper highlights major drivers, tensions, and lessons that emerge in the six cases.

Approaches to Development and Humanitarian Action: NGO Profiles and Synthesis, 2010.Abstract

This is a set of nine profiles – of the programmatic approaches or theories of change of CARE USA, Catholic Relief Services, Habitat for Humanity International, International Rescue Committee, Médicins Sans Frontières, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Save the Children and World Vision – pulled together by a synthesis of common threads, distinctive features, and major implications.

The World Ahead: Implications for US INGOS, 2010.Abstract

This paper considers how the landscape of development and humanitarian action is likely to change over the next ten years, what that will mean for development and emergency-related needs, and what the implications are for the relevance of U.S.-based INGOs. It examines the challenges INGOs will face, explores the potential for new opportunities, and poses questions about the future of INGOs.

Can Nonprofits Save Journalism? Legal Constraints and Opportunities, 2009.Abstract

Is nonprofit, tax-exempt status the answer to newspaper industry woes? Marion Fremont-Smith’s paper takes a fresh look at legal precedent and IRS rulings to argue that it is possible under current conditions for daily newspapers to qualify for tax exemption, and examines how existing law could be interpreted to allow newspapers nonprofit status.

What Makes International NGOs Distinctive? Contributions, Characteristics and Challenges, 2009.Abstract

This paper explores the distinctive contributions that INGOs have made in development and humanitarian crises, the characteristics that enable them to make these contributions, and the limitations to their effectiveness. Twenty-six interviews—with leaders of INGOs, scholars of civil society, and a few southern NGO leaders and senior foundation staff—provided the fodder for this paper.