Some lessons from recent work with international NGOs that
will also apply to national and local NGOs
- Mutual Value - How valuable are
the international/national aspects of organization affiliation to your
national/local affiliates? What is
being obtained via the affiliation to the parent organization that cannot
be obtained/accomplished on its own locally? The
more value → the more commitment; HQ ↔ local partnerships
leads to more commitment to the whole.
- Need to compromise - If the value in affiliation with the
larger group is strong enough, when disagreements arise, affiliates can reach a point of consensus where people want to agree
and move on.
- Communication: The more
stakeholders involved and the more diverse (including geographically
spread) they are, the more effort that must be put into effective
communication vehicles to avoid misunderstandings. Remember that communication is two ways
- a message must be sent, received and understood (not necessarily agreed
with, but understood!).
- HumilityA little humility goes a long way. Some individuals and nationalities
are better at this than others. Those who work in the international arena,
find out that to be effective it is important to put one's ego aside as much as possible
and to listen to others as much (if not more than) one talks. It is part of the glue that
can help to bind organizations together.
- Allocating responsibilities: There
needs to be mutual respect for decision-making at each level in the
organization. Certain responsibilities
should be clearly allocated to each level of national and international
organizations, while respecting the appropriateness of international/national
governance and action where there is collective interest. This is a challenging balance -
international/national have to be seen as not extracting too much, and
there needs to be ample benefit nationally/locally to international/national
priorities for resentment not to be created.
- Accountability variances: National
or local entities may be held to higher standards by their local bodies
than the international or national organization. The international/national board should
recognize this and make adjustments as needed.
- Inherent tensions: Some tensions
are inherent in the nature of INGOs: center/HQ vis a vis
affiliates/members, donors vis a vis grantees, etc..Their interests will often be
different. It is important to
recognize this and work through how to minimize the tensions.
- Politics: The more people and
cultures involved, the more complex the internal politics can be, but they
exist in every organization and should be taken into consideration.
- Donors: Although donors generally do
not have the right of control, they should have the right to be informed.