The 2010 InsideNGO Annual Member Meetings brought together over 600 NGO operations professionals for 5 days of sharing, learning, and networking. Below are some highlights from last year's meeting.
The 2010 Annual Meeting for members of the InsideNGO Finance, Grants, and Contracts community featured four concurrent tracks and 45 different sessions focusing on Finance, Grants, Contracts, and Professional Development.
Professor Alison Stanger’s keynote address, One Nation Under Contract, struck a chord with InsideNGO members. Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College and director of its Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, she discussed the growing use of private contractors by the US government – and the fact that the public-sector expertise needed to implement foreign policy no longer exists.
Her book —and her keynote —highlight the successful activities of NGOs and the growing role of multinationals in development that make it imperative to come up with a new template for how government and the private sector interact.
Advice from presenters MSH’s Yen Lim; Partners in Health’s Kate Green; and American Red Cross’s Stacy Ragan, based on their organizations' experiences during the recent crisis in Haiti:
The Cross Operations Day focuses on topics that cross functional areas. 2010's Cross Ops Day included four concurrent tracks and 14 different sessions, including a dedicated Technology track.
Dr. Ayo Ajayi, VP of Field Programs at Path, talked about the work ahead of us in the changing NGO landscape and what has changed in the landscape in the past 20 years
In closing, Dr. Ajayi reminded us to keep in mind that our common goal both internally and across organizations is to make an impact. Continually ask yourself how can you and your team best contribute toward that goal.
Measuring Impact: Funders are increasingly demanding accountability and results. Measuring concrete results for the investment of aid is the mantra of Raj Shah at USAID and Andrew Mitchell at DFID… In order to measure results, the underlying skills, processes, and systems must be in place.
Local Capacity Changes: Funders have a growing interest in building local capacity through the projects they finance. Increased emphasis on local partners and career development for in-country staff means we’re relying on local resources for expertise, rather than bringing a few people to the US for training each year.
Harmonization: The international aid community recognizes the administrative burden placed on countries and other aid recipients due to different reporting and measurement requirements and various time schedules. National planning efforts with multiyear financial forecasts can be difficult with unpredictable short-term donor funding commitments. Budget cycles of recipient nations and funders rarely align.
Strict Overhead Constraints: Overhead rates continue to impact infrastructure. For example, the Global Fund to Fight TB, AIDS, and Malaria has very stringent overhead constraints, and these requirements impact our operations.
Ongoing Challenges: Strong and positive communications skills are key in bridging the daily work between the field office and HQ. The people who will build the bridges must have credibility within the country and credibility at HQ. Differences that must be bridged include culture, work ethic, and expectations. The teams in-country are focused on project deliverables, not reports for HQ (tail wagging the dog). HQ staff need to understand and respect the perspective of the field offices and visa versa.
We’re very pleased to recognize Stan with the first IT award from InsideNGO, and the first of its kind that we know of in the international NGO sector. This award is a way for the non-profit community as a whole to better recognize the significant contributions and innovation coming out of the IT NGO community, and Stan’s work with Audio Computer-Assisted Self Interviewing (ACASI) is a great example of the leadership, creativity, and contribution to mission that forward-thinking IT brings to the table, and we’re pleased to highlight Stan and his achievements at the Pop Council.
Lesley Roth of World Vision and George Maina Chege of Catholic Medical Mission Board were also recognized for their professional and personal contributions to IT in the NGO community in the last year.
Ada Jo Mann and Michael Feinson of Innovation Partners International shared their simple four step strength-based planning process for increased leadership effectiveness. Integrating elements of Appreciative Inquiry and Appreciative Intelligence, Ada Jo suggests the following 4 top tips to take your leadership to the next level.
HR professionals at last year's Annual Meeting participated in over 25 sessions spread over 4 different session tracks - Strategic, Operational, Professional Development, and, for the first time, a dedicated Staff Care and Wellness track.
This topic was featured at both the Cross-Operations and Human Resources Annual Meetings. Members were alerted that the IRS and Department of Labor have begun to crack down and investigate potential misclassifications. Below are some take-aways and shred lessons learned.
Employee and Consultant Classification Audits - Lessons Learned
Marsha Moulton and William Sparks of ACDI/VOCA shared one tool in their Performance Management toolbox – Speed Mentoring.
“I would do it every year if I could. It was terrific for everyone!” said Lori Tiller as she shared the impact of sending 6 field staff to the InsideNGO 2010 Annual Meeting along with 13 HQ staff. “For some field staff, it was the first time attending this type of conference.”
In April 2010, Helen Keller International rescheduled its HQ-Field staff Summit in NYC to July which coincided with InsideNGO’s Annual Meeting. Lori Tiller, SVP & Chief Operating Officer of HKI, spoke candidly about HKI’s decision to send a strong delegation of staff to the conference. A major factor in sending field staff was the Board supported strategic initiative of strengthening their operational infrastructure.
To recognize their goal to be the best they can be, HKI has placed an organizational focus on building teams, ensuring finance/operations and program communicate, and overall increasing the opportunity for staff to learn together. The InsideNGO Annual Meeting proved to be a perfect forum for HKI staff to learn, share, interact with each other and with colleagues from other agencies. Ms. Tiller noted that, “Field staff had the opportunity to shine,” particularly as HQ staff watched one of their colleagues present on a panel – “it blew them away.” The group brought lessons learned from the conference back to their Summit in NY and discussed how they would incorporate them into their field processes.
When asked if she could offer advice to organizations who might want to consider this model of global team participation, Lori noted, “There are so many wonderful things about technology that you can lose sight of the importance of human contact. Having field staff be exposed to this type of interaction … it is nice to know you are not in isolation.” Lori also noted that the opportunity for staff to gather at a forum that highlights and celebrates operations left a lasting impact on the HKI field staff who returned so proud to be a professional in operations.
InsideNGO Young Professionals built their professional networks at this year’s Annual Meeting throughout the week. On Monday, a group of Finance, Grants and Contracts Young Professionals met over lunch to discuss issues they are facing and to find out how peers in the InsideNGO network can help. On Tuesday, four senior grants/contracts leaders from the membership shared their career journeys and offered advice on skills and experiences essential to advance in this field. On Thursday Raj Kumar, Co-Founder and President of DevEx, led a Young Professionals focused session, “5 Myths Dispelled About International Development Careers,” with a full room and great Q&A discussion. The week wrapped with the Human Resources meeting, and on Friday HR Young Professionals met over lunch to meet each other and find out more about upcoming trainings geared toward them on InsideNGO’s fall calendar, as well as suggest relevant programs for the future. Thank you to those who participated, and we look forward to seeing you at future events throughout the year!