The role of INGOs: ICDI’s approach described

Recently, we came across an online article (“International Non-Governmental organisations (INGO friends), it’s time to reimagine our role. What better time to do it than at the start of a new year? by Dylan Mathews –CEO at Peace Direct) in which the author describes alternative roles that INGOs might play in future international cooperation, and we were happily surprised to recognise ICDI’s own approach to work within the field in it.

The discussion over the role of INGOs is not a recent one. Over the past years, the issue has been raised regarding what different models of international cooperation could be there for INGOs when the role of implementer meets its end. One alternative position that has been performed by INGOs, albeit less widespread, is the role of intermediary. However, even when such role is performed, the focus has been limited to act as a facilitator for channelling funding, which underplays the numerous opportunities that such position can provide to partners. Such opportunities are described in the paper “The nine roles that intermediaries can play in international cooperation” (Peace Direct, 2023) and an overview of these can be found in the figure below. These may provide a path to the role INGOs can play in the future and, from our experience, are positively valued by partners.

Figure 1

Since ICDI’s establishment, almost 29 years ago, we have been approaching our work in a comparable way to what is described in the paper by Peace Direct. This is the first time we have read such a comprehensive systematization of our approach. Through our whole trajectory we have acted as an intermediary to our partners in the Global South and Global North, taking several of the roles described above: critical friend, trainer, coach and co-learner, interpreter, connector, and eco-system builder.

ICDI’s way of working is described in our most recent Theory of Change, approved by our board at the end of 2022. We work at the intersection between research, policy and practice, developing meaningful, effective solutions so that all children can grow up in safe, caring, and nurturing environments and lead happy lives.

Figure 2

We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to act through this role, to function as a multiplier of (local) efforts, and to have the trust of our partners and donors who believe in ourselves and our partnerships, so that every child has the chance to be(come) him/herself/themselves, with the opportunity to develop in nurturing, caring, and supportive environments.