Building and Governing a Democratic Federation: The ActionAid Story

June 28, 2013
Hauser Institute

The Hauser Center is pleased to share Building and Governing a Democratic Federation: The ActionAid International Story, co-authored by Sherine Jayawickrama (Domain Manager, International NGOs at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations) and Alnoor Ebrahim (Associate Professor in the General Management Unit at the Harvard Business School). This paper explores ActionAid’s internationalization journey and the governance model that has emerged in the course of that journey, and is based on a governance model review recently commissioned by ActionAid International and conducted by the authors under the auspices of the Hauser Center.

In the space of ten years, ActionAid has transformed itself from a British NGO to a global federation of 26 members supported by a multi-locational headquarters with a home base in South Africa. This paper explores the complex challenges that accompany such a dramatic transformation. Although ActionAid’s federal model of governance, and the democratic approach to which it aspires, are still a work in progress, ActionAid’s experience offers valuable lessons for other international NGOs.