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Movement roles/Benchmarking analysis

From Strategic Planning

Secondary research and interviews

Increasing the effectiveness of global networks

The Bridgespan Group published an article entitled, "Increasing Effectiveness in Global NGO Networks." A few of the main points:

  • A common definition of impact allows network members to adopt and adapt activities based on local context, while sharing a strong, shared, focus
    • Balancing differentiation with a common vision and sense of purpose
    • Prioritizing what needs to be standardized with what can be localized
  • Setting this vision and strategy is a common role of a central entity, with implementation and execution decisions often left to local affiliates
    • Delegating around areas of agreement
    • Maintaining the capacity to "use a big stick"
  • Clear roles for all network members are critical for rationalizing network contributions
    • Sometimes the center has to give up power to get power
    • Roles need to recognize unique capabilities and make value propositions clear
  • A globally-distributed leadership team can help facilitate coordination
    • Create global relationships and build unified, global identity
    • Improve performance across networks and cultures
  • Specialization among members can enable networks to efficiently build strength
    • Networks should look to leverage existing strengths and capabilities
    • It is important to look for compliments and ways to build scale in targeted areas

There are also interview notes with Jon Huggett, one of the authors of this report, where he provides additional detail about the importance of shared impact goals, global leadership, and network relationships.


Adrio Bacchetta is an independent consultant with deep experience in global non-profit organizational management. A few of points from his interview:

  • As they grow, many global organizations face the challenge of how to balance the interests of various entities so that decisions made across the movement are made in the interests of the movements instead of specific players
  • When addressing this challenge, the goal is to optimize the added value of the affiliates while reducing duplication
  • Successful global orgs have set up a central authority to help manage this tension – the question is how much authority that central body has and what roles it plays. The more the movement is important, the more important centralization and coherence become
  • Organizations that have developed organically have “fewer tools in the bag” when it comes to successfully centralizing some decision-making and setting up relevant accountability systems. A cooperative approach is necessary, and it is necessary to determine how the central authority is going to add value to the affiliates. What resources can it offer that they don’t have?
  • Organizations do often seed local entities in high priority places, usually to get stronger global representation or to build the foundation for fundraising in emerging markets. Lessons learned here include keeping more control during the start-up phase and then giving autonomy over time, as well as putting at least 2-3 staff members on the ground to support the process (Boards are still usually made up of volunteers)

Benchmarking analysis

Organizations for comparison

Common themes and key lessons

Research and benchmarking has highlighted that successful global organizations share key elements that appear relevant to Wikimedia's organizational challenges:

In addition, it has surfaced lessons related to putting in place and maintaining these elements.

Lesson 1: Clear and coherent decision-making roles

The first lesson is that clear and coherent decision-making roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities are the heart of effective global organizations.

  • “Must do” roles and responsibilities create a basic framework for stakeholder actions and interactions
    • Provides clarity necessary for stakeholders to play an active role
    • Sets expectations and creates a responsibility to act
    • Ensures all stakeholders feel connected and accountable to each other

  • Distributing roles and responsibilities around the network creates interdependencies and facilitates collaboration

  • Articulation of non-negotiables lays the foundation for actionable accountability systems
    • Defines expectations and promotes transparency
    • Enables practical and systematic policies and agreements (e.g. Habitat for Humanity’s new Affiliate Agreement and Quality Assurance Tracker)

  • Decision making framework is ultimately codified in a charter of sorts resulting from a negotiated process (and periodically revisited); those without the charter struggle with problems of power politics (people/groups wielding informal power)

Lesson 2: Balance of global coherence and localization

The second lesson is that global organizations work to balance global coherence with localization, and that solutions are never perfect.

  • Global organizations commonly face the challenge of balancing the value of maintaining global standards with the importance of local customization and responsiveness; no silver bullet

  • They seek and struggle to create mechanisms that maximize resources and reduce duplication by enabling more consistent and constructive communication, collaboration, and best practice sharing; best answers focus on relationship building (obvious, but hard)

  • Many global organizations have representative decision-making and coordination mechanisms to manage this collaboration (secretariats, global councils, etc.)

  • There are important differences in how much authority these mechanisms have; in general, the more the movement or the message are important (e.g. campaigning organizations), the more important centralization and coherence become
    • Note: Organizations have oscillated between more centralized/decentralized models over time

  • Organizations that have grown organically have the most difficulty designing and implementing these mechanisms; it is critical to determine and articulate what value they will add to related stakeholders

Lesson 3: Differentiating investment

Lesson 3 is that effective organizations different expectations of, and investment in, countries in order to align local functions with needs on the ground

  • Many global organizations proactively seed or strengthen local capacity in order to:
    • Achieve desired global footprint aligned with impact potential
    • Strengthen/support capacity in high priority areas where local presence is critical

  • It is important to differentiate on where and how you invest
    • Align resources with strategic priorities for impact (don’t sprinkle resources democratically or focus on the dysfunctional cases)
    • Invest to build local capacity and support local initiative that supports sustainability; get local leadership in place from the outset supported by organizational “insiders”
    • Avoid cookie cutter approach to all countries; big countries in particular need custom design

  • Benchmark organizations found particular types of support to be particularly valuable, though not necessary for staff to provide support (can leverage networks within the community to cross-pollinate learning):
    • Organizational development, program technical assistance, Grant writing/fundraising

Lesson 4: Global leadership

Lesson 4 is that global leadership needs to be representative of the movement's diversity and be a "presence" across the network

  • There are significant benefits to a global distribution of leadership and responsibilities:
    • Legitimize the global mission and culture
    • Build and maintain relationships between network components
    • Strengthen local presence and relationships in high priority areas

  • Benchmarks suggest there are a range of ways to achieve distribution:
    • Literally assemble a global leadership team
    • Encourage/support leadership travel
    • Create area offices in high priority geographies

  • They also suggest the importance of being strategic about where and how you accomplish distribution. Potential considerations include:
    • Geographic diversity
    • Language/cultural diversity
    • Developed vs. developing countries