The Future of INGOs: A Qualitative Case Study of Save the Children

Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Aqeel Tirmizi, Ph.D.


The landscape in which large international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) operate today is shifting at a fast pace. INGOs are facing progressively complex and interconnected challenges stemming from climate change, urbanization, increased income inequality, fragmented funding, and competition from new development agents. INGOs are standing at a precipice. They can either adapt or risk becoming increasingly ineffective and ultimately irrelevant.

This Independent Practitioner Inquiry Capstone paper explores these emerging trends and how INGOs are adapting to remain relevant and impactful with a focus on Save the Children, and NGOs active in the field of children’s well being globally. Within this context this paper seeks to examine: is Save the Children effectively positioned to meet today’s complex challenges? In order to answer this question a qualitative analysis was conducted whereby eleven senior level managers directly involved with strategy and/or programming from five different international development agencies were interviewed.

The results from the study indicate that a combination of technology, new development actors and multi-stakeholder/cross-sector partnerships as top trends effecting organizational strategy. The future role of large INGOs is seen as evolving away from direct implementation (except for emergencies) to that of a “convener” able to unite all the sectors: private, public, academic and civil society. The findings of the study show that Save the Children is proactively responding to each of these trends. However, despite these efforts, they are challenged areas of technology and innovation. The current INGO culture and business model, driven by ‘grants and contracts,’ restricts what is needed: innovation and flexibility. If Save the Children is to succeed in scaling innovations, one of the four pillars in their Theory of Change, it is recommended that a) increased and sustained energy be placed in exploring new unrestricted revenue streams and b) attract and retain talent with cross sector competencies.


Nonprofit Administration and Management | Technology and Innovation

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