InterAction chief: 'Our challenge as civil society is the need to mature the sector'

By Katherine Tan, Cynthia Kao 26 October 2015

Sam Worthington, CEO and president of InterAction. Photo by: Ryan Rayburn / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Civil society and nongovernment organizations represent a wide range of interests and support a diverse set of causes, making it difficult for these groups to organize into a community and coalesce around specific policies and issues. Despite this challenge, civil society and NGO leaders have recognized the power and potential of joining together to learn from one another, improve policies and programs and move the international development sector forward.

For the past eight years, Sam Worthington has served as CEO and president of InterAction, the largest network of civil society organizations in international development and humanitarian assistance. In that role, Worthington, a former CEO of Plan International USA, has sought to unite diverse civil society organizations — from small NGOs to household names like CARE, Save the Children, and Habitat for Humanity. This work has afforded him a unique vantage point at the forefront of U.S. civil society’s engagement within an evolving global development ecosystem.

Devex sat down with Worthington to discuss InterAction’s strategy and work, the evolution of civil society’s role in international development, and the “globalization and localization of U.S. NGOs.”

InterAction is the largest organization of private voluntary members, representing over 180 NGOs working on international development, sustainability and humanitarian assistance issues. What challenges does InterAction face in representing such a diverse constituency and organizing its members around common issues?

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About the authors

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Katherine Tan

Katherine Tan is an international development professional, specializing in private sector development. She has worked in the public sector, private sector, and NGOs and most recently as a Bankers without Borders fellow at the Grameen Foundation in Washington, D.C., She writes on topics pertaining to development innovation and social enterprise.


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Cynthia Kao

Cynthia Kao specializes in development issues in Asia and has been an active analyst in the field for the past five years. Experienced in conducting professional research projects for both private and nonprofit organizations in the Unites States and Taiwan, she has used her skills to craft in-depth research products covering development issues such as economic growth and education. She holds a master's degree in international development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and currently writes on sustainable development topics.


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