ActionAid stirred controversy about a decade ago, when it relocated its London headquarters — and most of its senior staff — to Johannesburg. While considered radical at the time, it now seems like an “absolutely visionary” move, given current contexts.
International nongovernmental organizations based in developed countries increasingly realize that to generate the most impact on target beneficiaries, they need to build their presence in the “global south.” Most have established local offices in their priority countries, but others — like mHealth Alliance and, more recently, Oxfam — have decided to follow ActionAid’s footsteps and relocate headquarters to the global south.
But moving to or expanding into developing countries requires careful human resources planning. How can HR and strategy teams negotiate such transition periods effectively? We spoke with the Johannesburg-based head of strategic HR, systems and operations at ActionAid, who shared four tips for international NGOs that are planning to or currently working through a similar transition.
Relocating an international secretariat should start with “a very lean structure,” Jayanta Bora told Devex. In the case of ActionAid, the move began with just the chief executive, followed soon after by finance and key elements of programs teams.