'Internationalizing' your NGO: 4 lessons from ActionAid

ActionAid activists call for countries to pay their climate debt. The international NGO has moved its headquarters from London to Johannesburg. Photo by: Mat McDermott / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

About the author

  • Anna patton profile

    Anna Patton

    Anna Patton is a freelance journalist and media facilitator specializing in global development and social enterprise. Currently based in London, she previously worked with development NGOs and EU/government institutions in Berlin, Brussels and Dar es Salaam as well as in the U.K., and has led media projects with grass-roots communities in Uganda and Kenya. Anna has an master’s degree in European studies — specializing in EU development policy — and is a fellow of the On Purpose social enterprise program.

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