Is the old guard within NGOs impacting innovation?

By Lisa Cornish 05 December 2016

Is there an old guard barrier to innovation? Photo by: Dennis Skley / CC BY-ND

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in the market for innovation. Over the last two years, the department has launched a series of new initiatives to shake up the Australian aid program and find new partners in the private sector, including through the New Aid Paradigm and InnovationXChange.

“NGOs are well placed to identify innovative approaches to sustainable economic development and poverty reduction,” DFAT wrote in its recent report, “DFAT and NGOs: Effective Development Partners”. “We will support and encourage NGOs to identify how to create an enabling environment for learning and innovation within the NGO sector.”

Yet many Australian NGOs have been reluctant to heed the call to arms so far. Concerns about  funding, a tendency to stick with what already works, and confusion over terminology has stalled innovation in the sector. Although the tendencies are global, Australian NGOs face particular challenges in injecting new ideas into their organizations and businesses.

There is often an old guard barrier to innovation, Oxfam GB’s Global Innovation Adviser James Whitehead told Devex, based on a recent report he led, Innovation for Impact, produced by the Australian Council for International Development. The report found that, while innovation is happening, it is often haphazard and lacks the institutional support it needs to yield its full potential.

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About the author

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Lisa Cornishlisa_cornish

Lisa Cornish is a Devex reporter based in Canberra, Australia. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane and online through Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.

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