Starting to re-imagine INGOs across the globe is no easy feat, but in May 2021, a group of innovators, activists, and change makers convened to attempt to do just that.

The world has changed since INGOs became prominent actors on the global stage. Organizations are now increasingly under pressure to question their ways of working, their engagements, and their relevance within the global civil society ecosystem. We believe that a healthy global civil society is needed now more than ever, but that the INGO’s role as an active agent in global civil society needs to be reimagined. With that aim, we launched the RINGO Project to facilitate that reimagining through a systems-change process to transform global civil society in response to the many challenges across the sector.

The RINGO “Social Lab” is at the heart of this project. It was designed to create the conditions needed to reimagine and co-create pathways for genuine change. Fifty-five participants from both global North and South — representing diverse organizations, thematic sectors, genders, races, and ethnicities — have committed to collaborate on redesigning and transforming the INGO system. This diverse group first met in March–April 2021 via small group discussions to share their perceptions, experiences, and views on the challenges of reimagining the INGO. Members then all came together at our first convening in May — the “Inception Workshop.”

This virtual workshop was the first stage in the “discovering phase” of the RINGO process, providing an opportunity for participants to understand “reimagining” and begin their shared journey. Members were guided through explorations of many themes: power dynamics within global civil society; INGO identity, governance, and operations; funding mechanisms and accountability; engagement and partnership culture and approaches; and solidarity across global civil society. Throughout the facilitated exercises and discussions, the shared hope and readiness to commit to RINGO’s aims was evident.

“It was a safe space to discuss pressing and potentially disruptive and tense issues in the sector. It felt like we had made progress in shifting the dial on those issues.”

“Possibilities to build innovation are great, and the facilitation process is helping to put together a diverse array of experiences and knowledge.”

—Feedback from Social Lab Members

Members have now moved into “Inquiry Clusters” that will work together on multiple themes over the coming months. The key issues that emanate from these groups will feed into the “designing phase” of the process, set to launch in September 2021. Lab Members will then begin to devise prototypes that facilitate systems change and transformation.

A significant amount of work is yet to be done, but the groups are well on their way. You can learn more about the Social Lab, their first meeting, and their next steps in this workshop report.

We’re looking forward to sharing more updates and findings with you as our Social Lab members continue on this journey towards INGO transformation.


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash