The myth of the development worker as a selfless saint has been busted by recent revelations of unacceptable and sometimes criminal behaviour among the staff of some of the most well-known INGOs.
For people working in the sector none of these stories were surprising. While this kind of behaviour has never been in any way acceptable, it is increasingly a risk for INGOs that depend on their reputations and accompanying donations.
In the #metoo era some people (by which I broadly mean white, privileged women) are gaining confidence to call out unacceptable behaviour. But the power dynamics in international development and humanitarian work are complex. There is head office vs field offices, expat staff vs local hires, INGO staff (men and women, local and expat) vs the populations they seek to help (who are often disadvantaged in numerous ways). This makes running an international NGO a complicated environment in which to ensure an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment for everyone.
So what is a well-intentioned INGO or humanitarian organization manager to do about this? First up, wise up. You can’t expect your colleagues to speak out when they feel marginalised, discriminated against or harassed at work. Or when they see these things happening to the people they are supposed to serve. But it is your duty to find out where abuses are occurring.
One way to do this is through an independently operated, anonymous, staff survey. It needs to be both independent and anonymous because staff need to trust that answering honestly will not have negative implications. Such a survey is merely the first step – the hard work of organizational change comes afterwards. But done right, it is a way to build trust with colleagues, reassure them that their views are listened to and appreciated.
To assist with that vital first step Keystone Accountability is now offering to administer a standardized, English-only version of our equity, diversity, and inclusion survey for FREE for the first 10 INGOs that sign up. And for the next 10 to sign up we are offering it for a massively discounted £1,000. The only condition being that you have a total staff of under 200.