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Building a Better International NGO: Greater than the Sum of the Parts?

James Crowley and Morgana Ryan
Building a Better International NGO: Greater than the Sum of the Parts?
ISBN: 978-1-56549-582-1
ISBN: 978-1-56549-583-8
ISBN: 978-1-56549-585-2
2013/208 pages/LC: 2013018849
This book also available as a Nook Book from Barnes & Noble
A Kumarian Press Book
"Crowley and Ryan provide an insightful view into the fundamental strategic challenges that global NGOs must address in order to adapt. Even more important, they provide a roadmap for change, with practical recommendations that are rooted in their extensive hands-on experience…. If there were a Booker prize for NGO literature, [this book] would be my choice!"—Chris Jurgens, Director, Global Partnerships, USAID

"An absolute 'must-read' for anyone in or aspiring to any management position in an international NGO."—James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

"Does a great job in translating learning and evolution of private sector organisations into useful templates for the NGO sector.... It will be well thumbed by senior managers and board members looking for inspiration and useable tools, whether they are at the point of considering change, or up to their armpits in implementation."—Adrio Bacchetta,

"In a rapidly changing world, international NGOs are constantly striving to enhance effectiveness and accountability. Drawing on their research and extensive experience, Crowley and Ryan challenge us to reinvent ourselves if we truly desire to maximize the impact of our effort for the world’s most vulnerable people."—Kevin Jenkins, World Vision International

"A concise yet comprehensive guide.... Crowley and Ryan offer practical frameworks built on key insights from their experience in both the nonprofit and business worlds that will help INGOs to develop successful strategies for lasting, positive impact on global poverty and injustice."—Annemarie Reilly, Catholic Relief Services

"This is the most useful work of its kind I have come across in the last decade. Its analysis of the organizational changes required by INGOs to achieve greater impact is insightful, practical, and highly compelling."—Robert Glasser, CARE International

"Crowley and Ryan successfully blend private-sector insights with a deep appreciation of the cultural differences of the development sector.... A must read for the next generation of changemakers in the sector."—Gib Bulloch, Executive Director, Accenture Development Partnerships

"International NGOs play an increasingly important role in development and need to strengthen their organisation, systems and processes accordingly. This thoughtful book is a very valuable aid to help them do so."—Lord Nigel Crisp, Sightsavers

“For those concerned with the future of international NGOs this book offers a valuable alternative perspective on their strategic choices. It should certainly stimulate new thinking. It also provides useful examples and frameworks as to how to convert such thinking into practice.”—John Hailey, Centre of Charity Effectiveness, Cass Business School

“Crowley shows a deep understanding of the structures, culture and operations of international NGOs. His insights will be invaluable to anyone responsible for deciding on the direction of change and subsequently leading it.”—Tom Arnold, Concern Worldwide

“This book is an important resource for all with leadership responsibility in international NGOs.”—Ian Anderson

“I have worked inside two INGOs who grew their global networks and struggled with the question of how to make the resulting organisation greater than the sum of the parts. Crowley and Ryan capture the management complexity of these situations and are able to offer a credible way forward.”—Ian Wishart, Plan Australia

“This book presents a fresh, informative and useful analytical framework and comes from a careful reflection and synthesis of hundreds of discussions and meetings with staff trying to understand and resolve the real problems they face.”—Jim Emerson, ChildFund Alliance

“This book has been a highly valuable resource for us in identifying competencies that future humanitarian and development professionals, leaders, and organizations need to have.”—Muhammad Musa, CARE India

“Always asking the right question, always keen to explore connections, Crowley has a talent for learning from things that are familiar as much as from things that are very different.”—Marg Mayne, Voluntary Services Overseas


In the wake of tremendous growth in the size and scope of their activities, as well as the increased complexity of their programs, how can large international NGOs work effectively—so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? James Crowley and Morgana Ryan address this question, drawing on their extensive hands-on experience to offer a practical and even provocative guide.

The authors cover a range of essential topics, among them: What are INGOs good at? What should they be good at? Where does new technology fit in? What about accountability? What’s the best way to tackle strategic planning? In the process, they challenge those in leadership positions to recognize and implement the changes that are needed so that their organizations can perform better—and stay relevant—in the decades to come.


James Crowley and Morgana Ryan have extensive experience working with some of the world's largest NGOs in the areas of international development and humanitarian aid.


  • Getting in Shape: How to Make a Large International NGO Be More Than the Sum of the Parts
  • Good at What? The Core Competencies of International NGOs: What Are They? What Do They Need to Be?
  • Evolving Structures of International NGOs: Is There a Right Answer?
  • Reinventing the International NGOs Through New Technology Possibilities.
  • Strategic Planning for International NGOs: Reflections and Perspectives.
  • Integrated Planning and Accountability for International NGOs
  • What Does All This Mean?