Final Assessment of Amnesty International’s Global Transition Program Completed by the TNGO Initiative Goes Public

Amnesty commissioned the Transnational NGO (TNGO) Initiative at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, USA in 2016-2017 to carry out an independent Final Assessment of Amnesty International’s Global Transition Program (GTP).  Amnesty was committed to making this Assessment public and we are thus able to share it on our websites publications page

GTP represented a significant organizational change for Amnesty: it set up Regional Offices across the globe in 11 locations, hired many staff and leaders from the global south and reduced the number of staff in the International Secretariat in London significantly. The change process also focused on strengthening the integration across segments and functions within the organization. In addition, GTP sought greater integration of the work across functions, locations and units. Amnesty also aimed to increase its supportership in the global south, while diversifying its institutional sources of funding. It wanted to increase its speed of action, and be more present in media in the global south and east as well as in non-traditional media. This vision is also reflected in other internal documents that highlight the need for “being more strongly present where we are not, and integrating better our work across all parts of the IS and the movement, and to build on the strengths that have brought us this far.” GTP aimed to lead to “Amnesty having significantly greater impact by becoming a more global movement” and to result in “acting with greater legitimacy, speed, capacity and relevance as we stand alongside those whose rights are violated” (GTP Roadmap). 1 The purpose of the GTP Final Assessment was to fulfill an accountability requirement to the movement, and Amnesty’s wider constituencies, in return for the investment by the movement.

The TNGO Initiative was asked to undertake the external assessment as part of its comprehensive body of work on organizational change processes in large TNGOs, as commissioned by Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE and Amnesty International.  The Amnesty Final Assessment covered a wide range of issues 1) Human rights Impact; 2) Visibility and Credibility of Amnesty International; 3) Engagement with Rights Holders; 4) Collaboration with Amnesty International Sections and Structures; 5) Collaboration between Global, Regional and Regional Office Functions; 6) Membership Growth and Engagement; 7) Fundraising; 8) Financial Review; and 9) Organizational Change and Internal Processes.

We should emphasize that one of the limitations of the Assessment was that most – though not all – of our findings were based on staff views and perceptions, and not on objectively verified data. We made sure to use a wide range of methods (consisting of two independently administered internal surveys with Amnesty staff; one question inserted into an independently administered staff engagement survey; 50 interviews with managers and leaders; 6 focus groups with Amnesty staff; one external survey with peers and partners as well as a small number of interviews; and extensive document review, including in house, confidential documentation).

Here is a general sense of the overall findings (for full details and nuances, please see the report):

Human Rights Impact: while it is hard to really substantiate outcomes, the outcomes that we observed were largely modestly positive, though still emergent. We did note, however, also some important (potentially) adverse impacts.

Engagement with rights holders: this type of engagement expanded as an outcome of the Global Transition Program

Visibility and Credibility:  Amnesty’s visibility in the international media was not negatively affected by GTP, and its visibility in national and regionally salient media and localities and languages was enhanced. Its credibility among the general public and other broad stakeholders globally was generally thought to have improved.

Growth: GTP did contribute to Amnesty’s supportership growth strategy through the increase of supporters in a few selected countries such as India, although the ambitious growth objectives in terms of numbers of supporters globally were not reached.

Collaboration between new Regional Offices and Sections: the existence of some Regional Offices proved very meaningful to some Sections, while less so for others. There was unevenness of performance here, although overall the Regional Offices have provided important benefits to Sections. In some cases, staff noted negative impacts on selected Sections. Overall, there is a need for tighter contracting on respective roles, responsibilities and power distribution between Regional Offices and Sections.

Collaboration between London IS and ROs: while some of the role divisions between the London International Secretariat and the Regional Offices have been clarified in the past two years, there is still a need to clarify this division of labor more clearly. In addition, there are still questions as to how much control the London Secretariat is willing to cede to the Regions.  

Effect on Amnesty’s fundraising: GTP directly contributed to new successes in institutional fundraising, but growth (diversification) of Amnesty’s paying contributor/donor base in the Global South has not yet been meaningfully impacted by GTP. This has to do with the fact that  too many other areas of the change agenda took precedence (a ‘bandwidth’ issue)

Financial resources spent on GTP: while GTP costs more money than foreseen, this was within a reasonable range. Assumptions, financial risk factors and scenarios had not been sufficiently ‘road tested’. Financial expenditures show a significant shift of resources to the Regional Offices and the Global South, which is in line with the intentions of GTP.

Organizational change processes: Amnesty struggled with implementation of the change process and its change management capacity was inadequate, especially in the early days.  The influx of new people with professional profiles different from what had been traditional is beginning to change the culture, but this needs to be deepened reinforced through other means of culture change.

For the TNGO Initiative, this was easily the largest data gathering and analysis project in the past 5 years, since we finished the NSF funded interview study. It put tremendous demands on us over the course of one year, and we could not have succeeded if it was not for the significant input from our Graduate Assistant Earl Shank and several student volunteers: Oleksiy Anokhin, Francesco Santamarinaand Ruslan Asadov. The core team consisted of Steve Lux, Head of Maxwell’s Executive Education and a core member of the TNGO Initiative, Shreeya Neupane, Maxwell alum and former Program Manager of the TNGO Initiative, currently working at Humentum, Ramesh Singh, former Director of International Organization at Greenpeace, independent member of Amnesty’s Board Governance Committee, former Moynihan TNGO Fellow and currently independent consultant Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, TNGO Initiative Director. We hope to blog more about the outcomes of our Assessment on third party sites, such as the American Evaluation Association’s AEA 352 blog series, and will share these blog posts on our own Updates.