On July 24th, we convened a session on transitions and succession planning in NGOs. The convening was premised on the challenges we have seen working with partners over the years. We have witnessed transitions gone bad and how, when not managed well, affect the organization, it works and the whole sector. We have also witnessed a few transitions that have gone well and so we wanted to tease out what informs good transitions.
Ms Ruth Ochieng, former Executive Director (ED) of Isis-WiCCE, gave her experience of transitioning out of the institution led for close to 20 years. She talked about the multiple effects that transitions have when a leader leaves – and these happen at staff, board and donor level.
Other EDs in the room shared their fears and struggles around transitions and succession planning and felt that they needed more guidance and peer support in managing these critical organizational processes. They also noted that few donors are willing to fund the cost of transitions or to walk with partners as they go through (especially) painful transitions. They thus felt there is need for donor education about the challenges NGO leaders face in succession and transition planning and implementation.
The EDs agreed to revive the ED’s Forum – a space for leaders of women’s rights organizations to share experiences and best practices. The meeting also suggested that CivSource Africa convene several more meetings - with boards and donors to talk through succession and transition planning with a goal of agreeing better parameters to assess and support this critical organizational process.