Since 2012, INTRAC has been monitoring an increase in the withdrawal of aid by international NGOs from partners, projects, programmes, regions and countries throughout the world. Reasons include funding cuts by donors, decisions to reduce support to middle-income countries, responding to difficult operating environments, and shifts in strategic direction at the organisational level. Approaches vary across organisations with multiple ways to describe the process: handing over, phasing out, transition, winding down, wrapping up, moving on, spin-offs. However organisations approach exit, it is not easy and many organisations and the individuals involved are looking for ideas on best practice.
With a lack of easily accessible information on good practice, many organisations have been struggling with how to approach exit, prepare partners, and ensure sustainability of interventions. INTRAC has been supporting organisations to address these gaps through:
- Providing direct capacity building support to organisations who are planning, going through and assessing exit, including support for sustainability after exit
- Conducting post-closure or post-exit evaluations for civil society organisations and donors
- Opening up opportunities for collaboration through conferences, workshops, webinars on exit and sustainability
- Participatory research to build up the evidence base
- Encouraging learning and the sharing of experiences, findings and guidance in accessible publications
Organisations we have worked with on exit planning include: CBM International; the Climate and Development Knowledge Network; the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction; the Open Society Foundations; Oxfam GB; and Plan International Sweden.
To find out more about INTRAC’s track record working on the topic of aid withdrawal and exit strategies, view the sections below. ↓
INTRAC has expertise in supporting responsible phase out processes for INGOs, their Southern civil society partners and country offices. This includes workshop and webinar facilitation, and mentoring.
Specific examples of tailored support INTRAC has provided include:
- CBM International – Partnership, Exit and Sustainability Learning Webinars: In November 2017, INTRAC facilitated two webinars for CBM to exchange learning with other organisations and partners on different approaches to strengthening sustainability of activities and projects after phase out. The webinars also enabled discussion around key considerations for responsible exit, with a view to informing specific guidance on responsible exit for CBM. Guest speakers included Oxfam GB, The Leprosy Mission International and WWF-UK.
- Oxfam GB: Developing an exit strategy framework for the Food Security Programme in the South Caucasus: INTRAC provided mentoring support to Oxfam GB and Oxfam country offices and partners in Armenia and Georgia during the final year of a European Commission-funded project on food security. The exit strategy for the food security programme also fed into the process of Oxfam’s broader withdrawal from the region and its progress with spinning off new, national NGOs in Armenia and Georgia to carry forward Oxfam’s legacy.
- Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR): Exit and sustainability planning workshop for the Frontline programme: INTRAC facilitated an exit strategy and sustainability workshop in Senegal for the Frontline programme of the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR). This was linked to a learning evaluation of Frontline conducted by INTRAC.
- Plan International Sweden – Enhancing phase-out and sustainability planning: From 2017-18, INTRAC supported Plan International Sweden to assess and strengthen how it plans for phase-out and sustainability throughout the programme and grant cycle. Together we mapped experiences of different types of phase-out from across Plan International, bringing together guidance materials and examples of good practice from a range of countries, regions and programmes. These were then used to identify areas within Plan International Sweden’s programme and grant management where planning for phase-out could be strengthened. They also provide a resource for staff who are planning, implementing or evaluating phase-out processes.
There is a lack of easily accessible information on good practice around aid withdrawal and exit strategies in the sector. We open up spaces for sharing and learning, contribute to debate, and produce publications on the topic. These include:
- Exiting / transitioning from international partnerships: a toolkit for small NGOs (June 2022): this toolkit, written by Lucy Morris, is one of five produced for the Strengthening Small Organisations with Big Ambitions project (2021-22).
- Praxis Series Paper No. 13 (June 2021): This paper by Lucy Morris, part of our Praxis Series, looks at EveryChild's exit process five years on, examining the question "how much do international actors really contribute to an ongoing momentum for change, once their programmes and partnerships come to an end?"
- Blog series (July - December 2020): INTRAC staff and members of our network began a new series of blogs on the topic of sustainable exit, taking into account the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Rick James - "Living our values in the distress of exit"
- Emmanuel Kumi - "If INGOs consider sustainability in their planning, exit can be a good thing for local civil society"
- Rachel Hayman - "Plenty of good advice exists about responsible exit planning – let’s use it"
- Rizal Malik - "If you can't exit well, at least exit 'less badly'"
- Sosena Lemma - "In Ethiopia, exit presents real challenges for Civil Society Organisations"
- Rizal Malik - "A cautious welcome to the localisation agenda"
- Rick James - "Ending well"
- Lucy Morris - "What working with EveryChild taught me about responsible exit"
- Online workshop (March 2020): INTRAC hosted a two-part learning workshop on the Stopping as Success project (webinar 1 / webinar 2). This three-year initiative was funded by USAID and implemented by Peace Direct, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, and Search for Common Ground.
- Virtual event (November 2017): Sustaining civic action. INTRAC with ICD, Peace Direct and YCare International ran the first ever Virtual Event as part of International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2017. We came together to inspire INGOs, intermediary organisations and funders to rethink how they support civil society; to inspire CSOs to push for changes in partnerships and look beyond external funding.
- Webinar (September 2016): Whose responsibility is it to push for well-planned exit? INTRAC ran a free webinar (watch the recording) which included presentations on research in Vietnam from Kennesaw State University and post-exit evaluations from Valuing Voices.
- Webinars (February and April 2016): PPA Partnership Learning Group calls on exit. INTRAC participated in webinars on partnership and exit and the long-term impact of exit. We presented findings from our work on post-closure evaluation.
- Panel discussion (November 2013): INTRAC chaired the panel ‘Finding closure: the challenge of ending programmes well’ at the Bond Annual Conference in 2013 with speakers from Concern Worldwide, European Foundation Centre, Cafod and EveryChild.
- Workshop (November 2012): Aid withdrawal, partnership and organisational sustainability in a context of global economic change workshop. INTRAC hosted a one-day workshop for civil society organisations, development practitioners and researchers to debate issues around partnership, civil society sustainability and aid withdrawal.