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 addressing the 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.
Convening and contributing to debate
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:
- 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 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.