Forum 2017 Breakout Sessions

Please note that this schedule is subject to change.
CEO Track sessions are open to InterAction Member CEOs only



1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Are You Ready to Tackle Cash and Get it Right?

Funding for cash and voucher-based programming has more than doubled and is projected to grow by double digits. However, organizations are finding it difficult to quickly adapt policies, systems and how departments support and interact on cash. Learn how several organizations are diagnosing constraints and opportunities to improve speed, quality and scale across all departments and sectors in implementing cash.

Coalitions: The Good, the Bad and the Effective

Coalitions, partnerships and networks operate on the idea that we are greater together than we are apart. However, many coalitions that start-up strong end up fizzling out over time. What are the essential elements that make coalitions succeed or fail? How have others overcome the hurdles of funding, leadership, and time commitment? Participants in this session will analyze key success factors and challenges in coalition building, helping all participants become better contributors to the SDGs.

Demystify Innovative Finance

Together with the Rockefeller Foundation and other partners, InterAction will present early results from our research on Innovative Finance vis-a-vis our members, and also look into the future.

Development's Dirtiest Little Secrets: Periods, Privates and Poop

How do you engage people on a taboo subject? This session explores how to engage target populations around touchy topics such as menstruation, condom use, and sanitation. The discussion will highlight speakers and case studies from organizations that are tackling these issues and breaking the taboo both domestically and abroad. This will be followed by an interactive session combining the classic yard game beanbag toss with trivia to test the audience’s knowledge on a variety of taboo subjects.

Following Our Call as People of Faith

Compassion is not a uniquely Muslim, Christian or Jewish concept. Virtually all of our faith traditions recognize a call to care for the most vulnerable among us and to welcome the stranger. This session provides an open circle for people of faith and leaders of ministries grounded in faith traditions to learn to know each other and to find ways to work more closely together.

Food Security vs Food Sovereignty: The Debate

Although donors and much of the aid community focus food security on need, some NGOs partner with local organizations that are part of the growing food sovereignty movement based on rights. This movement questions the model of much agricultural development and certain trade, technology and investment in the sector, while the food security mainstream questions the movement’s critique of markets and sometimes autarchic view of food systems. The debaters will seek to provoke to shed light on issues sometimes glossed in the sector before the debate audience determines the winner.

Leadership on the Global Refugee Crisis: A Progress Report

In 2016, in response to a growing “global refugee crisis,” the United States and other members of the UN General Assembly committed to protect the rights of refugees, better share hosting responsibilities, find homes for all refugees needing resettlement, and adopt a global compact on refugees by 2018. The US also co-hosted a Leaders’ Summit, at which 52 countries agreed to increase humanitarian contributions; double the number of refugees resettled; educate one million more refugee children; and, provide livelihoods opportunities for one million refugee adults. Fifty-one companies committed to invest, donate or raise more than $650 million to help refugees.  A panel of experts will analyze and assess how governments and others are fulfilling the commitments made in 2016. Panelists will also identify opportunities and challenges in the negotiation of a new global compact.

Leaving No Voice Behind: Taking Community-led Development to National Scale

Within country-owned strategies, NGOs have a competitive advantage in community-mobilization and capacity building. How can we work together to ensure that all people enjoy the right to take charge of their own development through country-owned programs of community-led development? Participants will engage Davos-style with leaders from across the spectrum of actors in both rural development and post-crisis reconstruction.

NGO Futures – The Changing NGO Ecosystem and Peer Learning on Adaptation

(CEO Track)

Broad, deep political, economic, environmental, and technological shifts greater than our sector has ever experienced simultaneously put at risk meaningful and often successful efforts by U.S. NGOs to resolve development and humanitarian relief challenges. Organizations that act on this disruption and actively identify where they can add value over the coming decades will position themselves for the future. In this workshop we collaboratively examine the trends and what they mean to achieving our missions. Pre-identified peer organizations will share their experiences adapting to the future and we will hold table break-out conversations and full-room synthesis to learn from each other.

Responding in Urban Settings: How can Humanitarian and Development Actors Work Together to Address the Unique Challenges when War Moves to Cities?

Discussions will explore the impact of urban warfare on civilians, including infrastructure, essential services & livelihoods. There is increasing evidence that the ‘relief-rehabilitation-development’ funding and operational paradigm is counterproductive, and a new paradigm is needed. How can humanitarian & development actors work together in adapting their responses to address specific programming challenges in urban settings, such as the need for an immediate, potentially temporary, response with the requirement for full rebuild of essential infrastructure? What is the short & long-term impact of unexploded ordnance contamination & how can the risks presented to civilian populations be mitigated?

Seeing is Believing: Making the Case for Foreign Assistance

This session will explore the effectiveness of taking US Members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff, and journalists to see NGO projects “in the field”. Discussion will center around the various methods used when planning these trips, the projects and conferences visited and the impact the trips have on educating influentials. Particular focus on ways to collaborate with other organizations and best practices from past tour participants.


8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Humanitarian Community Meeting

This year’s annual Humanitarian Community Meeting will be a bicameral, bipartisan, off-the-record discussion with Senior Congressional Staff Members. This discussion will be followed by a broader question and answer session with the humanitarian community in attendance. Specific topics for discussion may include:

  • How the United States can best support and enable a flexible and proper balance of implementing partners in responding to unprecedented humanitarian needs.
  • The future of humanitarian funding, including the ongoing role of the United States as the largest single donor and how to deepen this relationship through increased engagement on humanitarian policy.
  • How the United States can help to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of war on civilians, for example, in relation to the conduct of its security partners vis-a-vis civilian populations.
  • How InterAction’s membership can best engage with you in your role as staff for a senior U.S. lawmaker.

The session will be moderated by Vice President of Humanitarian Policy & Practice, Patty McIlreavy. Speakers will be announced shortly.

9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

A Conversation with the Executive Office

(CEO Track)

This will be a candid, informal exchange on policy, leadership, and trends that are shaping our community and InterAction’s role. During this session, where any topic is welcome, InterAction’s Chief Executive Officer Sam Worthington and President Lindsay Coates will explore collective solutions to our common concerns, share lessons learned during the last year, and examine the priorities guiding InterAction’s future course.

BAAffling: USAID’s Efforts to Make Procurement Collaborative and Other Reform Initiatives

USAID is increasingly tapping new methods of procurement like Broad Agency Announcements (BAA). These embrace principles of co-creation to foster innovation and local ownership. They are much less prescriptive than typical procurements, leading organizations to explore new partnerships and propose original solutions to development challenges. However, implementation has been uneven and sometimes confusing. This session will present several experiences with BAAs and invite more from participants.

Emerging Philanthropy in the Global South

A new wave of global philanthropy is materializing. Locally-based philanthropy in emerging economies is growing and gaining importance; philanthropic giving from developed to developing economies has increased considerably; and as a whole, philanthropy has gained ground relative to overseas development aid. What does this mean for INGO leaders? In this session, we’ll look at five emerging economies, present our latest research, discuss trends, and review the key takeaways for INGOs.

Growing Your Own Leaders: In-House Leadership Development That is Eminently Doable and Affordable

NGOs must become more intentional in growing their own leaders as they navigate big change. Historically, the NGO sector has chronically underinvested in leadership development, especially in comparison to the private sector. Those NGOs that do invest seriously in leadership development tend to do so on relatively expensive residential training programs, while many on the job growth opportunities are underutilized. What are the “next and best”, eminently doable practices to grow your leaders?

In Their Own Words: Perspectives from Recent Young Professionals

(Young Professionals Summit)

During this session, the audience will hear from 5 mid-level professionals working in development, humanitarian aid, advocacy etc. The goal of this session is to hear in their own words how successful young people maneuvered challenges, handled field experience (for some), and navigated their work environment. Each will speak briefly on how they got to where they are, but the majority of time will be spent in a Q&A breakout session. The speakers will be separated at different tables so participants to break into groups and ask questions of the speaker that matches their interests.

Investing for Good: A Look at how INGOs are Leveraging Their Funds

Leveraging existing funds with impact investment dollars is one way INGOs are seeking to extend their reach. Some have been involved in various forms of investment vehicles for decades and some are relatively new to this method, whether it be for helping farmers, small businesses and entrepreneurs, developing clean energy or reaching public health goals. We will discuss when and where investment is appropriate given an NGO’s appetite for risk and how to assess the chances of success.

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition: How Can We Preserve Civil Society Space Online?

Civil discourse is critical to build peace, national institutions and social inclusion. As the world became more connected through online forums and social media, many were excited to expand constructive dialogue. However, those seeking to undermine virtual civil space also tap these tools. This session will discuss the causes and effects of negative communication, including spam, hate speech, and fake news. It will also explore some proposed solutions with audience participation.

Pro-Youth Legal and Policy Mechanisms: Encouraging Youth Engagement in Democracy & Governance

Recent large-scale youth survey findings suggest that today's youth – the largest young generation ever – are less engaged in political processes than previous generations and are beginning to “opt-out” of democratic systems. The Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) is conducting research on the efficacy of “pro-youth” legal instruments and other public measures. This session will incorporate research findings and robust discussion/peer-learning with participants.

Scaling Solutions: Strategies for Building Effective Cross-Sector Partnerships

Collaborations are essential to achieving equity and opportunity for vulnerable populations. As such, this session is intended to 1) highlight existing efforts in government to leverage the strengths of philanthropy and the private sector, 2) share strategies and tools for cross-sector collaborations and alliance-building that have been practiced and proven in the U.S. and abroad, and 3) identify points of entry for possible collaborators who want to learn more about engaging federal partners.

Solutions Salon

Busy nonprofit professionals will have an opportunity to brainstorm and network through structured roundtable discussions, facilitated by four CEOs with experience in management of small, medium, and large organizations.

12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

Annual Members Meeting (InterAction Members Only)

InterAction member CEOs or their designated representatives are invited to attend the Annual Members Meeting. This is your opportunity to hear a high-level overview of InterAction’s activities, including issues under consideration by the Board of Directors and the election of new Board members. The meeting will feature a conversation with the InterAction Executive Committee, Chief Executive Officer Sam Worthington and President Lindsay Coates. A quorum is required.

1:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

NGO Futures – Transformational Change Leadership: Stories from the Field

(CEO Track)

The concept of “transformational change leadership” is being embraced across sectors. What can it mean for you and your organization? With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Lina Srivastava identified seven characteristics that scaffold the process of creating transformational change through community-centered leadership. In a Ted Talk format followed by Q&A, Lina will place this endeavor in the context of CEOs' work and larger global trends, and exemplify transformational methods via stories of change from leaders in the field. She will also teach us how to embody and employ the transformational leadership core characteristics.

1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

A United Voice: Advocacy Communications on Refugee Policy

The framework under the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees faces global challenges and organizations cannot afford to have the same approaches of the past. In an era of growing social media platforms, messages need to be precise and compelling. This skills building workshop with communications and issue-area experts will explain communications approaches, speaking to different audiences, including the public, press and elected officials, and include activities to apply these concepts.

Food Security, Agriculture, and Innovation: Speed Networking

Are you a seasoned food security and agriculture expert? Or are you new to this issue and just want to learn more? Do you want to spark your imagination and discover how innovations in this sector could be applied to your own work? Maybe you have a problem you just want to talk through with an innovator… If you answered yes to any of these questions, then join us for this fast-paced session! Share your pain points, benefit from expert advice, and learn about potential solutions to improve food production and food security. Email to register for this session.

From Donation through Verification: Using the Cloud to Optimize Your GIK

Since 2010, gifts In kind (GIK) has grown to become a $6B dollar industry annually, and as donors and constituents become more technically and business savvy, they expect more transparency and engagement.  Where is the product going?  Who is the recipient?  How effectively is it being used?  Difficult questions for the NGO community.  Systems were never designed to support today’s needs for connectivity and communication. Technology required is considered overhead. The gap between the technology haves (for profits) and have nots (not for profits) has never been wider.  That is about to change. Learn from industry experts about innovative solutions coming to the humanitarian aid world that were only previously available to commercial, for profit enterprises.  Solutions that will allow you to cost effectively focus on your mission and deliver heightened oversight, efficiencies and transparency without breaking the bank.

Global Leaders Discuss Women's Empowerment

Global leaders from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, representing different genders and sexual identities, discuss women’s empowerment through personal experiences in the field. Learn about the problems their countries face and what to do to combat these issues through capacity building, resource sharing and skills building. Panelists discuss the importance of cross-sector collaboration in resolving this issue.

Health-Focused Humanitarian Response in Insecure Environments

This session will explore lessons learned from recent efforts, and recommend specific strategies that are needed to ensure effective programming while protecting the health and safety of health workers, NGOs and the people we serve. Increasingly, people most in need are living in insecure or conflict settings and lack access to critical medicines and basic health care. And not only are the people we serve at risk, the humanitarian organizations who try to reach them are themselves facing a period of unparalleled threat, with workers targeted with alarming frequency. We will address a key issue of Humanitarian Action by articulating the challenges faced by humanitarian organizations active in insecure or conflict settings (particularly those focused on health), identifying lessons learned and recommending a course of action to enable impactful programming and the delivery of medical and other aid in a time of unparalleled threat to both the people we serve and the health professionals risking their lives in service to others.

Hiring Trends in Humanitarian Aid and International Development

(Young Professionals Summit)

The International Development and Humanitarian Assistance fields are ever-changing. That can make it difficult to determine how to maximize your success in finding and being hired for the right job. During this session, the speakers will focus on emerging trends in the field, predictions for the future, and the best graduate degrees to ensure that you are a right fit for the job you want.

Practical Integration: Learning the Skill

We now know that achieving reduced stunting relies on not only nutrition specific but also nutrition sensitive interventions. To continue progress, we need to more fully integrate across WASH, health and nutrition, to see an improvement in child well-being. In this session, the BabyWASH Coalition will share their definition of integration and key case studies of integration that have been collected, and then participants will work through how to integrate more completely in their own programs.

Resilience Programming: Linking Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

USAID and other international donors have prioritized resilience as a programming approach that requires an analysis of short-term and long-term goals and needs. This approach brings together traditionally siloed sectors - humanitarian stakeholders in Disaster Risk Reduction and development players in Climate Change Adaptation. This panel will layout the foundation for why it is important to bridge these sectors to build resilient communities and strengthen systems. There will be three case studies from different faith-based organizations. The talk-show style will provide panelists the opportunity to highlight challenges, innovations and lessons learned with implementing DRR and CCA activities for improved resilience.

What Is Systems Thinking? And can it Help Humanitarians Respond Better to Complex Crises?

Humanitarian emergencies increasingly occur in situations of complexity including urban crises and conflict. Systems thinking is a practical and effective framework which has been tested in a variety of sectors. In this session, participants will engage in a series of short systems thinking exercises to develop their practical systems thinking skills. They will then reflect on the practical experiences of content experts and explore the relevance of systems thinking for humanitarian response.

2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

Innovative Finance

(CEO Track)

This session will present key findings from a recent survey conducted by InterAction and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, with the objective of understanding how some INGOs are applying innovative finance. The CEOs and key stakeholders have seen that while impact investing and other approaches beyond grants have greatly expanded over the past decade; the adoption, testing, and evaluation of innovative finance models for development seem to have remained low amongst INGOs. A moderated discussion with an INGO and a private sector representative will highlight how they engaged in developing an instrument from ideation to evaluation.

3:15 p.m.-4:45 p.m.

Aid Workers as Storytellers: Capturing Content in the Field

Social media has been a game-changer in the humanitarian sector and field staff are increasingly asked to produce content – photos, blogs and field reports – that can be shared in real time. At the same time there is an increased demand for NGOs to provide multimedia content that reinforces the need for sustained support. This session, co-led by experienced communications experts and programs staff from Americares and Save the Children, will explore best practices for aid workers tasked with bringing their organization’s impact to life, while at the same time respecting the dignity of the community members featured. Presenters will provide real-world examples and practical advice participants can apply in their daily work. The workshop will culminate with a skills-building exercise. Participants will leave with a better understanding of storytelling/communicating impact, capturing photos and video in the field, and social media must-haves.

Beyond Siloed Interventions: The Case for Integrated Early Childhood Development

There is increasing evidence showing that positive outcomes for early childhood development (ECD) are more significant when interventions are integrated. This interactive session will make the case for why and how to integrate ECD into programs across different sectors. Save the Children will draw data from academic research, scientific studies, economic analyses, and program impact evaluations to illustrate this case.  Concrete examples of integrated interventions from a Catholic Relief Services health program in East Africa, an Education Development Center youth and workforce development program in Rwanda, and a Cambridge Education nutrition program in Pakistan will be presented. Finally, attendees will break into facilitated discussion groups by sector to discuss and identify how to integrate ECD activities into non-ECD specific projects.

Counter Terrorism: The New Cross-cutting Issue for NGO Programming?

Humanitarian and development partners are often required by donors to implement counter terrorism measures to prevent aid diversion by terrorist groups and fraud. NGOs take action on a case-by-case basis because policies vary from country to country, and donor to donor. With the growing presence of terrorist organizations globally, should development agencies consider terrorism as a cross-cutting issue and take steps to mainstream certain measures throughout all programs?

Data Use and Uptake in the Modern NGO

Modern NGOs are good at collecting data, often through ICT tools or open data sources. This session will explore challenges that development organizations face in actually using this data to inform plans, budgets, and management decisions. We will discuss solutions from several organizations/sectors that can be practically adopted by participants, including tools/approaches for communicating evidence, strategies for increasing data use and demand, and methods for prioritizing impactful data/evidence.

Diversity in the Development and Humanitarian NGO Sector

(CEO Track)

Diversity is a key value for many organizations and is also a recognized challenge in foreign affairs for the US. While many CEOs want to take steps to improve diversity at their organizations, there are few senior level settings in which the topic is addressed and discussed openly. This session allows leaders to learn more about how diverse teams serve organizations well, and more importantly, how one can take practical steps to increase diversity within one's own organization.

The Impact of Global Humanitarian Emergencies on Women's Health

In situations of political and economic instability, women and children bear disproportionate consequences often in silence. The intersection between women’s health and vulnerable states was seen most recently in the Ebola and Zika emergencies and Syrian refugee crisis, where health systems were taxed and workforces decimated. In other countries, political instability, migration and natural disasters have contributed to high levels of violence, infant mortality and maternal mortality and morbidity.

Negotiating for Humanitarian Access: Skills and Strategies

This session will focus on skills and strategies for negotiating with state and non-state actors to gain humanitarian access. We will first discuss key challenges that NGOs face in gaining access, and then we will share and apply skills and strategies for overcoming difficult tactics.

Skills to Know: A Crash Course in Program Evaluation

(Young Professionals Summit)

In this session, the audience will be introduced to a hard skill within M&E. This is a basic overview of evaluation, and will be most valuable for those with limited experience. It will include an experiential, team based exercise that will help attendees learn what it means to make evaluative criteria, standards and judgments explicit. By evaluating chocolate chip cookies, attendees will get an introduction to 1) understanding the concept of evaluation logic and how it is the foundation for evaluation practice, 2) using evaluation logic, and 3) describing how evaluation logic applies to evaluating programs, policies, systems, and organizations.

Who Are You Not Reaching? Innovative Strategies for Inclusion

Based on the Leadership, Management, and Governance Project’s experience working with disability rights partners, this session aims to propose ways forward for the inclusion (and infiltration) of persons with disabilities in development and health programming. The panel and subsequent round table discussions will look at the role of NGOs in supporting inclusion in their own organizations as well as in program design and implementation.


9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

Allocating $100M after A Major Urban Disaster: What Would You Do?

A significant sudden onset disaster has just affected a major urban area.  You have been provided with a basic set of briefing documents in order to prepare a city/area-based response plan and allocate a budget of $100M to address humanitarian needs in the first month of the response. What would you do? What data matters most for decision making? Working in groups, this session will reevaluate varying perspectives regarding urban humanitarian assessment, coordination, planning, and response. Brief talks by presenters will provide insight into new approaches for coordination/collaboration in urban environments.

Corporate Philanthropy: Employees are a Donatable Asset Too

Over the past two years, The UPS Foundation has expanded its definition of corporate philanthropy, moving beyond checkbook philanthropy by redefining "in kind" donations to include the skill and passions of UPS employees. This effort saw the deployment of 6 UPSers to 4 separate International NGO's. The stories of these employees' experience will be featured through a panel discussion.

The Economic Rationale for Investing in Nutrition

A large body of scientific evidence shows that improving nutrition during the critical 1,000 day window from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s 2nd birthday is key for a child’s development and a country’s future. This session will explore how advocates can harness this evidence into a compelling narrative that encourages donor and country governments to invest more in nutrition.

Grounding Food and Nutrition Security Policy in Field Experience

Leland International Hunger Fellows spend one year working in the field on food and nutrition security and one year working on the same issues at a policy level. This session lets participants talk in small groups with 6 different Leland Fellows in 15-min rounds. At the start of each round the Fellow will give a 2-min description of their work, which will be followed by Q&A and discussion. While each Fellow will talk about their specific work, a common theme will be improving field-HQ relations for greater effectiveness.

Re-envisioning Partnership in Humanitarian Response: Insights from Syria

Seven years into the Syrian crisis, there is increased awareness of the need to provide capacity building support to national and local actors implementing humanitarian programs and examine more deeply what partnership means in localizing the humanitarian response.  Can we begin to realize the humanitarian community’s Grand Bargain, and its commitment to allocate 25% of global humanitarian funding to national responders by 2020, in Syria? This session will examine challenges and opportunities of local and international partnership faced in Syria. Together, panelists and participants will identify changes that re-envision partnership in Syria and the next crisis.

Re-tooling For Integration: Do We Have the Courage to Transform Ourselves in Order To Achieve Cross-Sector Programming?

Achieving success in integrated programming requires a fundamental rewiring of an organization’s DNA, and with it significant changes in how business gets done at all levels. Donors and implementers are wrestling their way through this transformation together, and its messy work. In this session, participants will hear from leading organizations working in integrated development, learning about the success factors and pitfalls on the road to integration from NGOs who have gone ahead.

Survey Says! Gender Minimum Standards for all Organizations

The Gender Practitioners Collaborative (GPC) is informal group of gender advisors from 15 international development and humanitarian organizations, who have been working for the last year on a set of common minimum standards for gender mainstreaming, applicable to all organizations. This session will use a lively game format to introduce the standards, and give the audience the chance to engage together with practical examples of what the standards look like in practice. Following the game show session, World Vision will share from its experience conducting organizational gender audits, a highly effective methodology in catalyzing organizational change on gender issues that illustrates how organizations can take practical steps to achieving the minimum standards for gender mainstreaming.

Trafficking and Exploitation in Emergency Settings: Identifying Vulnerabilities, Exploring Synergies and Improving the Effectiveness of the Response

Some organizations are responding to trafficking in emergency settings to make a difference in the life of victims. This action, though useful, is often uncoordinated and trafficking has as yet to be included in the UN humanitarian response mechanism. This panel aims at bringing together relevant actors committed to making a tangible difference through exchange, comparison of best practice and joint action.

What’s next in Philanthropy: A Shifting Paradigm for a Shifting Landscape

(CEO Track)

It’s 2017 and all bets are off. The ground beneath INGOs’ feet is shifting, and organizations that have relied on government and traditional foundation funding (often slow, inflexible and restrictive) face a new and uncertain landscape. A hard look at our fiscal health is what is needed, and with that comes evaluation of old habits, legacy systems, and unaddressed staff capacities that keep organizations from maximizing their potential. While the future is out of our control, what is within our control is how we can strengthen our organizations so that we can demonstrate to funders that we are worth the investment, worth the risk. Join us for a conversation with leading edge funders who are bravely breaking the mold in the name of real global change and progress, and what they see as necessary steps for themselves and for INGOs.

Highlights from:  Forum 2018 | Forum 2017 | Forum 2016 | Forum 2015 | Forum 2014 | Forum 2013