What is a Compact?
A Compact is a set of shared acknowledgments and commitments as well as a powerful collective way of working to advance progress toward those commitments. The objectives of a compact require a multi-year commitment from NGOs to enable change and prompt new or different practices by stakeholders and donors across the sector.
InterAction’s experience with a comprehensive compact approach to the coalition’s work on climate justice has informed our practices. The NGO Climate Compact, launched in 2020, connected a diverse alliance of more than 90 signatory organizations that have since been working to advance their climate work according to the shared set of commitments agreed upon within the Compact. The Compact—having catalyzed both financial resources and considerable learning for those efforts—has firmly established new ways of working collectively at multiple levels across Member organizations. It has also led to the better integration of climate and environmental sustainability considerations into organizations’ programming, operational management, and advocacy.
A Compact approach can be effective in securing and sustaining high-level leadership while also marrying organizational and coalition-wide commitments with concrete action and learning at the working level—efficiently leveraging expertise and insights across signatory organizations and partners. We have sought such an approach for our greater diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the InterAction alliance and the broader sector.
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Compact: INGO Commitments toward Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion serves as a collective set of principles and aims to be a continuing support mechanism for peer-networked learning to concretely develop a culture across organizations in which diversity, equity, and inclusion are further championed and exhibited through actions, incentives, and accountability.
No matter where an organization is on this journey, we can all benefit from strategies and best practices to accelerate operational and cultural change collectively.
What was the process of shaping the DEI Compact?
The DEI Compact has been informed by the InterAction community, technical experts, and voices from around the world urging the sector to own and address inequities and persistent injustices within international non-governmental organization (INGO) operations and programming.
At the start of 2021, InterAction began regularly convening a coalition DEI Task Force to share strategies and best practices for accelerating collective progress and cultural change by engaging in peer-networked learning and developing practical, accountable ways of enhancing and promoting DEI operationally and programmatically. Representing InterAction’s diverse membership and partners with over 50 participating organizations, the Task Force identified DEI concerns through meetings, learning labs, and expert interviews and subsequently laid the foundation for the DEI Compact’s signatory set of commitments and the associated compendium of resources. The Coalition Task Force gave Member organization staff at various levels the opportunity to address persistent, systemic, and systematic inequalities within their organizations and programmatically across the global development and humanitarian field.
In September 2021, InterAction’s Board of Directors held a strategic discussion about DEI following multiple board meetings and CEO convenings in recent years that brought to light related issues and sparked intense discourse. The Board also discussed the compact approach and how InterAction’s collective platform had the potential to accelerate or reinforce change within Member organizations and across other organizations.
In the fall of 2021, the work moved into a successive phase of shaping a coalition-led and valued DEI Compact to include acknowledgments, commitments, and a set of resources to help guide organizations’ progress. Through early 2022, partners from more than a dozen organizations dedicated their time and energy to develop the components of the DEI Compact. Coalition member CEOs and other senior leaders then provided multiple rounds of feedback and input on the commitments, including through discussions at InterAction’s annual CEO retreat.
What is the Resource Compendium?
InterAction has developed an initial compendium of resources. Designed by and for members of the INGO community, it can begin to serve as a “how to” reference guide for organizations striving to meet the INGO Commitments toward Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Stemming from the issues that surfaced through the Task Force’s learning agenda over the course of 2021—and its sub-groups on NGO operations, communications, international development, and humanitarian work—this compendium highlights some pressing topic areas for the -based INGO sector, including:
- Diversifying the Sector
- Interpreting and Operationalizing DEI: U.S. vs. Other Global Contexts
- Anti-Blackness & Racism
- Disability and Inclusion
- Mental Health and Well-being of INGO Staff
- Inclusion, Safety, and Belonging for LGBTQIA+ Staff and Communities
- Decolonizing Aid
- Locally-led Development and Localization
Each of these sections offers insights into major current DEI concerns affecting U.S.-based INGOs and includes recommendations and resources, as well as a link to the underlying “working notes” paper on the subject. The purpose of these sections is to provide tools to understand and address concerns about DEI in the sector so that our coalition can move forward together. The compendium also includes Frequently Asked Questions about the Compact and a set of Resources for Practical Implementation with links to relevant data, surveys, reports, standards, and other useful websites.
The compendium of resources available as a part of the launch of the DEI Compact is just a beginning and it can evolve into a more fully curated library of resources and recommendations tailored to the INGO sector.
Compact implementation: What happens next?
Based on our coalition’s experiences following the highly-mobilizing launch of the NGO Climate Compact in 2020, we anticipate that this DEI Compact will spur and measure advances across the set of commitments, catalyze resources and considerable learning for those efforts, and firmly establish new ways of advancing DEI issues inter- and intra-organizationally at multiple levels across our membership.
While efforts will be shaped collectively by signatory organizations over time, InterAction does anticipate that the Task Force efforts of 2021 will transition to an active model of standing working groups associated with the pillars of the Compact and aimed at continuing to develop joint learning opportunities, best practices, and solutions to build capacity around the Compact commitments.
Working groups, surveys, standards, self-certification processes, and collective learning and advocacy opportunities are just some of the support mechanisms to leverage our existing coalition platform to advance progress and accountability for the commitments.
Signatories to the Compact will have the opportunity to benefit from:
- Networked learning opportunities, including training from outside experts and other Members
- Maintenance of a resource library in collaboration with partners
- Working group meetings to engage and exchange updates and information on the lines of effort within the DEI Compact
- Opportunities for peer-to-peer engagement between and among CEOs and other leadership staff
- Consistent means of reporting organizations’ progress and sharing lessons learned across Members
As noted in the Compact’s INGO Commitments toward Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, it makes sense to fundamentally review the set of DEI Compact commitments again after five years (in 2027) to continue to advance the agenda and ensure the strategic renewal of our approaches since the nature of the DEI realities we are operating under do evolve over time.
Accountability and Monitoring
What about accountability? What does monitoring and reporting on progress entail?
Across individual InterAction Member organizations, the path to meet the commitments articulated in the DEI Compact may look quite different from one organization to another. Members will, of course, decide how they benchmark, dedicate human and financial resources, and monitor this work within their organizations—and staff and stakeholders of each organization will pay attention and hold them accountable.
The outcome that organizations are committing to is to start or deepen the process(es) that works for each organization’s specific type, structure, funding streams, program locations, and other relevant characteristics. When aggregated at the coalition level, this will be an enormous achievement. The INGO Commitments toward Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion include a learning commitment to participate in annual collective progress-monitoring surveys to measure coalition-wide advances (or lack thereof). Through policy and action, signatory organizations have also committed themselves to invest in operationalizing standards and accountable systems that promote fairness and enhance the experience of diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion for all.
InterAction plans to lead monitoring efforts akin to those developed for the NGO Climate Compact such as the annual survey of signatory organizations and associated compact report on progress to date. Through this effort and the resulting public report, we will be able to identify how our coalition as a whole is fairing on progress against specific DEI Compact commitments, and which areas are in need of further attention. Additionally, the process of completing an annual survey—as well as potential focus groups or most significant change exercises—will present opportunities for signatory organizations to assess their progress. InterAction will also semi-annually brief coalition leadership on steps taken to implement the DEI Compact’s actions.
Relation to other efforts
How is this different or connected to other efforts?
InterAction has liaised with and been influenced by many leaders working on related DEI efforts, including some who called for or started similar efforts to move parts of the U.S.-based INGO sector forward. These include but are not limited to OrgsInSolidarity, a partnership formed in 2020 among more than 300 organizations and individuals committed to actively changing the face of international peace and security by combating racism and discrimination.
OrgsInSolidarity includes organizations like InterAction, numerous InterAction Member CEOs, and many other think tanks, companies, and individuals associated with the field of international security and foreign policy who signed the Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (”WCAPS”) commitments and statements on “Standing Together Against Racism and Discrimination” (Solidarity Statements).
Additionally, InterAction recognizes and supports the international initiatives that are well underway with global confederation organizations like that of the Pledge for Change spearheaded by Degan Ali. Bond U.K. also set its agenda for dismantling racism in international development with its report, Racism, power and truth: Experiences of people of colour in development, by surveying and centering the voices and experiences of people of color. Other complementary efforts include a 2020 statement of commitments by the leaders of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) organizations—including InterAction—that addresses racism and racial discrimination in the humanitarian sector.
Additionally, InterAction was a supporter of the Benchmarking Race, Inclusion, and Diversity in Global Engagement (BRIDGE) Survey and a member of the associated working group of partners to help fill data gaps by developing a snapshot of diversity at the staff, senior management, head-of-organization, and board levels in U.S.-based headquarters of international development and humanitarian assistance organizations.
A collective of for-profit and non-profit development organizations known as CREED has also recently launched its Pledge for Racial and Ethnic Equity. That effort aims to promote standards for advancing racial and ethnic equity across organizations in the international development and humanitarian assistance sector. InterAction has applauded it as an initiative that moves the sector forward in the right direction and one that is well-aligned with InterAction’s standards and the work InterAction has been doing over the past year through our coalition-wide task force on DEI.
InterAction’s DEI Compact certainly centers racial and ethnic equity issues highlighted by these and other initiatives, and it will also serve as a commitment, a set of resources, and a platform for ongoing collective organizational learning and advocacy for a full range of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues for signatory InterAction Members.
Given its emphasis on continued learning, our DEI Compact work will continue to intersect with and engage related efforts within and beyond InterAction’s coalition, including through collaborations on topical convenings and educational activities.
InterAction's NGO Standards
How does this DEI Compact relate to InterAction’s NGO Standards and Self-Certification Process?
Since 1992, InterAction has maintained board-approved diversity-related standards as a part of its NGO Standards. As part of the membership application process, organizations wishing to join InterAction must carefully review their policies, operations, and systems and attest to compliance with the InterAction NGO Standards.
To ensure ongoing review of these standards, InterAction holds a biennial Self-Certification Plus (SCP) process during which all Members are expected to engage in and submit a related review. The SCP asks each Member to attest to or share plans related to various organizational policies including but not limited to:
- Having “a written policy that affirms its commitment to gender equity, to ethnic and racial diversity, to the inclusion of people with disabilities in organizational structures and in staff and board composition. The policy should be fully integrated into an organization’s plans and operations, with a mechanism mandated by the CEO for overseeing implementation,” and
- Having or planning to adopt within its next strategic plan, “written policies that affirm its commitment to gender equality, racial and ethnic diversity, and inclusion of people with disabilities in staff and board composition, in part by adopting policies and procedures to increase:
- The numbers of women in senior decision-making positions, where there is under-representation, at headquarters and in the field;
- Ethnic and racial diversity, where there is under-representation, and;
- The inclusion of people with disabilities, where there is under-representation.”
The process also asks each Member to attest to or share plans related to various human resources policies and practices, including:
- Having hiring and personnel evaluation policies and practices that “shall demonstrate commitment to gender and diversity issues and a commitment to gender equity and diversity,” and
- Having a “human resource development program for U.S. staff at all levels” that “shall promote non-discriminatory working relationships and respect for diversity in work and management styles by integrating gender, diversity, and disability sensitization into its orientation and training programs.”
The SCP additionally asks each Member to attest to or share plans related to applying a diversity lens to programming, including through the following:
- “Where appropriate, awareness of diversity issues shall be incorporated into each stage of the program process, from the review of project proposals to implementation and evaluation, to ensure that projects foster participation and benefits for all affected groups,” and
- “The agency will collaborate with partner NGO organizations in the field to integrate diversity issues into their programs.”
Such standards and processes have been in place for decades, and, while helpful, they have proven insufficient in mobilizing enough transformation across the international NGO sector with regard to diversity as well as equity and inclusion—hence the need for the DEI Compact.
InterAction announced a new SCP process and standards framework in the spring of 2022. This new framework involves a set of annual values and principles commitments to which all InterAction Member CEOs must attest to maintain membership, and it allows InterAction Standards to evolve alongside our DEI Compact work.