Sam Worthington

Sam Worthington is chief executive officer of InterAction, the largest U.S. alliance of nongovernmental international organizations, with more than 220 members and partners. Sam leads the U.S. NGO sector’s engagement at the highest levels with the UN, governments, and civil society groups around the world. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, routinely consults with the administration, speaks to boards and at universities, and is a regular contributor on numerous major national and international media outlets.

Previously, Sam served as chief executive officer of Plan International USA (1994-2006), a large child-focused development NGO. Sam also sat on Plan’s global executive management team and chaired Plan’s national CEO team.

Sam is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; serves on the Advisory Committee for Voluntary Foreign Assistance (ACVFA) at USAID and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) at the UN; and sits on the boards of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Van Leer Group Foundation, CIVICUS, and The Alliance to End Hunger. His numerous leadership roles include serving on the White House Task Force on Global Development and Poverty, working as a founding board member of the ONE Campaign, chairing the global NGO Impact Initiative on behalf of UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery Pres. Bill Clinton, and serving on the steering committee of the NGO Leadership Forum at Harvard University. Recently, he was a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center.

Sam holds a master’s degree with distinction from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont. As a Fulbright scholar he completed postgraduate research at the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva, and as a midcareer professional, an executive leadership program at the Harvard Business School. Among other awards, he has an honorary doctorate.

Sam and his wife Renée live in Bethesda, Maryland. They have three grown children Rachel, Jamie, and Lindsay.

Providing Aid to the People, Needing Peace as the Crisis Continues

This July marks the 4 year anniversary of independence in South Sudan. However, in its current state there remains very little to celebrate in the young country.

Forum Takeaways and Future Action

This June, InterAction held its 31st annual Forum. More than 1,000 attendees from over 350 organizations participated in the three-day event.
 
In an effort to synthesize three days of stimulating conversations, brainstorming sessions, and building connections with many of you at InterAction’s Forum 2015, let’s reflect on some key takeaways:
 

Why We Exist and How We Can Evolve

Effective development is ultimately local. It is driven by market economics, the private sector, and shaped by effective governance institutions, namely host governments. If this is true, our goal as international nonprofits working across borders is to “work ourselves out of a job.” Does this make sense? It does not for three reasons.

Wealth, Violence, and a Changing Development Landscape

The world is talking about new broader and deeper goals to eliminate extreme poverty and decrease inequality. Middle income countries such as Brazil and India have increasing wealth and capacity to uplift the poor. Simultaneously, governments in conflict-ridden and war-torn states are struggling or simply unable to provide basic services for their people. What is the evolving role of international NGOs in the Brazils and Indias of the world? What is the role of international NGOs in areas with weak and fragile states?

Nepal: A Call to Action

Six months ago many in the humanitarian system wondered if it was the worst it has ever been, with crises in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central Africa Republic. Then came Ebola. And Yemen. And now Nepal. The thing is, we are all part of a larger system. And that system is overstretched. It takes individual and institutional supporters to provide the flexibility demanded to quickly respond in these high-stakes situations.

A New Strategic Framework

I have returned from a relaxing and rejuvenating three-month sabbatical. I would like to thank Lindsay Coates for her strong and effective leadership as acting president & CEO during my absence. After fruitful discussions with InterAction members, staff, leadership, and various stakeholders, both Lindsay and I are proud to announce that the Board has finalized InterAction’s 2015-18 Strategic Plan.

The Evolving Role and Future Relevance of the US NGO Sector

After 8 years serving at the helm of InterAction, the Board has graciously offered me a sabbatical, from later this month to early April, 2015. During this period I will have no access to e-mail, or any InterAction related work, and I welcome this opportunity to recharge and relax.  I am honored that for a part of the next three months I will be a resident policy fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy.  This is a welcomed chance to reflect upon our sector’s relevancy and evolving role.

Ebola Crisis: We are in this for the Long Haul

Since my letter regarding the Ebola crisis in September, 5,160 people have died with a total of 14,098 cases due to the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The actual numbers are probably far worse. Local, regional and international partners, including 30 InterAction members, are collaborating to operate Ebola Treatment Units, conduct contact and identification tracing and perform safe burials while mobilizing communities to contain the virus at its source. 

Dispelling the Myth: An Evolving Relationship between NGOs and Private Businesses

A common misperception regarding NGO-private sector relations is one based on mutual distrust and occasional confrontation; or with the advent of corporate social responsibility funding, one solely based on donor-recipient transactions. With the international development landscape rapidly evolving, some historical and present-day assumptions are simply inaccurate.

The following statements are not true of operational U.S. NGOs:

Travel Restrictions Are Obstacles to Fighting Ebola

The NGO community is getting mixed messages. At the same time humanitarian organizations are being encouraged to rapidly scale-up efforts to contain the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, increased political rhetoric on travel restrictions threatens to create new barriers to the NGO community's response to this crisis.

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Sam Worthington's picture
Title: 
CEO
Department: 
Executive Office