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. Mr. Worthington leads the U.S. NGO sector’s engagement with the UN, governments, and civil society groups around the world. He testifies before the U.S. Congress, routinely consults with the administration, speaks to boards and at universities, and is a regular contributor on numerous national and international media outlets. Mr. Worthington 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, FORUS, and The Alliance to End Hunger. Previously he served as chief executive officer of Plan International USA (1994 to 2006) and as a policy fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center.

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.

Ebola – A Fragile Healthcare System’s Ripple Effects

Four years ago I traveled over a deeply washed away and rutted dirt track to visit villages in the northern Liberian jungle, in what is now the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. I focused on a network of small health clinics, which were dealing with the scourges of war and the impact of gender-based violence. Once the emergency of war eased, foreign assistance for these clinics was cut – and now what remains of these clinics are at the heart of an Ebola outbreak. 

NGOs Further Democratizing Aid and Development

InterAction members spending over $4 billion in private resources for community-driven efforts in Africa

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