Salil Shetty

23 February, 2016

Globalising Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s Global Transition Programme (GTP) is our process of moving closer to the ground to ensure we have significantly greater impact by becoming a more global movement. By distributing our teams to 15 Regional Offices in key capitals we will be empowered to act with greater legitimacy, speed, capacity and relevance as we stand alongside those whose rights are violated, and join with others to build rights-respecting societies. The reorganisation enables us to work in a more integrated, efficient and effective way across functions and across geographies as well as with greater accountability to our local partners.

The genesis of this change can be © Amnesty International (Photo: Amin/Drik)traced to the International Board’s decision in mid-2010 to recommend a new organisational model to best deliver Amnesty’s Integrated Strategic Plan. Developing the case for change (the “Blueprint”) took a further 12 months of consultation. The subsequent period saw the whole organisation wrestling with the implications of this case for change and there were unquestionably real periods of unrest. The GTP was implemented to address this. This was a Programme of work to determine the practical implications of the proposals, and to develop a challenging implementation process balancing the need for change with achieving buy-in and acceptance from a complex range of stakeholders. All this was to take place at the same time of maintaining the core programmes of work, reactive and planned, when dealing with the very real impact on colleague’s lives.

Several factors would be key to the success of the Programme including: an influx of new leadership and the renewal of purpose of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT); improvements in the calibre of the support functions to deliver and support the change (from Finance, to Information Technology, Internal Communications and Human Resources); and the creation of a formal Programme Management process coordinated by a dedicated team managed by a new Senior Director of Change and Transition, specifically charged with delivering this change.

In parallel, from a Governance perspective, having full strategic alignment between the SLT and the Board was a critical component.  The Board’s role was key, particularly early on in the process, when they helped to gain the full support of the movement’s Chairs and Directors during a two day Assembly. Formal mechanisms to ensure monitoring and reporting on progress, challenges and issues to the Board and movement followed – and were important processes to build trust and confidence.

We faced struggles with our staff expressed directly, as teams, in letters and through their union. We saw anxiety from a few local NGOs who were concerned about the impact of a large international group setting up shop in their constituencies. This was before they saw the mutually supportive manner of our approach, and focus on not crowding out those that have struggled for justice and human rights for decades. We also faced the practical and logistical challenges of securing the right legal incorporation and permissions, navigating political changes on the ground (e.g.: the Thai military coup), getting work permits, finding premises, fulfilling security requirements, providing quality internet connectivity, recruitment and induction. All this with a view to shaping ways of working that ensure we can collaborate and lead streams of work that operate across an increasing global matrix.

But a rigorous focus on implementing the vision, achieving the transformation, a groundswell of support from staff and human rights defenders on the ground,  and maintaining a momentum, with an (inevitably evolving) timetable, underpinned with constant communication, and a focus on review and learning lessons have helped us to move well past the tipping point in implementing the change. By mid-2016 all our offices will be opened. By the year end we plan to have fully resourced teams in place with all the new talent and creativity that infers, readying ourselves for completing a full assessment of the whole change programme. All of this underpins our strategy to ensure the relevance of our global human rights organisation in the twenty-first century.

Photo: Amin/Drik © Amnesty International

Leave a comment