Managing NGO Coordination Bodies

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Governance of NGO Coordination Bodies

It is critical to ensure the NGO coordination body governance structure is created to accommodate different types of members, their resources and capacity, and the context or country of operation. 

The structure should enhance - rather than hinder - the functioning of the NGO coordination body, and be adaptable to changes in context, membership and funding. Poor governance structures established during the formation of an NGO coordination body - especially in the chaotic early days of an emergency, can become fixed and lead to a higher chance of failure in the long term.

Suggested features for effective management of coordination bodies include:

  • Stated, visible and demonstrated buy-in from senior management within each collaborating organisation or member;
  • A governance mechanism, ideally clear and defined, that ensures effective leadership and inclusiveness of members;
  • Common aims and objectives in a vision, mission, and set of objectives that are clearly defined, well-articulated, and shared;
  • Clearly defined structure and operational modalities of the body;
  • Action/results-oriented, yet flexible disposition;
  • Match between coordination needs and individuals’ skills and knowledge; and organisations prioritising staff time to facilitate and support the process;
  • Development of standard operational procedures that ensure transparent, effective communication and a voice for all;
  • Clarity of roles, responsibilities and the collaboration process, and shared accountability to them; and
  • Agreement on how influence can be achieved, and how joint advocacy can achieve wider impact and influence.

The above draws heavily from: 

Partnership Brokers Association (2013) Dealing with Paradox – Stories and Lessons from the First Three Years of Consortium-building, Start Network about the CBHA/Start Network;

Ramalingam, B., Mendizabal, E. and Schenkenberg Van Mierop, E. (2007) Strengthening Humanitarian Networks: Applying the Network Functions Approach, Overseas Development Institute;

Emergency Capacity Building Project (2013) What we know about Collaboration: The ECB Country Consortium Experience.


Essential Organisational Elements of Coordination Bodies


Successful NGO coordination bodies consistently incorporate six organisational elements. Whilst it is vital that NGO coordination bodies remain contextually consistent, these elements offer a useful starting point for creating a coordination body. Examples of how these elements can be translated into actual governance structures are discussed later in this section.

1) General Meeting:

The starting point for most NGO coordination is a General Meeting. This meeting brings together a critical mass from a clearly defined NGO constituency in a clearly defined structure for clearly defined purposes.

2) Executive/Board or Steering Committee:

The General Meeting may elect a smaller number to act as a governing body, such as an Executive, Board, or Steering Committee to take specific actions. It is important that the Committee be open to all in order to fully represent the membership. Committees are normally elected by the membership.

3) Executive/Steering Committee/Board Chair:

The governing body may need a Chair (and Deputy or Vice Chairs, where necessary) to play a representative role with external actors or to provide a focal point for the Executive Director/Coordinator of the Secretariat. In some cases no Chair is required and responsibilities are shared amongst the Steering Committee or wider membership.

4) Sub-Groups:

Depending on the situation, the General Meeting may form sub-groups that meet for limited periods to address specific issues of concern to members of the coordination body, and take forward advocacy activities with stakeholders outside the group.

5) Secretariat:

As the number of members and range of activities increase, administrative requirements for the coordination body will also increase. A Secretariat function may be required to meet the programmatic priorities and some core administrative functions to support the running of the coordination body. The Secretariat may also need an Executive Director/Coordinator.

6) Terms of Reference or Outline/Description of the Group

Regardless of how many of the above elements are utilised by the NGO community, a clear Terms of Reference for the NGO coordination body is essential to provide:

  • The framework in which these elements can work together;
  • The processes that enable them to achieve their objectives;
  • The focus and continuity of the coordination body; and
  • Its accountability to the wider NGO community and its stakeholders.


Sourced from Currion, P. & Hedlund, K. (2011) Strength in Numbers: A Review of NGO Coordination in the Field: An OverviewICVA).

One possible organisational model incorporating these 6 elements is presented below.