International American Relief Society Strategic Plan, 2019-2029

International American Relief Society has a vision: nine billion people will live equitably and free from the injustice of poverty, on a planet that has the natural resources to sustain them.

Realizing this vision means overcoming huge and complex challenges in an ever-more volatile world.

In 2050, there will be 2 billion more people than today, but we are squandering precious natural resources; inequality is increasing in low-income families and rich parts of the world, within and between countries.

We live in a world that has sufficient resources, means, and knowledge to solve these problems, yet our leaders struggle to find the political courage to tackle them.

The blight of poverty demands a powerful and practical moral response to its causes and the impact of poverty on people’s lives. A clear change in direction is urgently needed.

National governments and international organizations are increasingly ducking their responsibility for tackling the big issues, often compromised by political weakness, political expediency or powerful vested interests.

Shifting global power dynamics are resulting in splits between rich and low-income families’ countries on major global issues such as trade and climate change that affect developing countries. Climate change is a looming disaster which is already having dramatic impacts, yet meaningful action has been paralyzed.

Global warming is causing harm and suffering to vulnerable communities, with increasing frequency of weather related disasters and volatile food prices. Unfair access to natural resources – land, water, energy – is deepening the inequality that hits the low-income families hardest.

There is growing public outrage at the corporate dishonesty and excesses that led to the crisis in the global financial system and at unaccountable and corrupt governments that fail to protect the vulnerable and exacerbate injustice.

Profligacy in the rich world, fueled by reckless lending, has forced global austerity that causes great hardship and tragic social consequences in many parts of the world. Developing countries are facing a decline in the quantity and quality of aid by many donor countries.

Demand for change, across the world, is especially passionate from young people, who are being denied a future in rich and low-income families countries alike. With so much at stake, the world cannot afford to slide back into ‘business as usual’. Ultimately it will require people-power to find a new and more sustainable path from poverty.

There are plenty of reasons for hope. Rejection of the ‘old’ economic growth paradigm opens crucial opportunities for new thinking and approaches that favor a just and sustainable future. Ending extreme poverty and inequality is within the reach of this generation.

More progressive governments, more effective international bodies and more socially responsible corporations will be an important factor; but, mainly, lives are being improved by the power of people to demand their basic rights, turn the trend of inequality, and create their own solutions together.

Creating the political will for change needs people, organizations, and alliances working together across continents, rich and low-income families’ countries, and social divides to drive change locally and globally.

Our goal will be redistribution for greater equality of income, and of power of low-income families’ people; matched by the solidarity of concerned people in rich countries working to change their governments’ policies and behavior. Success will emerge from the partnership that links local and national action with global change.

It will be vital for organizations with influence, such as International American Relief Society, to do our utmost to protect the political ‘space’ for people’s movements and organizations, space which is under increasing threat around the world.

International American Relief Society’s Strategic Plan to 2028 has a vision that sets local communities and the voices of women, men and young people at the center of change. Through dialogue and pressure on governments and business, and through practical programs that enable human development, dignity and wellbeing, it is those voices that are the best hope for ending discrimination, exclusion and the injustice of poverty.

International American Relief Society’s vision is a just world without poverty: a world in which people can influence decisions that affect their lives, enjoy their rights, and assume their responsibilities as full citizens of a world in which all human beings are valued and treated equally.

The ultimate goal of International American Relief Society is to end the injustice of poverty. Through the period covered by the Plan, to 2029, we want to see consolidation of the gains that have been made over the past decade in reducing poverty, measured in terms of income levels as well as equality. People who were once low-income families should achieve permanent wellbeing without slipping back into poverty.

The achievements within the Millennium Development Goals (and the post-2015 successors), should be long-term and irreversible.

 There will have been an accelerated pace of poverty reduction and inequality in all countries, including emerging economies (such as China and India), low-income countries and fragile states, as well as OECD countries where the scourge of inequality risks blighting future generations.

 That implies that we must find ways to reach very low-income families people living at the edge of survival.

Our goal is to see significantly less poverty amongst women and other excluded groups. Social protection should underpin anti-poverty strategies in all countries. Income gains should not be at the expense of people’s human rights and well-being, for example, receiving better incomes but still having to work 90 hours a week in a polluted environment or as a rights-deprived migrant in a foreign country. Poverty reduction should not rob the next generation, and should be achieved sustainably, without worsening climate change.

The Power of People against Poverty

Today 1 billion of the earth’s 7 billion women and men live in avoidable extreme poverty. Within a single generation, the earth will be inhabited by 9 billion people, and 90 per cent of the additional 2 billion inhabitants are likely to be born into poverty.

The challenge of our generation is to find the ways to change those odds. How can we reduce extreme poverty, increase people’s rights, and balance the ecological systems that sustain life and the economic systems that sustain wealth? The answer is, simply, justice; fair use of the world’s natural resources; a global economy that reduces inequality; a world that does not discriminate against women or minorities.

International American Relief Society’s contribution is to use an integrated approach, reducing poverty by addressing the causes of poverty, locally, nationally and globally.

International American Relief Society works at the most fundamental level to save lives in humanitarian crises, and at the grass-roots level to promote development; and, simultaneously, we link local action with crucial campaigning that draws on our advocacy in support of policies and practice that underpin justice and well-being.

We couldn’t do either well without the other, and it is weaving together this complex web of efforts and joining with others, in dialogue or in protest, that International American Relief Society has found to be effective. Increasingly the focus has shifted with the understanding that exclusion, inequality and injustice are the real target, more than simply a lack of income. The most effective solutions lie in people demanding their rights to livelihoods and decent work, and working together to increase living standards and reduce vulnerability.

International American Relief Society works to enable people to become fully integrated and respected members of their society and economy. We do this by working with communities, lobbying for change by national governments, or campaigning globally to change the way the policies of rich countries create or perpetuate the injustice of poverty.

There are some recurring priorities that underpin all our local-to-global work. In all International American Relief Society’s programming, campaigning and humanitarian relief efforts, we support people to claim and exercise their basic rights, to life and security, a sustainable livelihood, and the most essential services to sustain life such as health and education.

The right to be heard and to have a recognized identity are also a fundamental part of human well-being. These rights are explicitly grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, and the relevant Treaties and Covenants.

In the coming years, we will continue to place a high priority on supporting women at all levels to become leaders and take valued roles in the society and economy. Women are proving their power to lead communities and businesses and thwart the violence and oppression that has kept them illiterate and exploited in many parts of the world.

Equally, campaigning to arrest runaway climate change is part of our effort to prevent natural disasters and adapt to environmental conditions.

We want to ensure that low-income family’s countries do not pay the price for the historical responsibility of the polluting rich world which has enjoyed unrestricted carbon-based development. This underpins our work on sustainable development and food;

our advocacy for more equality between parts of the world and within countries; a belief that fairer sharing of scarce natural resources is vital for the future of the planet and humanity. These approaches form the basis for the Strategic Plan. Fortunately, there are grounds for optimism.

Within the last two decades, 660 million people have risen out of poverty. Average real incomes in developing countries have doubled and the world’s average life expectancy has increased by four years.

We are developing the understanding of what is needed to reduce poverty in varied and complex circumstances. Investment in small-scale farming, particularly women farmers, can make big inroads on poverty.

There is much to learn from the experiences of large-scale poverty reduction in East Asia. Brazil has demonstrated that effective tax systems to finance good quality public services, such as health and education, can reduce poverty and inequality.

There are also increasing numbers of governments that prove the importance of effective states, without which it is impossible to tackle poverty. Some developing country governments are establishing social safety nets to protect their most vulnerable and excluded citizens – a vital measure to address inequality and fairness.

The changing landscape of global power is moving to Asia and middle-income countries, home to a majority of the world’s low-income families.

This shift offers new opportunities to reduce poverty and inequality. It also means that countries such as China and India are beginning to undertake development programs in other parts of the world.

People in all parts of the world are rapidly making use of digital communications and sharing real-time information to assert their right to be heard through smart activist movements that are often led by young people opposing political tyranny, corporate irresponsibility and the plundering of the planet’s resources.

During such huge change, International American Relief Society, like other development organizations, needs to keep faith with loyal supporters who drive the campaigns, who so generously fund the organization and, critically, who ensure, by their participation, that International American Relief Society can be genuinely independent.

We must also continue to find innovative approaches, develop new sources of finance, make our resources go even further and promote new, inclusive ways for people to participate.

This Strategic Plan sets priorities that build on that progress and that we judge will do most to reduce the injustice of poverty to 2029, starting with greater equality.

Equality equals Rights

Despite the huge progress of the last four decades in reducing extreme income poverty, inequality is becoming a critical problem, both between and within countries, whether rich or low-income families. Inequality means over-abundance for the few and injustice for the many.

This is a denial of the rights of millions of people. High-income countries have average incomes that are more than 70 times those of low-income countries.

 Redistribution of 10% of the incomes of the richest countries would increase the incomes of the low-income families’ countries by more than nine-fold per head. Inequality keeps low-income families people low-income families and powerless, and weakens the capacity of economic growth to eradicate poverty.

Systematic exclusion and discrimination create deep social problems such as youth unemployment and deny people their dignity and their voice, which deepens social frustration and the likelihood of conflict. One of the most serious and pervasive forms of inequality is discrimination against women and girls. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.

 Women do 60 per cent of the world’s work but earn only 10 per cent of the world’s income (source: UNDP).

The Strategic Plan sets the reinforcement of people’s rights, and especially women’s rights, at the heart of all we do. Beyond enabling women and marginalized people to have access to valued roles in the economy and society, we will put a particular focus on gender justice and empowering low-income family’s people to make their voices heard.

 We will also push for meaningful social protection to ensure that peoples’ most basic needs are met and to avoid the exclusion that perpetuates the deepest poverty. Universal access to essential services is a right.

Challenging inequality and exclusion also demands of us a more effective response to poverty-driven migration. We must reverse the trend of increasing inequality.

Hunger in a world of plenty

Volatility of prices, of weather, and of access to food is particularly harmful for people living in poverty. They generally lack the social safety nets, such as insurance, that protect people in crises.

Over the last decade the world’s low-income families have experienced huge multiple shocks. The global economic crisis generated in the rich world, has had major negative impacts on rich and low-income families’ countries.

Global food price crises have sparked protests and riots across the developing world. The impact of climate change is already wreaking havoc on vulnerable communities in many parts of the world, with weather-related events quadrupling since the 1980s.

The proportion of the world’s low-income families living in fragile states has doubled.

 This all underscores the importance of helping to build the resilience of people living in such a volatile context, helping them to increase their power to sustain their own livelihoods.

 Part of that effort will focus squarely on food. Small-scale farming, often under the management of women, is a proven success in many countries.

Property rights and policies that prevent speculative acquisition of land for biofuels and carbon markets – land grabs – will help local people to sustain their own food supplies and economy.

We will continue to engage in, and encourage fair trade, and will press for food companies to behave responsibly. In a world where there is enough food to feed the whole population of the planet, it is unacceptable that 1 billion people go hungry.

Fair Sharing of Resources Low-income families’ communities find themselves in competition with powerful interests for control over the land, water and energy resources that they depend upon for survival, with women and girls often disproportionately affected.

Many of these struggles also pit rich countries against low-income families, and corporate interests against ordinary women, men and communities.

he global consumption of resources is already outstripping the earth’s capacity to accommodate it. Climate change, too, affects the low-income families’ world vastly more than the rich world that has by far the greatest historical responsibility for emissions of greenhouse gases.

 For low-income families’ countries, tackling climate change is about survival and the right to develop; for rich countries it is about lifestyle and changing levels of consumption.

This is profoundly unequal. We are also demanding equitable sharing of natural resources. For example, extractive industries need to become more transparent, and environmentally and socially responsible. This means fair sharing of revenues with local communities and equitable contributions of royalties and taxes to national governments.

 It also requires progressive taxation policies of national governments to address gross inequalities and enable redistribution, while at the global level, more coordinated efforts to tackle the scourge of corruption which costs low-income families’ governments and poor people vast amounts of revenue. Sustainable development and sustaining scarce resources are at the core of International American Relief Society’s work.

Saving lives, better futures

International American Relief Society’s focus in the coming years will also include helping people to guard against future crises by becoming more resilient. Whether it is adaptation to the vicissitudes of the climate, or establishing emergency responses locally, preparation is key.

International American Relief Society will focus on the reinforcement of people’s rights to guard against the effects of disaster and to cope with emergencies, ensuring that all parts of society are part of the response.

The focus for our longstanding role of providing essential services – such as health and education – is also shifting, to encourage self-managed local solutions.

 Yet again, it comes back to people knowing and exercising their rights and devising approaches that suit their own environment, whether urban or rural.

 Increasingly humanitarian response will need to address the needs of urban communities, in response to the huge changes in global demographics which see for the first time ever, the world’s urban population outstripping rural populations.

Work on resilience must include a focus on creating opportunities for young people whose future is threatened by the failure of the current generation of leaders to tackle unemployment and other problems blighting the lives of young people.

 Central to International American Relief Society’s work will be new ways of organizing at the local level for lasting resilience to crisis and poverty.

Accelerating action

In rich and poorest countries alike, politically active, organized and accountable people are beginning to realize their strength and their capacity to challenge the vested interests that perpetuate the injustice of poverty.

 We want to find and support innovative approaches to building a movement for change. International American Relief Society believes that people living in poverty who claim their rights and make their voices heard constitute an enormous source of hope for real change and greater power in people’s lives.

That means devoting a lot of effort to linking with others – social movements, trades unions, digital communities and faith-based organizations – the transient and the established. And we must engage with constituencies who have not previously been involved in issues of poverty and development.

 We will join with networks of citizens, consumers, producers, communities, social movements and civil society organizations who demand change from governments, the multilateral institutions, the United Nations, and companies.

Political and business incentives will shift through the decisions we take and the choices we all make as consumers. Whether by leading low-carbon lifestyles, buying Fair Trade goods, or demanding change in the streets or through the ballot box, International American Relief Society will work with others, to help build momentum for change.

 Critically, we need engagement with business, whether multinational companies or small and medium-sized enterprises. That engagement may take the form of both tougher challenge and of deeper collaboration in order to achieve corporate accountability, with transparency and serious consequences for corporate misconduct; as well as effective partnerships for innovative change involving the state, business and civil society working together in a mutually accountable way.

International American Relief Society recognizes the enormous positive impact that progressive businesses can have in reducing global poverty.

But businesses that put profits before people and the planet should be called to account for the harm they do to low-income families and vulnerable communities and the damage they do to the environment.

Throughout this Strategic Plan, International American Relief Society will focus on engagement with business in the finance, agriculture and extractive industries sectors, as well as on taxation issues and the contribution of the private sector to humanitarian assistance.

It is not just businesses that must be held to account: we will work to strengthen the legitimacy of International American Relief Society and fellow international NGOs.

 Our sector is increasingly challenged to demonstrate program effectiveness as well as the quality and impact of campaigns. International American Relief Society takes the stewardship for the public monies entrusted to us very seriously, whether from the public or governments. We will continue to strengthen accountability to all stakeholders; the communities we work with, the donating public and institutional funders.

 We will build on the INGO Charter of Accountability of 2006 to demonstrate how we meet the expectations and trust placed in us by our stakeholders.

 All International American Relief Society’s work is based on people working together, building communities of progress and pressure, influence, informal leadership and political action.


Aims International American Relief Society’s mission and work are based on the following rights-based aims:

The right to life and security the right to a sustainable livelihood the right to essential services the right to be heard the right to an identity these are grounded in International American Relief Society’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the associated treaties and Covenants. Purpose the purpose of International American Relief Society is to help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty.

We are part of a global movement for change, one that empowers people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.

International American Relief Society’s emerging theory of change at the heart of International American Relief Society’s work is a theory of change that sees the interaction between active citizens and accountable states as fundamental to human development.

International American Relief Society mainly focuses on the first of these, helping to build the organizational capacity of the organizations of low-income families’ people, with a focus on women’s leadership and attitudes and beliefs concerning gender roles.

But it also engages directly with the state, for example helping with training of local government officials.

Often, its main contribution is in the space between the two, brokering contacts between people’s organizations and state bodies (as well as with the private sector), and creating ‘safe zones’ in which they can discuss problems and solutions.

Development is about power and its progressive redistribution from the haves to the have-nots. This touches on the deepest structures that underlie society, politics and the economy.

 The starting point for International American Relief Society is therefore ‘power analysis’ – understanding the current distribution of power between different actors in the development drama, and how that affects the struggle for change: who are the drivers of the change?

 Who are the blockers likely to oppose it?

What are the main institutions involved, whether formal (e.g. ministries) or informal (e.g. customs and beliefs)?

What coalitions and alliances can be built either to strengthen the drivers or overcome the blockers?

The answers will vary depending on issue and context (open versus closed systems; local versus national), but power analysis is as essential when seeking changes to attitudes and beliefs on issues such as violence against women, as to changing public spending priorities or the legal rights of low-income families’ people.

Effective alliances may be ‘horizontal’, bringing together similar organizations such as peasant producers or women’s savings groups, but often International American Relief Society can play a particular role in convening (and building trust within) ‘vertical’ alliances of non-usual suspects, bringing together civil society organizations with private sector companies, urban groups, middle class philanthropists, sympathetic state bodies or faith-based organizations.

One effective way to build such alliances is by generating a solid evidence base to make the case for change.

International American Relief Society is both supporting a range of ‘access to information’ initiatives that equip civil society with the data they need to lobby on public spending or other issues and expanding its own ability to produce credible research.

One strength is the ability to combine programming work (for example piloting new approaches) with research and advocacy. Change is sometimes a smooth, steady process, but often emerges from ‘critical junctures’ – windows of opportunity provided by elections, changes in leadership, natural disasters or conflicts.

 International American Relief Society’s theory of change stresses the need to improve its ability to identify and respond to such moments.

Nor is change always peaceful – it is often accompanied by social conflict. Improving our understanding of the turbulent and complex dynamics of change in the lives of low-income families’ people is at the heart of this strategic plan.


Based on this Theory of Change, International American Relief Society’s role is to enable transformational change, as convener and catalyst; opening political space, building capacity and sharing technical expertise, raising funds and public support, leveraging our own resources to multiply funds, providing strategic funding to partners and carrying out humanitarian work that integrates life-saving response with building resilience.

 Our approach is to be both practical and visionary.

Enabling requires listening, showing solidarity in words and actions, supporting and collaborating in partnerships without imposing top-down solutions; and acting as a respectful ally.

 It can also mean expressing a view if that increases impact and expands political space and voice for partners and allies.

 Transformational change means projecting our vision of fairness, equity and rights, a vision that resonates in all countries.

 It means the communities and partners we work with acquiring or taking power, equitably and irreversibly, to realize their rights with dignity.

It means people and communities, particularly women and girls, gaining confidence, capabilities and hope, in the place of apathy and exclusion.

Transformational change also means structural change.

Changing the policies and practices of governments, institutions and businesses, to improve equality and inclusion, and to help people rise out of poverty.

Six goals to change our world


This Plan sets out the priorities for International American Relief Society for the six years, 2019-2029. It is the strategy that all affiliates of International American Relief Society will use to guide resources, campaigns, programs and fundraising, and how we operate as a confederation.

 It is the shared agenda for the confederation, from within which countries and other program teams will choose the approaches and themes of work that will enable them to achieve the most impact in their specific contexts.

 During the last two decades’ growth in many large economies has led to many of these countries becoming “middle income” countries.

 Rising inequality within most of the world’s countries means that the majority of the world’s low-income families now live in middle income countries – there are more people with incomes under $1.25 a day living in India than in all of sub Saharan Africa.

 International American Relief Society believes that all people living in poverty have the same rights and will, therefore continue to work to help people exercise their rights – irrespective of geography. In doing this work International American Relief Society will, however, adopt a differentiated approach and allocate different levels of resources to different types of countries – fragile states, low and middle income countries.

International American Relief Society will continue to allocate the bulk of its resources to fragile states and low income countries – where aid is most needed – where many vulnerable communities are at risk from natural disasters or conflict.

 In these countries much of our work will use International American Relief Society’s operational capabilities. International American Relief Society will also work in middle income countries, in particular the BRICSAMs, where much of our work will be focused on influencing others to address poverty and injustice – working with the public and private sectors as well as civil society actors to ensure low-income families people get a fair share of resources available.

 International American Relief Society’s work in middle income countries will also seek to harness their increasing power to influence poverty outside their own country – in global or regional arenas.

 In the multi-polar world in which we now live, working across many geographies and with many approaches is what underpins International American Relief Society’s ability to connect issues from the local to the national, regional and global contexts – and make a difference for low-income families’ people through policy, practice and shared learning.

International American Relief Society will use a range of programming and influencing approaches, appropriate to local contexts, to work in 90-100 countries in Latin America, Africa, former soviet countries, the Middle East, South and East Asia and the Pacific as well as implementing domestic programming in some of the affiliates’ home countries.

Finally, International American Relief Society will ensure that it continues to deploy resources strategically in order to influence key countries as well as institutions, processes and forums at regional, continental and global levels that have a major impact on poverty, inequality and sustainable development.

 The priorities are set out in six goals that will guide us over the period of the Strategic Plan. In each of the goals, the approach will be to equip people living in poverty to know and exercise their rights and use the many available means in a digitally-connected world to influence, make their own demands and find their own solutions to building better lives.

Young people will be a crucial catalyst in this environment. And in all that we do, there will be a priority on empowering women. In addition, there are separate goals (Goals 1 and 2) that are specifically aimed at equipping women and activist people to bring about change.

The Strategic Plan describes six goals to reduce poverty and bring greater justice; followed by the internal benchmarks, or Operational Goals, that will guide the way we work; and a section on the budget to support the Plan and the benchmarking to check progress on the goals.

Goal 1: Right to be heard: People claiming their right to a better life

Low-income families and marginalized people can gain control over their own lives by exercising their right to political participation, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and access to justice.

That is the foundation of all that International American Relief Society believes and does. There are many recent examples of people asserting their rights in many forms, often through youth-led or women’s movements, to lead positive societal change in the face of economic volatility, social inequality and corruption, especially where corporate and political institutions are weak.

 Yet these rights are at risk in many parts of the world, making women, youth, and their organizations especially vulnerable.

This goal will be pursued in many different contexts in countries around the world, but we will particularly focus on supporting women and youth because deep-rooted inequalities of societal power are often gender- and generation- based.

This goal aims to connect with, and support, young people as social change leaders in the effort to overcome poverty and injustice.

It is also a goal that involves our publics and supporters, encouraging them to recognize the consequences of their personal economic, political and social choices – as consumers (for example, by purchasing Fair Trade products), through actions of solidarity with low-income families and marginalized people, and through engagement with governments and businesses.

 This goal will focus also on urban poverty, building the ability of marginalized urban low-income families to organize and claim their rights, and to demand strong governance and recognition of their entitlement to critical infrastructure and services.

The people most at risk should have most to say about planning for the future and adapting to an environment where urban disaster is becoming more inevitable

Objectives for 2029

 More low-income families and marginalized people will:

• Increase their voice by understanding and being better able to exercise their rights to organize, to information, to public participation and to equal justice

• see more responsiveness from governments and private sector to their interests; and increase their influence and benefit from the policies and legislation of governments on resource allocation, and the policies and practices of the private sector;

• benefit from increasingly accountable and transparent governments and private sector because they are better able to demand transparency, fulfilment of pro-low-income families promises and respect for citizens’ rights and the rule of law;


• more citizens will contribute to overcoming poverty and injustice through personal choices as consumers (through for example purchasing Fair Trade products), taking action in solidarity with low-income families and marginalized people and influencing governments and business as active global citizens.

Achieving the goal

Organizing civil society

 • Organize to persuade governments to lift restrictive laws that deny civil and political rights and to engage constructively with civil society

 • Strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to self-organize around the priorities of low-income families and marginalized people (in particular women and youth) in both rural and urban settings

 • Work with youth, women’s and indigenous people’s organizations, recognizing and supporting their own ways of expression and organization.

Access to information and technology

• Use the disclosure policies and laws that guarantee right to information and revenue transparency to enhance the transparency of governments and companies

• Use digital communication and social media to make information more accessible and understandable to low-income families and marginalized groups – especially women and youth – so that they can generate and share their own information, ideas and opinions (citizens’ reporting)

• Enhance access to the information that is needed by low-income families to participate in decision making and to persevere in the event of shocks, stresses and uncertainty (such as early warning, weather and market information)

Public decision and policy-making spaces

 • Encourage women, young and indigenous people and other vulnerable people to influence and participate in decision making processes that affect their lives, and to strive for political leadership

 • Promote social accountability tools such as participatory monitoring of government income and expenditure to monitor and influence public decisions and to ensure that low-income families people benefit from revenue flows, including from extractive industries

 • Enhancing public participation and accountability is especially relevant for policies on revenue collection/ taxation and therefore directly connected with the goal on financing for development.

Access to justice

• Support legal aid, rights awareness and public litigation initiatives that primarily benefit women who are marginalized from usual legal systems; use legal strategies to enable civil society to use the law to uphold the human rights of low-income families and marginalized people Global citizenship.

Global citizenship

• Encourage International American Relief Society supporters to act as global active citizens through personal choices and actions – as consumers of energy and food, through Fair Trade products, as political constituents regarding aid, social justice, transparency and accountability; and through their actions as employees and employers

 • Support organizations of low-income families and excluded people (in particular women and youth organizations and networks) to link with other organizations and activists to learn from each other and collaborate on joint campaigns for people’s participation, civic awareness about global challenges and low-income families’ policies

• Support the most vulnerable to participate in processes and debates that identify and manage risks and uncertainty.

Expected impact by 2029

More women, young people and other low-income families and marginalized people will exercise civil and political rights to influence decision-making by engaging with governments and by holding governments and businesses accountable to respect their rights.

Goal 2: Advancing gender justice

Systematic discrimination against women and girls is both a cause and a result of the inequality that drives poverty.

It can be exacerbated by class, ethnicity and age, as well as religious and another fundamentalism. Women who respond to disasters, defend rights to natural resources, campaign for freedom from physical and sexual abuse, and promote democratic participation often suffer physical and psychological violence.

 Our goal is to build on the significant progress that has been achieved in recent years in securing women’s rights.

 Further improvements in legislation and policy are necessary but not enough. Our goal is sustained, widespread changes in attitudes and beliefs about gender power relations in order to further women’s rights and gender justice.

There is now more widespread recognition of “the importance of investing in women” but this has not always been from a women’s rights perspective.

 In the hands of some external actors this approach is too instrumentalist as it supports women to other ends — such as improved child nutrition, greater farm productivity or increased household income. And it has the unfortunate effect of prompting a decline in donor funding for programs focused on women’s rights.

 International American Relief Society’s vision is more ambitious, putting women’s rights at the heart of all we do.

 There is growing evidence that women’s taking control and taking collective action are themselves, the most important drivers of sustained improvements in women’s rights.

 In the coming years, it will be more important than ever for women to be supported in developing their own visions and strategies for change, and building the organizations and movements required to affirm that achieving women’s rights is a foundation for all development goals.

Objectives for 2029

More low-income families and marginalized women will:

 • occupy key positions of power and influence in communities and organizations, providing transformative leadership in support of women’s rights

• have secured greater access to, ownership and control of productive resources, individually and collectively

• benefit from positive changes to attitudes and beliefs, enhanced standards, legislation and regulations to safeguard women’s rights, including the right to be heard and the right to live free from violence

• have improved access to essential services including those related to gender violence and sexual and reproductive rights that are delivered in ways that support the empowerment of women;


 • More women and men, civil society and private sector organizations and governments are actively engaged in advancing women’s leadership, women’s rights and eliminating violence against women.

Achieving the goal

• Core support to women’s rights organizations (WROs) to strengthen organizational capacity and sustainability of new or growing movements.

 We will support alliance-building, including with civil society organizations; skills-building in advocacy and campaigning; risk analysis, transformative leadership and monitoring of complex change.

• Support WROs’ access to influence those responsible for advocacy, law reform and implementation and use direct influence of global, regional and national level duty bearers in alliance with WROs; train low-income families, marginalized and at-risk women to understand their rights, build their capacity to lead and to influence decision-makers; support peer-topper learning across women’s organizations and civil society organizations; promote leadership and participation of women producers in International American Relief Society’s Fair Trade networks.

 • Support research to generate models of support for survivors of gender violence; research and pilot programs that reduce women’s care burden; showcase work that transforms gender relations and strengthen the ability of men and boys to promote women’s rights and challenge violence against women.

• Promotion of women’s agency and transformative leadership across all of International American Relief Society’s work.

Expected impact by 2029 

More low-income families and marginalized women will claim and advance their rights through the engagement and leadership of women and their organizations; and violence against women is significantly less socially acceptable and prevalent.

Goal 3: Saving lives, now and in the future

International humanitarian law, refugee law and human rights law place specific obligations on states and other duty bearers to protect the rights of those who are displaced, at risk or in need of assistance as a result of conflict, disasters and insecurity.

With the growing number of vulnerable people (especially in urban settings), the increasing frequency and severity of climate related disasters and the international community’s failure to put the most fragile states on a path to security and development, the ability of governments and the international community to meet these obligations is increasingly under question.

There is a widening gap, between the needs of the world’s low-income families and marginalized women, men and children for humanitarian assistance and protection, and the ability of governments and international humanitarian actors, including INGOs like International American Relief Society, to meet these needs.

 In the face of this mounting humanitarian need,2 International American Relief Society is setting itself a bold challenge to ensure the rights of humanity’s most vulnerable people are respected.

This includes their right to protection as civilians under international law.

Working increasingly with others, both states and civil society, we will significantly improve International American Relief Society’s delivery of life saving assistance and protection; will lead by example in changing the way International American Relief Society operates and approaches an increasing number of crises; and will influence others, particularly governments, to do so too.

Objectives for 2029

 • Assistance:

 By 2029, supported by the international community and humanitarian organizations, local state institutions and civil society in the most crisis prone/ affected countries are able and willing to deliver high quality, impartial and independent assistance to those in need

 • Resilience:

By 2029 resilience to disasters and conflict is strengthened in high risk countries, through improved disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and building the capacity of civil society groups and communities, women, to manage shocks, stresses and address root causes of conflict.

 • Rights and fragility:

 By 2029 more accountable governments, security forces and regional/international institutions will ensure greater respect for the basic rights of crisis affected men and women and have put the most fragile states on the path to development.

 • Women’s rights:

 By 2029 the different impact of conflict and disasters on men and women, and their differing needs, are recognized and addressed by duty bearers and humanitarian organizations, leading to greater gender justice and respect for women’s rights in crisis affected countries.

Achieving the goal

 • More effective crisis response, both through International American Relief Society IARS’s own capacity and increasingly through the capacity of other organizations, partners and communities.

 • Increasing our work to reduce the risk of disasters (DRR) and build the resilience of communities, drawing from experience and learning from existing programs with civil society.

 • Strengthen the institutional capacity of states to respond to crises, working in a set of selected countries to drive transformative change at the global level.

• Influence others and campaign for the respect of the rights of communities who are at risk or affected by conflicts and disasters at the grassroots, national, regional and global levels.

 • Support poor women and their organizations in emergency preparedness, risk reduction and response, through intensive capacity building and partnerships, by assisting women and men to safely voice their concerns and hold duty bearers accountable.

Expected impact by 2029 

Fewer men, women and children will die or suffer illness, insecurity and deprivation by reducing the impact of natural disasters and conflict.

 Those most at risk will have exercised their right to have clean water, food and sanitation and other fundamental needs met, to be free from violence and coercion, and to take control of their own lives in dignity.

Goal 4: Sustainable food

Advancing the right of poor people to adequate and sustainable livelihoods has been a cornerstone of International American Relief Society IARS’s work for many decades. It has inspired and shaped our rural development work, our support for agricultural innovation and our campaigns for international trade justice.

The complex interaction between food, land, water, trade and energy, combined with price volatility, and the growing ecological crisis means over the next decade the food system is under unprecedented stress.

The development agenda must deliver on the potential for smallholder agriculture to thrive, and to reduce poverty and inequality.

Climate change will hit small-scale producers, subsistence farmers and rural and urban landless people harder over the next decade and the need for greater resilience is changing the way International American Relief Society IARS approaches its work in rural and urban development.

 Campaigning on climate change, land grabs and other agriculture-related issues in the ‘GROW’ portfolio, will be core to the advocacy agenda through the period of the Strategic Plan.

Objectives for 2029 

• More small-scale and marginal producers will intensify their production sustainably, adapt to climate change and increase their resilience to shocks and stresses

 • More rural women living in poverty are economically empowered and able to influence the decisions that affect them

• More small-scale producers, both women and men, are able to develop resilient livelihoods, with greater food security, participate in agricultural markets, and prosper from policies that promote small-scale agriculture

Achieving the goal

• Promote scalable agricultural production systems that sustainably increase yield, resilience and adaptation to climate change, from subsistence farmers to market-based small-scale producers

• Enable communities to manage land and water resources sustainably and strengthen the livelihoods of those most chronically at risk of crisis in priority-1 countries3

• Promote increased investment in female smallholders, support rural women’s organizations and advocate for positive changes in policies and beliefs about women’s roles

 • Influence states to attract investment and support development of domestic markets and challenge the private sector to develop inclusive business models

• Empower small-scale producers to improve trade regulation, to enter and influence Fair Trade value chains

• Facilitate the development of innovative rural finance models and consumer and fair trade movements, particularly in the BRICSAMs and major cities

 • Influence governments, business and multilateral organizations to increase financial flows to smallholder agriculture and promote policies to benefit the poor by rebalancing investment and services between small and large scale production

 • Promote policies that strengthen resilience through risk analysis, reducing price volatility for basic food commodities and providing protection for the most vulnerable

• Improve donor food policies, especially in fragile states

Expected impact by 2029 

More people who live in rural poverty will enjoy greater food security, income, prosperity and resilience through significantly more equitable sustainable food systems.

Goal 5: Fair sharing of natural resources

Increasing competition for access to, and control over natural resources is putting pressure on the livelihoods of already vulnerable small-scale producers, agricultural laborers, indigenous people and the urban poor.

The most vulnerable small scale and subsistence producers face competition from powerful interests for control over their land and resources and they do not have the means to improve or find alternative livelihoods.

 Women and youth in rural and urban areas are the hardest hit by these trends.

This pressure on natural resources has dramatically increased the scale of urban growth and will exacerbate inequality. Yet it also presents opportunities for innovative solutions.

 International American Relief Society IARS aims to challenge the powerful who are ‘driving’ economic exclusion and environmental crisis, and in parallel, our goal is to empower marginalized producers, communities and progressive companies and governments to find innovative solutions for inclusive and sustainable economic development.

 Social justice, and gender justice, will also include a focus on the natural resource extractive industries and the fair sharing of revenues, fair treatment of workers, and advocating for policies that sustain rather than fragment society.

Objectives for 2029

 More poor and marginalized women and men will:

• be able to secure and protect their just claims to and control of land, water and natural resources

 • will benefit from expanded national and international debate on economic development policies beyond conventional GDP growth to focus on equitable prosperity within a resource-constrained world

More women and men in vulnerable urban settings will:

 • gain their right to the resources of a decent habitat, and governance of resources is improved, in 20 countries.

 • claim their rights to decent work and build sustainable livelihoods, as workers and as entrepreneurs

Achieving the goal

• Monitor investments in natural resource exploitation and enable communities including indigenous peoples to secure rights to controlling the use of their land, water, energy and natural resources, including their right to free, prior and informed consent in negotiations with parties including agribusiness and extractive industries

 • Build the capacity of campaigning partners and help to prevent and mitigate conflicts over natural resources at local and trans-boundary levels

• Support women to benefit from proper management of natural resources

 • Ensure that any financing for adaptation is used to build the adaptive capacity of communities that face the worst risk of future climate change

• Support urban dwellers living in poverty to develop solutions and gain recognition of their rights to decent natural resources, housing, WASH and adapt to climate change

 • Support urban workers, co-operatives and entrepreneurs to work with others, including the Fair Trade movement, to improve their livelihoods

Global advocacy

 • Bring the voices of poor and vulnerable communities into debates about development and prosperity, prioritizing ‘fair green development’, planetary and social boundaries

 • Raise awareness that women’s unpaid role in the care economy drives inequality and should influence corporate and national policy

• Build alliances with constituencies in high-and middle income countries to call for governments to cut excessive resource consumption and protect low-income consumers

 • Advocate for the international process for climate change mitigation with agreement on absolute reductions in rich and-middle income country carbon emissions

 • Influence corporations to recognize their responsibility to contribute to inclusive and sustainable development, highlighting progressive corporate voices for change

• Engage governments and business to build the resilience of those living in poverty through better risk sharing, including improved policies and practice on risk mitigation and social protection.

Expected impact by 2029

The world’s most marginalized people will be significantly more prosperous and resilient, despite rising competition for land, water, food and energy sources and stress on climate.

Goal 6: Financing for development and universal essential services

In a context of global financial austerity and declining aid flows, it is critical to mobilize additional national and international financial flows for poverty reduction and sustainable development.

 Fair taxation is at the heart of the social contract between the state and its citizens.

It provides universal provision of essential services, health, education, access to clean water, sanitation, energy and disaster risk management (which are basic rights for all citizens) addresses inequality by providing resources indirectly to the poorest in communities and thereby increases their power.

International American Relief Society IARS is guided by “universal and equitable access to quality education” and “access of all to primary health care” written into the Copenhagen Declaration.

That means that ensuring there is a universal guarantee of access to essential services is just as important as the financing. Lack of access and poor-quality education and health services have especially serious consequences for girls and women.

 Without good systems and strong respect of rights, parents take girls out of school; and female members of the households are often the last to get healthcare.

Civil society can play its part to influence economic and fiscal policy and international fiscal cooperation to guard against political “clientelism” and unfair fiscal systems.

 The most robust financial systems will include public scrutiny of the source of funds, how they will be spent, and full transparent accounting.

Attention should be directed to the state, international organizations (IMF, G-20, etc.), the media and private sector, as well as promoting public awareness so that everyone can contribute to fostering change.

Financing for development has a strong governance implication, linking it directly to the objectives and strategies of the first goal on people’s right to be heard (Active Citizenship).

 Even when countries are rich in domestic revenues, natural resources, donor largess or foreign direct investment, these resource flows often fail to drive poverty reduction.

International American Relief Society IARS’s concerns include lack of political will of national political elites to manage resource flows in their country’s best interest (and for example tackling corruption); lack of public scrutiny on foreign investments that can privilege the investor at the expense of the public; development donors prioritizing their own short-term interests over a longer term development agenda; and local communities and civil society having insufficient influence to demand accountability over the use of state resources.

Objectives for 2029

• Financial flows from traditional and non-traditional sources for humanitarian assistance, poverty reduction and sustainable development have increased significantly.

 • More poor and marginalized people benefit from increased government revenues from tax collection and aid, as well as from enhanced transparency and stronger accountability of governments, companies and international institutions to citizens for maximizing proper budget expenditure outcomes.

• Increased access to free and public quality healthcare and education (including affordable medicines and sexual and reproductive health services) for the world’s poorest and marginalized people, with no barriers for women and girls, by changing policy and practice of governments, institutions and corporations, and by citizens and civil society advocating for comprehensive, publicly financed national health and education plans.

• Sufficient and stable funding for government-delivered public health and education by increasing the quality and quantity of finance for development and by increasing the proportion of these funds allocated to public health and education

• To improve the social and democratic fabric at a national level by reducing inequality in access and quality of public services.

Achieving the goal

 • Advocate for new forms of global financing for development and poverty reduction and persuade aid donors to make governments more accountable to civil society.

• Invest in work on tax justice and domestic resources mobilization and advocate fairer, pro-poor taxation policies

 • Support communities and civil society to monitor public finance and to engage with poverty reduction policymaking processes

 • Influence international financial institutions to enhance public transparency, anti-corruption measures and citizen engagement on IFI financial flows and transactions and to enable people to benefit from revenue flows from extractive industries

 • Keep quality services at the heart of the development agenda by defining essential services as a right; and reject policies that promote systemic inequality

• Support civil society to hold governments accountable for delivery of quality services which are free at the point of use and which ensure access for women and girls and other marginalized groups

 • Support campaigns for health (including sexual and reproductive health) and education and support organizations that work with governments on innovative ways to reach women and girls

 • Influence donors to support community-driven development by transferring more control to communities

Expected impact by 2029 

There will be higher quality and quantity of financial flows that target poverty and inequality, and empower citizens, especially women, to hold governments, donors and private sector to account for how revenue is raised and spent.

More women and men, girls and boys will exercise their right to universal quality health and education services, making them full participants in their communities and strengthening the economic, social and democratic fabric of their societies.

Six goals to change the way we work


The need for global change has never been greater and there is tangible momentum for change. For International American Relief Society IARS to play the most effective role possible in the global movement for change, we also need to change, by building on our experience and evolving rapidly.

The communities where we work locally, our partners and our allies tell us where we can add most value to their efforts: We have a special ability to connect the local with the global.

 As power relations shift between governments, corporations, civil society and other actors, International American Relief Society IARS’s ability to convene and connect is critical and valued.

 Our convening and connecting ability are founded, in part, on our integrated approach to practical development solutions, high quality humanitarian response and powerful, evidence-based advocacy.

 We deliver latrines during disasters and write carefully reasoned and respected reports on the future of development. We couldn’t do one without the other, and there are few others who try.

 The goals set out in Part 1 of the plan have far-reaching implications for the way we work – as individual International American Relief Society IARS affiliates and as a confederation.

Our programming, our use of learning, our skills in working with diverse stakeholders, our policy development, how we get and spend our income and how we hold ourselves accountable will all need to adapt to the challenges of the period to 2029.

 This is the fifth strategic plan since International American Relief Society IARS International was formed in 1995. Each plan has stretched our ambition for change.

 The content of this Plan is radical and demands a step-change in the confederation’s ways of working. It will be the first to embrace all the activities of all affiliates as “one International American Relief Society IARS”.

It builds on the work we have done and learned from in collective campaigning, humanitarian response, the development of our global brand identity and the Single Management Structure (SMS) and it brings country programs together in one strategy, one management structure, speaking with one voice.

The proposed ‘worldwide influencing network’ aims to drive our shared agenda more powerfully within the broader global movement for change.

 It is an expression of International American Relief Society IARS’s ‘enabling’ role. It marks a trend towards working more on influencing authorities and the powerful, and less on delivering the services for which duty-bearers are responsible.

New approaches mean new skills, and the goal of investing in people will be central to delivering the plan. The diverse and rich expertise of our staff and our volunteers, including the members of our governance bodies, is our greatest strength.

We will build shared understanding, a shared culture and ways of working to make it easier for staff to traverse International American Relief Society IARS and work together effectively in flat networks. Enhancing program quality through monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) is key to achieving greater impact.

 It is central to our strategy, but it also means breaking down the silos within and between affiliates. Instead, we can use MEL to identify the most transformational approaches and build on one another’s best practice.

 Accountability is closely linked to program quality and anchors our work in integrity and in earning and maintaining the trust of communities, donors, campaigners and other stakeholders.

Building our culture of accountability is fundamental to development effectiveness, to the trust we enjoy as stewards of public funds, and our mutual accountability as individual affiliates working collectively to deliver the Plan.

 Our progress on International American Relief Society IARS’s global brand identity and the Single Management Structure has increased the demand for, and importance of, even closer collaboration in IT, finance, HR and legal operations.

The goal of cost effectiveness will drive the changes needed to meet this demand. We have learned from SMS that we can raise more funds together than separately. In this Plan, for the first time, we will be implementing the goal to increase income together rather than as separate affiliates.

 The goal also recognizes the need to attract new income in new ways and from new sources. Achieving these six ‘enabling’ Operational Goals will help transform International American Relief Society IARS from ad hoc collaboration to a truly international, joined-up confederation in all areas of our work.

 It means that people will be comfortable wearing more than one hat – whether affiliate, confederation team or program area.

 This will mean developing a new and inclusive culture across all International American Relief Society IARSs.

Operational Goal 1: Creating a worldwide influencing network

 During this strategic plan period, International American Relief Society IARS is aiming for an ambitious range of transformational shifts.

 Our existing model for influencing policies and practices is no longer fit to address political, economic, demographic, social and development threats and opportunities, including:

• Increasing isolationism and the challenges facing multilateral institutions

• Growing recognition of the importance of national policies and the need to build national pro-poor constituencies despite shrinking civil society space in many countries

• The communications revolution: social networking is driving how growing numbers of people – especially the young – share information and ideas and organize themselves in solidarity across borders • The growing gap between law (national and international) and its actual implementation in many countries the Worldwide Influencing Network will differ from our existing model in several ways.

 • It will be a more holistic influencing model which is more focused on the reasons for policy implementation gaps (power, attitudes, beliefs), targets all powerful interests, uses disruptive opportunities for change and promotes innovative and scalable development solutions based on our long-standing field experience

• It will drive a geographical and functional reallocation of our One Program resources towards country teams, and with a greater emphasis on emerging powers and the use of digital tools

• It will generate new ways of working with more external networking, greater use of enabling, brokering and leveraging tactics, greater agility, calculated risk-taking and public-facing work that is freer from centralized mediation and control

Objectives for 2029

 • Make a major and transformational increase in supporting national change

 • Strengthen the ability of poor people, donors, supporters and the greater public to raise their voice against the injustice of poverty in a digital world

• Strengthen International American Relief Society IARS’s position as a thought and knowledge leader on poverty and inequality, social and gender injustice and sustainability

 • Amplify the reach, relevance and nimbleness of our network

Achieving the goals

• Put power analysis and gender equality at the center of our influencing strategies. Invest in public power analysis through a common approach and an International American Relief Society IARS center of expertise.

 • Formulate six-year national influencing scale-up plans for each country team and include influencing components into all programs for impact at greater scale

• Provide country teams with increased, more flexible and predictable resources for influencing

 • Adopt more effective tools, including a strong quality assurance system, for program standards on influencing, as well as influencing guidelines for country teams

• Build pro-poor constituencies in strategic countries, push for improved policy and practices from relevant public and private institutions and support more effective transnational networks of progressive organizations and movements, with a specific emphasis on women’s rights movements

• Focus our communication and advocacy on achieving transformational change and promoting people exercising their rights globally

 • Improve our digital strategies, skills and reach of working and those of our partners

• Ensure that our messages are relevant to the public and become faster and “lighter” in our public engagement

• Extend the geographical reach of our network to cover emerging centers of power as well as non-traditional targets

Empower staff at all levels to identify and respond to disruptive opportunities for change and to manage risk adequately

• Recognize and reward networking with other organizations.

Expected impact There will be profound and lasting changes in the lives of people living with poverty and injustice as the result of a worldwide influencing network of One Program teams united by a common vision for change.

This network will demonstrably amplify our impact, bolster our international influence and support progressive movements at all levels.

Operational Goal 2: Program quality, monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL)

Monitoring, evaluation and learning practices have improved in recent years but International American Relief Society IARS is not as nimble or skilled as it should be.

International American Relief Society IARS needs to become a better learning organization that facilitates and uses innovation and learning to increase the quality and impact of our work and that of our partners and is accountable for achievements and failures.

Objectives for 2029 

• Innovation, learning and knowledge management increase the quality and impact of our program work and that of our partners

 • Demonstrably strengthen our capacity to meet agreed Program Standards

 • Use our collective program support resources and tools effectively

Achieving the goal

• Define a focused learning strategy based on the change goals

• Share learning and good practice through networks of staff and create a reflective culture based on learning from frontline program experience

• Translate learning into new program policy and guidelines and to influence external stakeholders

• Ensure that Program Standards and external, sector-wide standards, become the benchmarks for assessing program quality; produce a clear and consistent manual of International American Relief Society IARS policies, standards and tools that helps country teams

 • Train teams to design, implement and evaluate programs that reflect and advance the goals and objectives of this Strategic Plan

• Encourage evidence-based learning within International American Relief Society IARS and for partners through systematic MEL and accountability, high quality evaluation and rigorous research

 • Establish a multi-affiliate model of pooled resources which is grounded in country-level programs and aligned across the confederation

• Focus program support on areas of innovation and work that needs to be driven forward; reward innovation and risk-taking and learn from failure

• Build the capacity of staff and partners and integrate the research and advisory services of the program sectors

 • Foster synergies and consistency across all advisory services in order to build and strengthen a systemic One Program approach

Operational Goal 3:

 Strengthening accountability International American Relief Society IARS’s vision of a just world without poverty will best be realized by promoting active citizenship, gender equity and by being more accountable in the ways we govern ourselves and treat each other.

 Accountability, both to the communities living in poverty and to our supporters, donors and other external stakeholders, is an ethical and effective basis for our relationships and will contribute significantly to greater program impact.

Operational Goal 3: Strengthening accountability

International American Relief Society IARS’s vision of a just world without poverty will best be realized by promoting active citizenship, gender equity and by being more accountable in the ways we govern ourselves and treat each other.

 Accountability, both to the communities living in poverty and to our supporters, donors and other external stakeholders, is an ethical and effective basis for our relationships and will contribute significantly to greater program impact

Objectives for 2029 •

 International American Relief Society IARS’s governance bodies, leadership and staff adopt a culture of mutual accountability within and beyond the organization

 • International American Relief Society IARS demonstrates transparency and honesty in order to strengthen legitimacy and integrity; open information policies, independent stakeholder feedback, user-friendly complaints mechanisms

• International American Relief Society IARS promotes and shares learning about accountability internally and externally, with examples of learning-based change

• International American Relief Society IARS has committed to full and consistent reporting against the INGO Accountability Charter across all affiliates

Achieving the goal

• Develop robust, confederation-wide community accountability methodologies through partnerships with innovators and pioneers in this field; collecting evidence, testing assumptions conducting community accountability pilots

• Develop 360-degree accountability tools for reporting to key stakeholders

 • Consolidate and improve public reporting: produce a common annual International American Relief Society IARS INGO Accountability Charter Report; each affiliate will produce an Accountability Charter Report

 • Create ‘International American Relief Society IARS Nexus’ – a digital platform to enable donors, activists and other stakeholders to engage directly with International American Relief Society IARS

• Create and implement policies, guidelines and tools to enhance accountability and learning processes, including complaints handling, open information policies, communications, social and environmental issues and mutual internal accountability within the confederation.

Expected impact

by 2029 International American Relief Society IARS will be able to demonstrate that our commitment to strengthened accountability contributes to greater impact.

Operational Goal 4: Investing in people

International American Relief Society IARS is a people organization: we depend on our staff and volunteers and we must value, understand and inspire them.

For people to be able to deliver this strategic plan, we must ensure that organizational purpose, leadership, culture, capability, structure, processes and systems are aligned.

Objectives for 2029 

• Capability: International American Relief Society IARS attracts, retains and develops the people needed for delivery of the Strategic Plan

 • Culture and leadership: International American Relief Society IARS has an organizational culture that supports Plan delivery and is aligned with International American Relief Society IARS values and brand including our commitment to advancing gender justice, diversity, being an equal opportunity employer and ensuring the safety of all staff and volunteers (including commitments to LGBTI staff)

 • Systems, processes and structure: International American Relief Society IARS maximizes its effectiveness through increased use of shared services

Achieving the goals


• International American Relief Society IARS has a distinctive offer and sound recruitment processes to attract high caliber staff and volunteers from diverse backgrounds

• Staff are equipped to work in a global network of organizations – working collaboratively within and across teams and leading and managing across boundaries

• Program staff in countries develop new skills required to deliver this Plan – and new recruitments focus on some of these skills – advocacy and campaigning; brokering, convening, influencing and negotiating across sectors; increasing engagement with the private sector (commercial mindedness); building resilience and integrated programming; agility and innovation

• Staff are well managed through robust performance management practices and processes

 • Talent is identified and nurtured, including people with leadership potential being identified and supported to become International American Relief Society IARS’s future leaders

 • Strong focus on supporting and developing staff in the key roles of Country Directors, and building a talent pipeline for these roles

• Diversity is valued and leveraged, focusing on developing women leaders and supporting national staff into leadership positions

Culture and leadership:

 • A shared culture reflects delivery through accountability, trust, realism and honesty, with role models and leadership from the highest levels

 • Staff and volunteers feel part of One International American Relief Society IARS, with mutual accountability

• Countries are empowered and accountable, with HQ functions becoming enablers, consolidators and centers of expertise

• Innovation and agility are valued and encouraged so that we can respond to opportunities in the external environment for greater impact– which will also require faster decision-making and support for calculated risk-taking

Systems, processes and structure:

• Strong HR, finance and IT capability to support countries, with less duplication, through shared posts and centers of expertise

 • Invest in systems and processes to enable people to collaborate, share knowledge and learn together • Prioritize and build on shared security and health and safety plans at country level

Expected impact by 2029

 International American Relief Society IARS will be an agile, flexible network of organizations with skilled and motivated staff and volunteers delivering the change goals.

Operational Goal 5: Cost effectiveness

This Strategic Plan sets out ambitious goals, some of which require increased investment against a probable background of almost zero income growth.

Savings can be achieved both within program activities and by reconfiguring our ways of working as a confederation in order to achieve maximum cost effectiveness.

Objectives for 2029 

• Economy: the amounts International American Relief Society IARS pays for resources (people, goods and services) will provide the best possible value

• Efficiency: International American Relief Society IARS will achieve optimum efficiency and convert the returns into delivery of programs

 • Effectiveness: International American Relief Society IARS will secure the best possible outcomes for its partners and beneficiaries, relative to the investments it has made

Achieving the goal Economy

 • Align and pool procurement processes – e.g. in humanitarian response; standardize purchases; focus on pooling and rationalizing at country level and invest in technology to increase virtual working to reduce physical processes (e.g. travel)


• Align ways of working across affiliates and rationalize structures; after business process analysis and revision, move to one process for all support services; introduce one policy and strategy across affiliates, for example, in communications; invest in knowledge management across the confederation; reduce transaction costs by applying the subsidiarity principle for decision-making

 • Align and simplify business processes in order to reach higher levels of standardization in the use of systems and in the processing of data; develop global centers of expertise for common activities and reach greater sharing of jobs; reduce the number of affiliates providing common services and realize economies of scale

 • Reduce program management costs as a percentage of program spend; benchmark affiliate staffing to an agreed model, and rationalize; define the role of regional hubs; organize country offices on a team rather than affiliate basis

 • Early in the Plan period, introduce ratios and/or targets for this operational expenditure. We expect these two complementary objectives of economy and efficiency to release at least 100m $ over the life of the plan


• Analyze the impact of different ways of working of International American Relief Society IARS and of partner organizations and prioritize accordingly; align the configuration of International American Relief Society IARS country programs; discontinue peripheral programs and reinvest in core programs and in innovation; realize economies of scale; rationalize the number of countries where we work and manage multiple countries on a cluster basis; encourage affiliates to become “contributors” rather than “implementers” where appropriate

 • Implement a joined-up approach to training, support and compliance of partner organizations and optimize and rationalize investments in Fair Trade The anticipated result of these effectiveness measures is a rate of return on International American Relief Society IARS investments that increases by at least 10 % by the end of the Plan.

Expected impact by 2029 

Throughout the period of the Strategic Plan International American Relief Society IARS will be cost-effective in all aspects of its work.

Savings released by cost effectiveness measures will be reinvested in the achievement of the goals.

Operational Goal 6: Income strategy

There is huge potential for fundraising success in the long term if we invest as a confederation early in this Strategic Plan period.

 We can build on the success of our single management structure and global brand identity to drive a step change in our approach to income.

This requires up-front investment for new market entry, increased joint working, and innovation within affiliates.

 This will secure more and larger revenues from institutional donors and greater net income from individual supporters; and will strengthen individual affiliates and provide the right balance of flexible resources required to achieve our program ambitions.

Objectives for 2029

 • Increase resources (a balance of restricted and unrestricted) raised in current markets from all income streams including individuals, foundations, corporates, institutional donors and trading/retail

• Enter and expand profitably in high growth markets to position International American Relief Society IARS for future unrestricted income growth

 • Maximize individual and institutional funding markets by developing innovative products and channels, compelling messages and best practice

Achieving the goal

 • Institutional funding: Develop capacity to increase new high-returns funding partnerships, including consortia management, tendering, and competitive bids.

Complete staffing, develop capacity for strategic donor relationship development in centers of expertise

• Invest in expanding community fundraising in new and existing markets for unrestricted income, based on analysis and business plans

• Individual giving: Enable and drive best practice for high potential fundraising streams, starting with regular/ committed giving, humanitarian appeals and digital/mobile fund-raising and expanding to other channels such as corporates and high net worth individuals.

 Requires joint training and buddy systems

 • Trading/Retail: Focus on profitability; develop peer review or other support to evaluate retail operations, share best practice and encourage new trading initiatives, business models and retail designs in line with the global brand identity

• Establish dedicated research & development staffing to support market intelligence, new markets and competitor analysis, donor mapping, innovation, exchange of experiences and learning, training and global partnerships.

Expected impact by 2029

 A step change in investment, fundraising and cooperation among affiliates will secure $ 500,000-5,000.000 more than our base case, and position us to match our future ambitions to significantly increase the scale and impact of International American Relief Society IARS’s work.

benchmarks and budget

Measuring the impact of our work for people in poverty

 In support of our commitment to accountability and constant learning, there will be several tools to monitor, evaluate and learn:

 1) provide information on the scope of our work using output reporting data

2) complete several review exercises to understand – and speak about – our achievements as well as our challenges, and how we deal with them

3) undertake a strategic evaluative research process to assess our overall strategies, test the core assumptions about how International American Relief Society IARS contributes to social change and assess our effectiveness in different contexts, and

4) International American Relief Society IARS will consult with key stakeholders to gather their insights and assessments about our overall efforts

Funding the ambition for poverty reduction in this Strategic Plan

International American Relief Society IARS must match its ambitions to overcome poverty to the resources that are available.

We have put a much greater strategic emphasis on building resources at the affiliate level in order match our collective ambition and organizational requirements.

Nonetheless, the global financial crisis and consequences for the flow of aid and public donations make it prudent to plan for flat, inflation adjusted growth of revenue The biggest part of our program spending will be allocated to our work on Goal 3: saving lives (about 35-40%), Goals 4 and 5: sustainable food systems and fair sharing of natural resources (about 30%).

The other three goals will account for the rest (about 30-35%). It is important to note that ensuring gender justice and enabling active citizenship will run through all our work in all six goals.

The goals will work within existing budget allocations – the unrestricted element (i.e. adjusted for inflation).

Any ambition for more spending for a specific initiative will be contingent on raising new funds or re-alignment of internal resources during the life of the plan.

In the short-to-medium term, we will invest significantly more on fundraising and cost-effectiveness (building on our Single Management Structure work) and look for greater savings across the system.

In the short term this may slightly reduce the total resources available for work on goals, in order to strengthen finances and achieve greater impact in the medium-to-long term.

It is anticipated that there will be greater resources available for programming in the latter part of the six-year Plan period and beyond.

There will be a comprehensive financial plan, identifying funding sources, (savings, reserves, recycled surpluses, external support etc.), which will be updated in the annual Operational Plan.

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