If this past year has taught us anything, it is that the safety and well-being of people halfway across the world can have a dramatic impact on Minnesotans here at home. From hunger, to civil conflict, to global pandemics, Minnesotans know that we are not truly safe until all of us around the world are safe as well. That’s why Minnesota is home to more than 100 international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) that seek to provide support and resources to millions of people around the world to help others uplift their own lives. One such organization, the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN), connects all of these INGOs together to help make their shared goals a reality. Their just-launched 2020 Global Report compiles membership and survey data from 2020 to provide a comprehensive snapshot of Minnesota’s tremendous potential for international development work.
A major impact all around the world
Geographically, Minnesota’s INGOs have a major impact all around the world. In total, the organizations surveyed in the report provide services in 117 countries globally. In particular, they focus heavily on providing services to areas known as the Global South such as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Their good work spans a wide array of areas in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as eliminating poverty, providing quality education, reducing gender-based inequities, and promoting good health and well-being. Most organizations place a high emphasis on working directly in the locations that they serve. One of the most striking findings of the report was that international staff members tend to dramatically outnumber domestic staff. This emphasis on direct in-country support helps ensure that resources get to the places they are needed most and without waste.
What’s even more encouraging is how much Minnesota’s INGOs are able to accomplish on limited budgets, often with fewer than a dozen staff members. Together, the organizations surveyed in the report have a total budget of nearly $150 million. This includes a diverse landscape of INGOs both large and small such as Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee), Books for Africa, Mary’s Pence and OneVillage Partners. It is a testament to the generosity of Minnesotans that individual donors were a significant funding source for nearly every organization. In addition, many organizations received financial support from corporate donors, charitable foundations and the U.S. international affairs budget.
The impact of these organizations is remarkable. Books for Africa, for example, has provided more than 50 million books to the continent since 1988. Alight has worked to combat the pandemic directly in dozens of countries with information campaigns and posters translated into two dozen languages. Another MINN partner, Children’s HeartLink, has trained nearly 3,000 local health care providers to provide cardiac care to children. Since 1985, the Center for Victims of Torture has helped rehabilitate more than 33,000 survivors of torture and war trauma. All of this occurs against the backdrop of the largest humanitarian and refugee crisis since the end of World War II. As we know only too well, this critical work will continue long after the pandemic subsides, and it may take years to fully vaccinate these underdeveloped areas of the world.
Significant benefits for Minnesotans at home
But this work not only creates a positive impact for those living in developing countries. International development work generates significant benefits for Minnesotans here at home. Investing in the well-being of people abroad helps to decrease international instability, uplift millions into the global economy and mitigate the spread of global communicable diseases.
In addition, many of the organizations surveyed in this report utilize donor funds and the federal international affairs budget to buy local food and supplies to send overseas. These investments spur our local Minnesota economy and continue to power the companies and agricultural co-ops that provide jobs to Minnesotans all over the state. Year after year, Minnesota continues to shine as a hub for international development work. Now more than ever, the world needs Minnesota’s INGO community and the services it provides. MINN sends its deepest appreciation for the thousands of volunteers, donors and international development practitioners who continue to further the mission of doing global good better.
Nicholas Hayen is the president of the board of MINN, Minnesota International NGO Network. Mark Ritchie is president of Global Minnesota.
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