Rising to emerging challenges: IIED reacts to findings of independent review

An external review of IIED’s strategies, approaches and impact describes an inspiring and forward-looking organisation, well-placed to support urgently needed global change. The findings, which identified both strengths and opportunities to evolve, were welcomed by IIED leadership as it seeks to ensure fitness for the future.

News, 15 August 2022
A woman farmer, carrying a basket, inspects tea she has picked holding it in her hand.

A Kenyan farmer inspects tea she has picked in a plantation (Photo: Marcel Crozet/ILO, via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An independent review of IIED’s current strategies, performance and approach has asked how ready the organisation is to meet the moment, citing a context of critical, multiple and interconnected global crises.  

Its findings, shared today, depict a dynamic organisation with a strong evolving network. IIED is well-positioned to make the most of the unprecedented opportunities for change that this uncertain time affords – as long as the organisation continues to be alert to the shifting landscape and to embrace internal change.  

IIED director Andrew Norton said: “I am grateful for these insights into the challenges IIED faces and our opportunities for action. It affirms that we have a special role, one that is growing with the scale and pace of the environment and development crises we face. The review team lays out a rich agenda for IIED to reflect on and take forward.” 

A response from IIED’s management team, also published today, sets out how the organisation will take forward six priority areas for action identified in the review. This work will be led from September 2022 by incoming executive director Tom Mitchell.

Rigour and relevance

The demanding external review process is commissioned by IIED’s main institutional funders every five years. This year’s review will support IIED in refining its current strategy, which runs from 2019-2024, as well as informing longer-term thinking.

Creating this forward-looking appraisal is a major undertaking: independent review team Zenda Ofir, Yves Renard and Louise Gallagher spent 18 months engaging with a broad cross-section of IIED staff, supporters, partners and other stakeholders. 

The result is a hugely valuable assessment of IIED and of shifts in the broader context. The full review is published not only for transparency and accountability, but to share the reviewer’s insights with others working towards sustainable development goals.

An agenda for positive change

The external review identifies a number of strengths within IIED’s structure and approach that are core to its demonstrable impact. These include IIED’s people (staff and partners are “the foundation for future success”); increasingly coherent organisational initiatives and a joined-up strategy; and a real commitment to decolonisation

However, reviewers caution that all these elements are subject to internal and external pressures. IIED will need to remain supportive of its assets and be ready to transform to remain relevant in these fast-changing social, political and economic times.  

The reviewers also suggest that IIED could benefit from further developing some aspects of its financial model; more fully articulating its impact; and proactively engaging with relevant shifts in the global landscape. Work in these areas is under way.  

Priorities for action 

IIED’s full management response, which includes feedback from wider staff, focuses on six priority areas for action raised by the external review. These are: 

  • Mobilise frame and strategic funding 
  • Nurture IIED’s people  
  • Decolonise IIED with sophistication 
  • Strengthen coherence and mainstreaming for ‘big thing’ thinking 
  • Forge a progressive ecosystem of partners and relationships, and
  • Lead with advanced, nuanced monitoring, evaluation and learning coupled to futures thinking and design.

For each area, the response notes relevant existing initiatives, any agreed next steps, and where the organisation needs to give further consideration to the issue.

Further resources


Tom Bigg (tom.bigg@iied.org), director of IIED's Strategy and Learning Group