INTERSOS and 25 years of results

EDITORIAL: The “miracle” of INTERSOS and 25 years of results

By Marco Crescenzi, President of Social Change School

After flying from Madrid to Rome to represent our School at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of INTERSOS – thanks to the loving invite of General Director Kostas Moskochoritis – I have landed in a gorgeous celebration of friends.

With Nino Sergi, founder and President Emeritus whom I have known since 2005, and Kostas, “expatriate” President Marco Rotelli– together we signed our first partnership many years ago – and  Sergio Vecchiarelli – Finance Director – who was engaged in our School from the very start – and many lecturers and “alumni” that are now successfully working in INTERSOS, and Amedeo Piva, who stood godfather for the School and sponsored it in 1997 in Campidoglio, when he was Councilor for Social Politics. 25 years celebrated in the magnificent Italian Geographic Institute centre, in Rome, close to the Colosseum.

For those who do not know it, INTERSOS is, and has been for years, one of the biggest NGOs specialised in emergency, with impressive numbers – not least their over 2000 employees that have been working in more than 60 countries in the world with millions of beneficiaries.  

A great little miracle. 25 years dangerously lived at the “front”, “Where everything is shit, and nobody wants to go”. The ever-growing need to unite heart, professionalism and organisation, so that not even one of those many “dreamers” will lose their life. The ability to negotiate with Talibans, but also to properly handle Excel projects with the help of Project Managers, to manage thousands of suppliers in the logistics and supply chain departments, but also to do a good job with internal team management.  

Beyond appearance and institutional presence, beyond partnerships and communication plots, the real news is that of a great NGO that managed to make a “miracle”, combining: 1. Great heart and soul both in and out of the organization. 2. Great management and results with impact on a large scale.  3. Creation of a strong governance with a solid third generation of management and a founder – President Emeritus Nino Sergi – that contrary to others has managed to make the “second rows” grow without oppressing them with his charisma. An example even for me.

There is no professional quality without human quality. We intertwine with INTERSOS’ staff in various ways, from our workshops in Rome to the “field experiences” at the UNHRD base in Brindisi or in their bases of Beirut and Tiro, from the “panels” to redesign the professional profiles of the Masters they support to the Webinars from South Sudan. So far, we have found great human, professional an organisational quality. But when this happens, it doesn’t depend on individuals: there’s a Culture that permeates the style of those who work that goes beyond a single person.

‘Working with’: It’s said that NGOs “work with”. But they also need to know how to “work with”. As Nino Sergi told me: “We need to listen to everybody’s reasons, because they all have their reasons. We need to work with all parties, and not create barricades. It’s ridiculous that we manage to communicate with armed bands, and not with our government or even worst between NGOs”. Even if, as he said during his official speech: “NGOs cannot accept rules that contradict their humanitarian principles”.  

From what I have seen, we were the only School present, together with IED – Istituto Europeo di Design. With our School, INTERSOS is a partner of Master HOPE-Humanitarian Operations in Emergencies, and is among the NGOs that “absorb” the biggest number of our fellows. With IED, INTERSOS has a very interesting project of requalification of abandoned areas in Rome, to make them become shelters for transiting unaccompanied minors. Working with big educational institutions allows NGOs to have an edge against those who try to do everything on their own, without giving a chance to creativity. Working “with”.

Without INTERSOS’ contribution, with Lodovico Mariani (now in AMREF Health Africa) to design it first (together with Marco Bertotto, MSF), and then to manage it as Director, Master HOPE wouldn’t have been born, nor would it have grown to become one of the first three Masters in Europe and one of the main basins of recruiting for NGOs.

Friendship. I think it’s important to develop it more in the sector, I know and have had relationships with almost everybody – not just professional and of respect, but also of affection – but dialogue is often fluctuating, and many managers don’t even know each other, or have prejudices. It’s a shame, since it hinders our ability to effectively work together for common causes.

Guys, it’s an amazing way to get to know each other, let’s celebrate and toast more together! Our 20th Anniversary is coming next: get ready, we are going to celebrate in 2018!



Source of the photo: Marco Crescenzi (22/11/2017); from left toright: Marco Rotelli President of INTERSOS, Kostas Moschokoritis General Director of INTERSOS, Marco Crescenzi President of Social Change School, Nino Sergi Founder of INTERSOS.

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