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Main image: Islamic Relief Worldwide. The Kalash Indigenous group in Pakistan; the country’s smallest religious minority.

You’re heard of the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF. But these household names aren’t the only nonprofits or United Nations organisations doing incredible work and offering you the chance to contribute to a better world. The humanitarian and development world is hugely diverse, so no matter your passion, area of interest and personality, you’ll be able to find an organisation or program that’s right for you. You just need to do your research and explore the field. If you’re new to the sector, you may not recognise some of these names below, but they’re each well-established and reputable. You may well find there’s a role with your name on it.

Aga Khan Foundation

These guys work on a huge scale, employing 80,000 people in 30 countries. (To give some examples as comparisons, around 13,000 work for UNICEF globally and around 40,000 work for the UN Secretariat in New York.) The Foundation’s work focuses on agriculture and food security; economic inclusion, education, early childhood development, health and nutrition, and civil society, with a special emphasis on “investing in human potential, expanding opportunity and improving the overall quality of life, especially for women and girls.” And, because I know you’re curious, it’s named after founder and chairman His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. Look here for job opportunities.

Photo: Aga Khan Foundation. AKF Canada delivering medical outreach to communities where healthcare is less accessible.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The NRC has an excellent reputation, both for the work it does and the way it looks after its staff. It focuses on crises and currently works in more than 30 countries, including in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Central and South America. Its work covers issues such as livelihoods and food security, education and displacement. It also runs a highly respected five-day course for professionals working in hostile environments, putting participants through realistic simulations to teach them how to respond to attacks by armed groups and other stressful and dangerous situations. Around 14,000 people work for the NRC. Look here for job opportunities.

Photo: NRC. The NRC says it is working with the Ministry of Education in Iran to ensure that every girl and boy gets access to quality education.

Islamic Relief Worldwide

Muslim philanthropy is a powerful force for good, with players such as the Islamic Development Bank channeling significant funding into emergency responses and sustainable development. Islamic Relief Worldwide already works in more than 30 countries and has an ambitious plan to be one of the world’s leading global humanitarian organisations, and the leading humanitarian international NGO working in the Muslim world, by 2021. You’ll find its staff in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Russia and the Middle East, distributing food, medicine and tents, and working with vulnerable communities on climate change adaptation and other resilience-building projects. Look here for job opportunities.

Photo: Islamic Relief Worldwide. Islamic Relief delivering support to Afar state in Ethiopia which is in drought.

Ford Foundation

Apart from having one of the greenest office foyers in New York (you’re virtually walking through a forest), the Ford Foundation also does excellent work around the world. Areas of focus include helping Indigenous people gain more secure rights over land and forests; social norms that contribute to violence against women and girls; and the ‘seismic’ impact of technological change on the workforce. It’s common for people to work here before the UN. Look here for job opportunities.

Photo: Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation promotes the role of Indigenous communities as stewards of forests and lands and calls
for their rights to be protected.

Open Society Foundations

 Democracy devotees should check out the Open Society Foundations which describes itself as the ‘world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance and human rights’. They’re active in more than 120 countries supporting work in democratic practice, justice reform, digital rights, human rights movements and more. The Open Society also offers interesting training and puts on happy hours, trivia nights and more for its staff. Look here for job opportunities.

Photo: Open Society Foundations. A family meets on opposite sides of the border wall, at a place known as Friendship Park, near the
San Diego-Tijuana region.

UN Peacebuilding Support Office

The PBSO is a relative baby (it was only established 15 years ago), but its work is hugely important. In a nutshell, the office helps to sustain peace in hot spots around the world, rather than waiting for things to reach crisis point, or slide back into crisis. It does this by gathering international support for peacebuilding efforts that are led by countries themselves (as opposed to imposing a process from outside). It supports the Peacebuilding Commission which was established to coordinate better between the UN, governments, women’s groups and more; and the Peacebuilding Fund which provides resources to help build and sustain peace. Search on UN Careers for job opportunities.

Photo: Peacebuilding Support Office. With the support of the UN Peacebuilding Fund, 500 new police and gendarme officer were trained
in the Central African Republic.