Statement from our CEO: Changes at Cuso International
Ottawa, December 14, 2023
Cuso International is restructuring. Guided by our new strategic plan, we are accelerating change inside our organization. Facing a number of internal and external factors, we are implementing difficult decisions that will have real impacts on our staff, partner organizations, as well as on how we deliver our programs. The effects of this restructuring on our colleagues in Canada and around the world weighs heavily on our hearts. We are doing all we can to support them.
Today, I would like to share this operational update and highlight the strategic opportunities that lie ahead.
How did we get here? This fall, as part of the federal government’s budget reduction exercise, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) instructed all volunteer-sending organizations to significantly reduce the annual size of our volunteer-sending programs to stretch it out over another year. In our case, this means reducing the annual budget of our 10-country volunteer program by a third. We are also facing additional budget shortfalls, among them the end of COVID-related subsidies and the lag time in the approval of new projects. Our hugely successful SCOPE program in Colombia is also reaching its completion date, which will have a major impact on our revenues starting next year.
What are we doing? We are using this set of challenging circumstances to reflect on Cuso International’s mission and values and to implement changes that will make our organization more nimble, inclusive, and financially sustainable for years to come. In line with our commitment to shift power, we are pursuing a new South-North equilibrium, and remain fully dedicated to growing as a feminist and anti-racist organization.
Our ambition for Cuso International to become a global organization that is registered in Canada is a transformational one. We are beginning to distribute organizational roles throughout the regions where we work and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Our progress will be measured by the success of our local partner organizations.
Operational Impacts: Unfortunately, to achieve the required budget reductions, we must redefine, merge, and eliminate certain positions. Some vacant positions will also not be filled. It is important to note that staffing reductions are being applied proportionally in Canada and in the countries where we work. We expect that most newly created positions will be filled by the start of the next fiscal year, in April 2024. We will be closing the volunteer program in Nigeria but keeping our office there to implement other ongoing activities. We will retain a presence in all current countries. Our finance team is also leading a review of operational budgets to identify additional savings.
Transparent Approach. We have been open and transparent with all our teams about the financial facts and the hard choices we face. We conducted extensive internal consultations with our teams around the world and key stakeholders. We drafted and costed out several scenarios in search of one that would be most likely to enhance the organization’s financial sustainability and advance our progress in line with our strategic plan. We explored all alternatives to mitigate the impact of our funding shortfalls on colleagues.
During this time of transition, we provided regular updates to staff and repeatedly invited everyone to use all available channels of internal communications should they want to share questions or concerns. We committed to responding to those in a timely manner, and we did. Making these staffing cuts is heart-wrenching for every single member of our leadership team, as well as all colleagues. Losing team members will have an impact on morale and on workloads. We will put measures in place to address both.
Looking Ahead: Defining Cuso International’s future together
As we begin to implement our plan to make Cuso International more resilient and fit for its next chapter, we know that we are not alone in dealing with these challenges. Our entire sector needs to prepare for the pressures to come in the months and years ahead. While the choices we are making today are difficult, they are also ambitious. They will come with a re-engagement of our stakeholders, in Canada and abroad, so we can collaborate as allies on this new path. Guided by our values (courage, inclusion, sustainability, and accountability), we are fast-tracking our transition to the next, natural iteration of Cuso International.
In closing, on behalf of our Board of Directors and leadership team, I want to thank you for your interest in, and support of, Cuso International.
Better days lie ahead. We now have a way to get there.
CEO, Cuso International