ActionAid USA (Washington, DC)


  • Name:Kalpana Simhan
  • Title:Foundations Manager

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:ActionAid USA
  • Address:1420 K Street, NW, Ste 900
    Washington, DC 20005
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:202-835-1240

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • ActionAid is a global movement of more than 25 million people in over 47 countries working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all. We partner with community-based organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to fight hunger, build resilient communities, empower women, ensure access to quality education, and provide relief from disasters and conflicts.

    Our work is based on a cutting-edge participatory model focused on the empowerment of people to claim their rights. We work with community members – prioritizing local knowledge and experience – to develop holistic solutions to the problems they face and then equip them to advocate with local and national authorities to get those solutions implemented. We learn from the innovative solutions developed by affected communities and share best practices and advocate in international forums for these solutions to be supported.

  • Overview:
  • ActionAid USA works with coalitions of poor and excluded people from around the world on issues that advance food security and more just approaches to development finance by advocating for increased public financing for sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation. We work to ensure that smallholder farmers, particularly women, have access to and control over land and natural resources and we advocate against biofuels policies that fuel land grabs and undermine food and land rights.

    Building resilience to natural disasters and other climate impacts: Climate change is one of the greatest obstacles to ending poverty and one of the gravest global justice challenges of our time. ActionAid works on the ground to support poor communities to adapt to and build resilience to climate impacts, such as increasingly severe floods and droughts, more intense extreme weather events, and “slow-onset” effects like increasing soil salinity and sea level rise. Based on our work in the ground, we demonstrate that viable, people-centered climate solutions exist and are being implemented – and could be truly transformational if the resources become available to scale them up. We also ensure that climate finance - a transfer of public resources from developed to developing countries to support climate action in the Global South – is delivered in a transparent, accountable, and equitable way, particularly in the context of the Green Climate Fund, a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

    Support smallholder farmers to transition to sustainable agriculture alternatives: Small scale farmers feed 80% of the world’s poor. When smallholders are supported to convert their agricultural practices to sustainable, low-input models that work with their environment and protect all of their natural resources, the result is Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA) that can provide food security not only at the household level but at the community level as well. Successful investment in the growth of this model of agriculture has proven to enhance livelihoods, increase incomes, and contribute to rural economic development. ActionAid works to support public investment in small-scale, resilient, sustainable agriculture by both donor and developing country governments. We strengthen the capacity of community-based farmer federations and organizations to engage with government entities at the local, regional and national level to demand access to the resources they need to grow their farms. We also provide technical support to farmers to transition to CRSA alternatives.

    Safeguard secure and equitable land rights: Land is a critical natural resource for millions of people around the world, particularly women and people living in poverty. Yet, increased global competition over land is undermining the ability of the poorest and most marginalized people to exercise their basic human rights, including the right to food. ActionAid engages globally to help food insecure communities advocate and organize for the meaningful implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (Tenure Guidelines or TGs). The Tenure Guidelines were approved by the body of nations in the United Nations Committee on Food Security; they remain the only global reference for best practices in governance of tenure of land, fisheries, and forests that is backed by an international consensus of civil society organizations, governments, multilateral international organizations, and the private sector. ActionAid USA coordinates the work of the ActionAid federation on the Tenure Guidelines by facilitating and disseminating research and analysis related to the TGs and their implementation; enabling information and lessons to be shared between countries; promoting results and analysis to external audiences; and coordinating advocacy for TG implementation before influential actors in the United Nations and multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and regional development banks. AAUSA also challenges the incentives and policies that fuel land grabs by agribusiness and other large-scale industry.

  • History:
  • ActionAid was founded in the United Kingdom in 1972 as Action in Distress. The organization originally focused on helping poor children gain access to primary education with the first projects being in Kenya and India. Since that time ActionAid has expanded to 47 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. We work with local communities, national governments and global institutions to fight for the rights of the world’s most excluded people.

    In the 1970s, Action in Distress worked in conjunction with other Western charities, and often with church organizations whose schools and children's homes were the recipients of child sponsorship programs. Soon, though, the divisiveness of child sponsorship practices and the need for more integrated work became apparent; poor children might achieve literacy and numeracy, but what was the point if their parents could not grow enough food to feed them? Thus, we learned that while education was a key lever to lifting people out of poverty, it was not enough. By the late seventies, our work had begun to include vocational and agricultural training, while still supporting children with donations of school fees, clothes, and food.

    Over the next several decades, as we learned more about what works in development and how we could best serve the communities where we had a presence, we adapted and evolved to include more advocacy and capacity building work. During the 1980s, Action in Distress became known as ActionAid and expanded its presence within Africa and Asia, and began to work not just with children but with whole families and communities. This was shaped by a growing commitment to partner with local communities using a bottom-up approach to development. The breadth of ActionAid's work broadened to include the supply of seeds, farming equipment and construction materials, and pumps, wells and taps for drinking water supply. Training in saving schemes and credit programs gave people access to financial know-how. ActionAid also supported income generation activities, such as weaving and beekeeping, through the supply of money and raw materials. Conflict resolution programs were held in places like Burundi and everywhere we worked, emphasis was placed on building a successful civil society.

    ActionAid's work also began address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, giving practical support to people living with the disease in 23 countries, as well as campaigning and advocating to make drugs, care, and treatment fair and unbiased. ActionAid was a pioneer in the NGO movement responding to HIV. In 1987, ActionAid played an instrumental role in the establishment of TASO (The AIDS Support Organization), the largest indigenous NGO providing HIV/AIDS services in Uganda.

    Between 1986 and 1995, ActionAid consisted of loosely assembled, member countries that planned programs independently, operated under a variety of logos and were relatively autonomous in terms of their management and governance structures. At this time, ActionAid was comprised of a group of European nonprofit organizations in: Britain, Greece, Italy, Spain, and France and later Brazil and the USA. In 1999, ActionAid underwent a massive realignment, becoming a rights-based organization. Along with structural changes such as expansion into the Americas and, more importantly, shilfting the power structure so that country programs in Africa, Asia, and the Americas drove the decision-making process, ActionAid began to focus more on supporting local partners and communities to understand and fight for their rights.

    In the 1990s ActionAid was a forerunner in the use and creation of participatory approaches to development, which led to ActionAid's development of the UNESCO Literacy Prize-winning Reflect methodology for literacy and empowerment. An innovative participatory approach to adult learning and social change which has been adopted by over 500 organizations in 70 countries worldwide. Reflect links literacy with individual and community empowerment - strengthening the capacity of millions of people, particularly women, to secure their basic rights.

    In 2003 ActionAid became a federation and moved our headquarters to Johannesburg, South Africa, making us the only international development organization with our headquarters in the Global South. Under the federation structure, each country program has its own National Board, which in many countries is accountable to a General Assembly that includes representatives of poor and excluded groups. In addition, over 95% of our staff work in the countries where they were born. The intention is to enhance accountability to local stakeholders, deepen legitimacy locally, and develop a local identity, all of which will enable deeper and more lasting impact in the fight against poverty. ActionAid USA, based in Washington,DC, is a member of the ActionAid federation.

  • Year established:2001
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:12
  • Advisory board size:0
  • Staff size:15


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • Tax ID: