Integrity’s geographic genesis was Damascus, Syria in late 2009. For all its problems, Damascus at that time wasn’t the capital of a country at war with itself. For many citizens of neighbouring Iraq, it was a sanctuary from their war-torn country. These refugees were hosted and assisted by their Syrian neighbours and by a talented community of conflict specialists and humanitarians. International donors worked with local NGOs and service providers to support the hundreds of thousands displaced by the tragedy unfolding in their country. Crucial to their work were the linguistically and culturally fluent Syrians and Iraqi aid-workers who facilitated key research at a local level, debriefing and liaising with the refugee communities.
A network developed in Damascus of specialists and experts with a shared passion for bringing a local focus to the work of the international community. Individuals and communities in conflict-affected states, were often subject to international programming that was unaccountable to them. For international interventions to be effective, they needed to be based on more and better evidence of the circumstances in which local communities lived and their priorities and needs.
In June 2010 we incorporated as Integrity Research and Consultancy Limited and began work in earnest. The founders were a core team of talented development, conflict and humanitarian specialists, driven by a desire to build an organisation that not only recognised the necessity to work more equitably with local people and organisations but to take a business-led and service-oriented approach to growth and sustainability. As a consultancy, Integrity would exist on the basis of the contracts it won and demonstrate the value of its services to clients, without the cushion of grants or core donor funding. We would advocate based on evidence, not ideology, and remain focused on delivery and service, not introspection and internal debate. Our focus was on geographies and communities affected by violence, disaster and poverty, struggling to rebuild social and political contracts and generate inclusive economic markets.
From the outset Integrity offered key services like research and analysis, project management and implementation, monitoring, evaluation and learning, and stakeholder engagement to a range of democratic and accountable governments, development sector agencies and NGOs, and private sector companies. By building lasting relationships with local research teams and working with them on an equitable basis, Integrity set out to build an institution that bridged the gap between donors and communities and fostered the skills and talents of people on the ground in the countries in which we worked. This approach to partnering and the combination of local and international insights produced extraordinary results.