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  • Writer's pictureLisa Garson

30 years of Action Appointments

In 1994 our new democracy and Action Appointments, the first South African development recruitment agency focusing solely on NGO placements, were born.

As an HR manager at an NGO, I had just run an intense recruitment process, tasked to grow the organization from a staff of 20 to 120 in one year. This massive challenge in a sector with a scarcity of skills and capacity made me feel like I was hunting down unicorns. Attempts to get support from mainstream recruitment agencies was fruitless; they simply didn’t understand our sector. When I sent out briefs for a Project Coordinator they sent me CVs of building contractors.

This challenge and my learnings made me realise that NGO recruitment was a very different ballgame. Resigning from the NGO, I persuaded a colleague to join me in founding the first exclusive development sector recruitment agency in Johannesburg, and Action Appointments began its rich 30 year + journey.

In 1996 we were tasked with staffing up the TRC in Gauteng, an incredible challenge, privilege and a brilliant opportunity to put Action Appointments firmly on the map. We were one of the only South African owned recruitment agencies specializing exclusively in NGO placements. Setting up a branch in Cape Town in 1996 was a wise move that enabled us to relocate our head office there 10 years later.

An Action Appointments paper clip holder from the 1990s

The first 10 years were a period of consolidation and growth. We took on new staff, developed systems, set up our constantly expanding database, built a loyal client base and our reputation grew. We kept our rates low, since our aim was to provide a desperately needed service to a sector doing the most critical work in the country – a sector that could least afford it. We were always flexible and as generous as we could be with small NGOs with limited resources.

True to life, our growth as a company faced challenges. The founding partnership split up during the middle of our second decade and I took over as the sole director. We moved the head office to Cape Town and I started building a new young team.

Fortunately our brand sustained these changes, and we began to work more closely with bigger international NGOs with operating centers in South Africa. Our first real international client was ZOA Refugee Care with whom we made our first placements out of South Africa, in Angola, Sudan and Liberia! These new international connections led us to further work outside South Africa, and we began recruiting for organisations in a growing number of African countries. Today, we have placed candidates in over 20 countries including African, Asian and European positions.

As we grew and expanded our services in this rich and ever-changing sector, so our Action Appointments family of loyal clients and candidates grew too. Suddenly after 20 years of operating we had over 30 000 development professionals on our database and had worked with hundreds of NGOs and development organisations covering almost every area of development. We moved with the times and the shifts within a sector whose transformation is driven by the need perceived by donors and their areas of investment and interest.

These shifts have ensured that the work we do at Action Appointments is never dull. We have been forced to become familiar with many new areas of development focus over the decades, from education, HIV/AIDS, gender inclusivity, freedom of expression, climate change, youth development; the list is long.

Our team consists of mainly young people, the oldest having been with the company for almost 15 years now. I have loved developing a team who are committed to the civil society that we serve. Their passion and interest supports them in dealing with the challenges of the work.

The Action Appointments team at our 30 years' celebration

As the Executive Director of Action Appointments, my brainchild from 1994, it has been an honour and a privilege to imagine it, bring it into being and steer it in many directions to be the flourishing social enterprise it is today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my committed team as well as all the loyal clients and candidates who make up the very big Action Appointments family that we are today.



If you have ever used Action Appointments services in the past and you have a vacancy you would like us to fulfill, let us know and we will offer you a 10% discount on any one recruitment process. Just inform us via email that you have a vacancy you would like us to work on, and we will verify your prior relationship so you can claim your discount.

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