How to Fix NGOs in 6 Days

Day 1: Who’s there? When faced with the term Non-Govemental Organisation (NGOs) it is easy to see why they would be called a ‘loose and ambiguous group’ (Bornstein. E, Sharma. A, 2016). This term has no fixed definition, but does represent legally constituted organisations. These organisations are not directly linked to the government or politics. However, they can be driven by political motivation, and have been manipulated to help politicians gain votes. Instead of hiding behind a ‘buzzword’ NGOs should specify who they are, whether that is a grassroots organisation, civil society, a charity or another type of ‘non-state and self-governing’ organisation (Banks. N, Hulme. D, 2012).

Day 2: Doing it for the donors. In the past NGOs were often associated with eurocentric views that harked back to the ‘ascendency of neoliberalism’ (Banks. N, Hulme. D, 2012). To overcome this NGOs should no longer ‘be accountable to their funders’ (who are ultimately western people and organisations). It is unrealistic for donors to set NGO’s firm goals and targets when they operate in very uncertain and unpredictable situations. As they progress they need to adopt more ethnocentric views and allow flexibility in achieving goals.

Day 3: Rebuild not Rebrand. Although NGOs are relatively new, in the 50 years they have been present they remained largely unchanged. ‘The underlying flaws remain: it’s a system where everyone is in charge, but no one is accountable’. These organisations don’t answer to the government, but to a board of directors. They are also relatively free of the law, with directors ‘fearing that the law may be used to convert them into an instrumentality of the state’. To fix these issues the fundamental basics of NGOs needs to change, requiring a complete review and overhaul of how they conduct themselves. NGOs should have a clear leader who takes responsibility for all the actions and a set of laws to ensure they are ultimately there to help those in need.

Day 4: Listen. It is understandable that NGO’s are accountable to donors. However, these should not be the loudest voices that are listened to the most. Instead NGOs should aim to empower the affected locals by making their views and opinions on the aid they are providing the most important ones. To show this the views of these locals should be made publicly available, this could encourage more people, particularly in the troubled areas, to become more engaged with the NGO.

Day 5: Confession. NGOs need to admit to themselves and the world that not everything they do works. In many cases NGOs are strategic organisations conceptualised in the global north to fill ‘the gaps caused by insufficient state provision’ (Banks. N, Hulme. D, 2012) in the global south. The way to improve the work carried out by NGO’s is to examine others failures. In 2008, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada began publishing an annual ‘Failure Report’ in order to start breaking down some of the walls of secrecy. This secrecy stems from people’s disregard in hearing about non-profit projects that ‘didn’t work’.

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Day 6: Rest and Reflect. NGOs are there to help by ‘plugging’ gaps governments are unable to fulfill. The ‘relations between governments and NGOs vary considerably from country to country and region to region’. All NGOs, no matter how big or small, should take time to self-reflect on their strategy.

References:

Bornstein. E, Sharma. A, (2016), The righteous and the rightful: The technomoral politics of NGOs, social movements, and the state in India, American Ethnologist

Banks. N, Hulme. D, (2012), The role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction, BWPI, Working Paper 171

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