Beyond Charity: Helping NGOs Lead a Transformative New Public Discourse on Global Poverty and Social Justice

| July 12, 2012

This article is available free for a limited time from Cambridge University Press. To read the article, click here.

This article looks at the role that Northern nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can play in engaging domestic publics in efforts to eradicate mass global poverty. The argument I make here is that in spite of their best efforts, NGOs will deliver less than they might, and will certainly fail to have the impact they say they want on mass poverty, as long as they do not focus on large-scale shifts in public norms over time. Further, there is increasing evidence that the current knowledge and techniques may be leading NGOs to do more harm than good.

There is a vast gulf between what NGOs say they are about, how they sell that mission to the public, and what their strategies and capabilities can actually achieve. In other words, they routinely pin their ambitions far higher than they can reach, yet never acknowledge this either to the public or even to themselves. In fact, they use the scale of their ambition to attract public support, while actively maintaining a blindness to their inability to deliver their stated goals. This tendency is at best misguided and counterproductive, at worst cynical and dishonest.

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Category: Article, Development, Inequality, and Poverty, Issue 26.2, Special Issue: Academics Stand Against Poverty

Comments (3)

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  1. i think the problem with NGOs is initially lack of participatory approach for the root cause of the problem. It is very necessary to carry our a needs assessment , then do the feasibility study to find the marketability, the capacity in terms of human resources and financial as this can guide you on the scope of the activities . Most NGos fail to realize the importance of monitoring, evaluation and controlling the proposed activities on a timely basis. This can guide the project team whether the implemented activities are still within the broad objectives of the organisition. Have you reached the right target group, is the project team competent, do the beneficiaries appreciate in meeting their expectations . NGOs should revise their
    method of work since most are non- facility based but should collaborate with facility based organization since they have a proper information system from operation level to strategic level for effective decision making. In conclusion let NGOs avoid being over confidence and should work with the existing strategic plans . NGos should have a uniqueness in creativity and innovation in reaching out .
    My recommendation is that having reached the primary target group through existing structures will reduce on administrative costs and more money will be injected in for delivery of services hence poverty reduction

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