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