Reconceptualising NGO’s and their roles in development

ngo_reconceptReconceptualising NGO’s and their roles in development: – NGOs, Civil Society and the International Aid System
Paul Opoku-Mensah, David Lewis og Terje Tvedt (red.) Aalborg University Press, 2007

Twenty years after NGOs first emerged as objects of development research, much of the research on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and development to date has been of a variable quality. While much useful work has been done, the development NGO research field is nonetheless characterised by a combination of an over-identification with NGOs, an excessive emphasis on technical/organisational issues and a lack of theoretical-contextual analysis. The result has been work that often bows to policy rhetoric and uncritically and unhelpfully serves to sustain a set of myths about NGOs and their performance – of both a positive and a negative kind.

This volume seeks to present less well-rehearsed perspectives. Its thirteen chapters are each written by authoritative researchers in the field. The book has two main objectives: to describe and interpret key aspects of NGOs’ changing roles in devel- opment, and to present new analytical approaches. A key priority is to present work that is rooted in stronger theoretical frameworks than has previously been the case, while still maintaining a relevance to policy and practice. The authors represented here are critical of many of the theories and concepts that frame the discourse on development NGOs and many of them propose alternative analytical approaches. In particular they seek to analytically integrate the international aid system in theore- tical schemas that seek to explain NGOs and their roles in development.

The overall aim of the book is to move forward the critical research agenda on NGOs and development by challenging its normative biases, using approaches drawn from a range of disciplinary perspectives including historical ethnography, organizational studies, political science, critical theory and anthropology

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“Reconceptualising NGOs is a useful introduction to analytical approaches which are currently gaining influence in NGO research. It is an excellent pointer to studies that deserves further attention by readers who may be unfamiliar with the work of individual contributors.”
Tanya Jakimow, University of Melbourne, Australia, Voluntas, 31 March 2009

Angels of Mercy or Development Diplomats?

angels_mercyAngels of Mercy or Development Diplomats: Ngos & Foreign Aid.
1998/2001:  London: James Currey/US: Africa World Press.

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Is the world witnessing a global associational revolution spearheaded by development non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? Is the relationship between states and societies being more fundamentally redefined, even in remote, rural corners of the world? What role does the mushrooming of development NGOs play in this political-ideological process? What about NGO staff? Are they angels of mercy, government-paid development diplomats, propagandists for a triumphant West, or instruments in a coming clash between civilizations?

Presented here are cases from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Bangladesh and Nicaragua that shed light on these complex questions. The text puts forward a critique of central theories and concepts which have dominated research and discourse on development NGOs.

Selected Reviews of Angels of Mercy or Development Diplomats. NGOs & Foreign Aid:

Tvedt’s book Angles of Mercy is a solid contribution (to my knowledge the most comprehensive on the subject to date).
Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Development and Change

Occasionally one comes across a book that not only shatters conventional assumptions about a particular subject, but also opens up new paths in the creation of knowledge in a particular area. Terje Tvedt’s Angels of Mercy or Development Diplomats is an example of one such work in the field of NGO and Development Research. (…) For those serious about understanding the non-profit sector, for the scholars and critical activists committed to building a new democratic and development order, this is a book that must be read.
Adam Habib, Voluntas

Une critique severe et très documentèe permettant de porter un regard plus acèré sur un phénomène en expansion.
Bérangére Cagnat, Le Monde Diplomatique

In this book Terje Tvedt aims to liberate the foreign aid scene from the normative jargon of the NGO community and instead to describe it in the normal language of social sciences. He succeeds.(…) He goes further in constructing a wider sociological analysis of the whole NGO phenomenon (…) Perhaps the most thought-provoking element in Tvedt’s analysis concerns concepts of partnership.
Alex de Waal, Development Policy Review

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