What are NGOs for?

by | Dec 9, 2018 | Change, Development, Ideas

At first glance, it appears to be a strange question, yet it is a critical one as how we answer it has massive repercussions.  One way to look at NGOs is through the intermediary or missionary model – a group of people in one part of the world wanted to help a group of people in another part of the world, so they nominated someone from their community to ‘go’ to other community on behalf of the first community.  The sending community would often contribute financially and with inking items to the person/people going. The person who ‘went’ was obliged to communicate updates back to the sending community about what was happening.

This model came out of an era where air travel and communications was expensive (if it existed), the internet was not a reality, sending money globally was a massive challenge, etc. therefore the intermediary model made sense.

Now air travel is relatively cheap, global communications costs is minimal, access to the internet is extremely common, and we can send money to almost anyone globally fairly easily.  So the role of the traditional intermediary is questionable in terms of its need.

Are NGOs still needed?  What is the role they play? What is the value that they bring?  Our answers to these questions should shape our operating models, our structures, what we focus on, what we offer and this will be and should be radically different than 20 years ago.

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