Canada’s Grassroots International NGOs: Who are they, what are they doing, and what role for the future?
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, United States of America
International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) in the global North have rapidly grown in number over the past two decades, the majority of which are small-scale, privately funded, and volunteer-based “grassroots international NGOs” (GINGOs). Despite an abundance of research on “professionalized” INGOs, little empirical data is available to characterize GINGOs. While sparse, the literature on GINGOs has characterized these agents of development as a double-edged sword. On one hand, GINGOs are driven by altruism, a desire to right injustices, and personal relationships with individuals and communities in the global South, which can foster continuity and long-term learning. Moreover, since their budgets are small and sourced from everyday citizens, they evade the pressure of competitive funding cycles, having to contort development projects to match donor funding criteria, and the need to secure "quick victories" to report back to donor agencies. On the other hand, GINGOs are typically run by volunteers and non-specialists, which can lead to amateurism. The entrepreneurial spirit of GINGOs to take ownership of and command development projects can lead to inefficiencies, obscure broader power imbalances, and produce donor-driven, unsustainable, and potentially harmful interventions. This study constructed a dataset of 607 Canadian GINGOs based on the Canada Revenue Agency T3010 forms and organization websites to offer rich descriptive data on their structure, programmatic foci, and geographic distribution. The results offer a rich portrayal of GINGOs and explores their current and potential contributions towards international development goals.
Placing Women's Rights Organizations in the Driver's Seat: Oxfam Canada’s Self-Directed Capacity Assessment Tools and support for Organizational Capacity Strengthening
Oxfam Canada, Canada
Oxfam Canada (OCA) focuses on organizational capacity strengthening because we believe that strong women’s rights organizations and civil society organizations are key agents of change in achieving gender justice and human rights. We consider there to be an inherent link between programming and organizational capacities, where organizations can do better gender justice work with their communities when their own internal structures, processes, and work are more sustainable, democratic, and gender-just. As part of our efforts to decolonize ‘development,’ we take a responsive approach to capacity-strengthening, recognizing that each organization is distinct, operating in its own context and at a different stage of organizational growth. We also use a self-assessment model, believing that organizations themselves are best suited to identify and gauge their own capacities and areas for strengthening, as part of a feminist approach to MEAL.
In 2009, OCA piloted a set of tools with diverse civil society partners, including a self-directed Capacity Assessment Tool (CAT). Our experience and feedback received from partners encouraged us to share them widely and led to their formalization through the development of OCA’s (2012) The Power of Gender-Just Organizations: A Conceptual Framework for Transformative Organizational Capacity- Building, and The Power of Gender-Just Organizations: Toolkit for Transformative Organizational Capacity-Building. From 2017-2019, OCA also developed additional thematic versions of the CAT, as well as an updated version of the original toolkit. In 2020, OCA commissioned an evaluation of the CAT and related processes. Whilst partners found the tool to be highly beneficial, they commented that OCA could do more to accompany partners in their capacity strengthening journeys. At CASID 2021, we would like to contribute to discussions surrounding if/how we can decolonize ourselves as activists and practitioners, through sharing experiences, reflections, challenges, and initial lessons learned in utilizing a self-assessment capacity-strengthening methodology.
International aid scandals: narratives, responses and the persistent white saviour complex
Memorial University, Canada
Scandals involving abuse, corruption and negligence regularly surface in the international aid sector. They can help shape popular perceptions of the sector and the West’s relationship with the Global South, while smearing efforts of the broader aid community. Recent media coverage and public criticism of the operations and development model of the now defunct WE Charity has renewed conversations of the damaging effects of ill-conceived western development interventions in the Global South. My research will improve our understanding of the framing and impact of such scandals, and the power dynamics between aid donors and recipients. In this paper I examine mainstream and social media coverage of these scandals from 2015-2020. First, I ask what themes are used in media coverage to frame aid scandals and examine the extent to which the coverage critically assesses issues of power, colonialism and exploitation between victims and perpetrators. Next, I assess various impacts of aid scandals on organizations and the broader aid sector. The research is grounded in postcolonial and post-development theory that critiques the Eurocentric and hierarchical nature of development and acknowledges “colonial continuities” that perpetuate colonial structures and practices in the sector. My research critically assesses the motivations and justifications behind aid workers’ interventions in the Global South and the accompanying moral imperatives and rationalization of good intentions to affect change - no matter the harm caused. By examining the narrative discourse surrounding aid scandals and their impact, this paper addresses critical sociological and political aspects of international development, while supporting more equitable, transparent and accountable models of development practice. The results provide an original contribution to the development literature to help understand the continued prevalence and consequences of aid scandals and the associated white saviour complex.