Sunday, October 20, 2013

Heterogeneous nature of NGOs

NGOs emerged to respond to needs, which were not readily met by the government due to systemic limitations. With elite and/or traditional politicians at the helm of leadership, the government, most often, cannot initiate major reforms. This is a situation where NGOs take active role as catalysts for change. Providing stimuli for the various sectors of society to organize them, NGOs equip the poor with the important skills, knowledge and resource necessary in their struggle towards a better life and a more humane society (Aldaba ,1993).

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However, the term NGOs itself elicits discussion or debate. It is not consistently used which results to various definitions/classifications. According to records, one of the earliest mentions of the term "NGO" was in 1945, when the United Nations (UN) was created. Being an inter-governmental organization, the UN opens its  door to  international non-state agencies - or non-governmental organizations which are awarded observer status at its assemblies and some of its meetings. Thereafter, the term  was widely used to  refer to nonprofit entities independent of governmental influence.

In a broad sense, NGOs are simply agencies or groups which are different from government bodies. Quizon, as cited in Racellis (1998), defines NGOs: as private, voluntary organizations; social development agencies; or professional support; or cause oriented groups that are non-profit –oriented and legal, which are committed to the task of development and established primarily for socio-economic services, civic, religious, charitable and/or social welfare purposes.

This definition covers the heterogeneous nature of NGOs. As such, various acronyms were  as used to describe  them. Wikipedia and Nonprofit Expert  have released the following classifications: BINGO is short for Business-oriented International NGO. TANGO means Technical Assistance NGO  while RINGO is an abbreviation of Religious International NGO.  ENGO refers to  environmental NGO while GONGOs are Government-Operated NGOs, which may have been set up by governments to look like NGOs in order to qualify for outside aid. DONGO means Donor Organized NGO while QUANGOs are quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations. There  is also  PANGO which is a Party NGO set up by parties and disguised as NGOs to serve their political matters and  MANGO which refers to  Market Advocacy NGO.

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On the other hand, Karina David has  the following classifications of NGOs: DJANGOs  for Development, justice and advocacy NGOs. Commonly called as Development NGOs, they  perform  a mixture of direct and support service function with and for GUAPOs (genuine, autonomous people’s organization.) Primary form of intervention is community and sectoral organizing, developments in recent years have spawned organizations that provide support services (legal, medical, research, etc.)

Next, the TANGOs  (Traditional NGOs ) representing the charitable, welfare, and relief organization, TANGOs perform valuable services for the poor. While they intersect with the POs and DJANGOs their primary focus remains on marginalized individuals and families. There is also the  FUNDANGOs  (Funding agency NGOs). These foundations and grant-giving are linked to grassroots organizations primarily through providing financial and other forms of support.

Of course, there are also MUNGOs  (Mutant NGOs),  according to David. Theses are extensions of the state (because they are GRINGOs government-run NGOs) or personal interests. Another is the  BONGOs, business organized NGOs which refer to those that are created primarily as tax dodges, vehicles for quelling labor unrest, or means to project a benevolent company image. Finally, the  COME N’GOs. These are NGO entrepreneurs with  fly-by-night organizations that package proposals and promptly disappear with the funds and/or work the funding game by hiring themselves out to large donor organizations.

I don’t know if the controversial network of  fake NGOs created by Napoles will ever classify to any of the categories or there is a need for amendments to the aforementioned classifications.


This article is part of the series of posts on NGOs. Admittedly, the current pork barrel controversy in the Philippines  involving the Napoles  network of fake NGOs has besmirched the noble aim and name of  non-government organizations (NGOs). However, we consider the crisis an opportunity to bring to the public consciousness the role of NGOs in nation building.  A phenomenal movement which came to aid world development and to establish outlooks and attitudes that laid the foundation for a modern development perspective, genuine NGOs  have emerged as a new catalyzing, social organization and as a significant player in development  (Alegre,1996).

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