Saturday, November 9, 2013

Strategies of NGOs

The typology of NGOs is related to the differences in their strategies and activities. As such, each type of organization uses different types of strategies such as relief and welfare strategies, community development, sustainable systems development, or people’s movement. These approaches are used by organizations at certain stages. Korten (1990) uses the “three generation strategy” to describe the stages of development of NGOs. The following discussion will describe each stage and then classify the type of organization according to the strategies used.

The first generation strategy uses the welfare and relief approach in the delivery of their services where dole-out of goods and services are the main activities. Often this strategy is used when there are natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, or war.

In such a situation, the NGO is the “doer” and is the chief actor while the beneficiary remains passive. It responds to an immediate and visible need. The management orientation in this stage is in logistics management. Moreover, the NGOs in this stage tend to live on donations by appealing through the mass media. The shift, however, to the second-generation strategy stems from the realization that they are solving only the symptom but not the underlying cause.

The second-generation strategy basically employs community development strategies. Its focus is on local inertia; thus, the NGOs develop the capacities of the people so that the people could meet their own needs. The main theme of this stage is the empowerment of the people through self-reliance and self-determination in the village or group level.

Unlike the first generation strategy, the role of the NGOs here is “mobilizer” rather than doer. In this stage, there is a substantial focus on education with the assumption that the problem lies exclusively on individual’s lack of skill and physical strength. Under this strategy, there is still evidence of dependence that did not make for a lasting impact. Because of the ineffectiveness of some projects, NGOs began to realize that there is a need to change their strategies. Thus, the gradual shift from the second generation to the third generation strategy began to occur.

The third generation strategy looks at the role of the NGO in developing sustainable systems. Elliott (as cited in Brodhead, 1987) explains that this strategy calls for a more political involvement in the form of support conscientization activities, and beyond that, for empowerment. This strategy looks beyond the community and further delves into the local, national and international levels in its efforts towards development. As Korten (1990) has observed: “Third generation strategies focus on creating a policy and institutional setting that facilitates, rather than constrains just, sustainable, and inclusive local development action.

The strategies employed by the generational framework indicate that NGOs evolve and change according to their commitment for development. Most often POs (people’s organizations) and VOs (voluntary organizations) reach the third generation strategy because of their, as Korten (1990) puts it, “focus on trying to make a sustainable difference in the lives of the people it is assisting.”

On the other hand, PSCs (public service contractors) and GONGOs (hybrid governmental/non- governmental organizations) are less likely to reach the third generation strategy. PSCs depend on their donor while the government responds to changes in its policies. Korten (1990) further states that generally, donors and governments are more interested in supporting NGOs in relief and welfare interventions to relieve immediate suffering than in efforts aimed at fundamental structural change. Hence, seldom can we find PSCs and GONGOs that go beyond the second-generation strategy.


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. Previous posts tackle the rationale of this series, heterogeneity of NGOs, their history, classification, and asset and liability.

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