PhD Dissertation Proposal
“Everyone matters”: Why northern Non-Governmental Development Organisations engage with the socially excluded in their own communities.
15 June 2009
In 1999 Gaventa concluded, as a result of his study of the links and learning between Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in the North and South, that many northern-based CBOs had not engaged with issues of power and poverty in their own communities in the global North. This would need to be rectified, he contends, for more equal partnerships to develop between northern and southern CBOs and if the views of each were to be “de-mythologized”.
Likewise, Malhotra (2000: 663) issued a similar warning, proposing that if northern NGOs were to survive in the twenty-first century they must be:
“seriously and more substantially engaged with the poverty and social justice problems of their own countries, especially as these continue to escalate and become more explicit and visible”
Three subsequent events demonstrate that this advice has been taken up, whether or not as a direct consequence of it. Firstly, In 2003 Red Barnet (SCF Denmark) launched a groundbreaking report on child poverty in Denmark which called for the Danish government to undertake more research into child poverty and to end the different levels of benefits for refugees and Danish citizens (Red Barnet 2003).
Secondly, in January 2008, I was working for Muslim Aid when it agreed to organise a joint sponsored walk for Oxfam and Muslim Aid supporters during Ramadan in aid of the global food crisis. It was made quite clear that the reason they were interested in work with Muslim Aid was that they needed to create a greater diversity in their support base in order for their advocacy and campaigning work to have greater legitimacy and representational force. Muslim Aid’s support base is particularly strong among the Bengali community in London, considered to be one of the poorest and most socially excluded communities in London measured according to indicators relating to child poverty, education, employment and housing (Greater London Authority, 2004 & 2006). Oxfam’s decision to work with poor communities in the UK in cited by Fowler (1995) as originating in its 1994 “assembly” of stakeholders and was clearly controversial at the time, leading to media comment that government policies had turned the UK into a developing country (Fowler, 1995).
Thirdly, on 6 April 2009, Save the Children Fund UK launched a new fund and campaign to help families in the UK struggling to cope with the rising cost of food. This was closely followed on 8 April by Oxfam UK launching a report Close to Home: UK Poverty and the Economic Downturn and a nationwide campaign claiming that the UK is becoming a nation of the “forgotten, ripped-off, excluded and debt-ridden”.
The study will look at how the “project” of international development is now broadening to include more than the post-colonialist approach of development of the “other”, to an approach which incorporates the ethical imperative for change in communities globally. It will use case studies of three NGOs to answer questions such as: what does this decision say about the process of institutional change and policy development in Non- Governmental Development Organisations (NGDOs)? What types of development ethic underpinned the decisions? What has been the reaction to this decision by Southern partners?
Background and context
This study will examine the drivers that have contributed to northern based NGDOs taking up the recommendations of Gaventa and Malhotra: organisations whose core mission has more usually been interpreted as working with poor communities in the global south. The central research question for this study is, therefore, located at the junction of several academic, philosophical, NGO praxis-based and international development policy...
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