Tag Archives: voluntary organizations

Roles and 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 observe: “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.

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Classification of non-government organizations (NGOs)

In the previous posts we have started our discussion on  non-government organizations (NGOs), their history and the conditions that compelled them to establish networks. We even traced the history of networking of NGOs in the Philippines by looking on the  trend of the world history of NGOs – from relief and welfare endeavors to social reformation which eventually led to the transformation approach.

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.

They  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, according to Aldaba (1993).

NGOs may be classified into various types according to different criteria, namely:  (1) Activities they perform, (2) Areas of operation, (3) Size or number of staff, (4) Sector they serve, (5) Ideological bias, and (6) Their initiators. Subsequently, there are NGOs that engage themselves in community organizing among peasants, workers, fisherfolks and urban poor. Their areas of operation range from local to international. Abad (1990) observed that NGOs reflect certain ideological leaning or persuasion depending on the sector that organized them, e.g., business, political, religious.

Korten (1990) classifies NGOs into four types, namely: 1) voluntary organizations (VOs); 2) public service contractors (PSC); 3) hybrid governmental/non- governmental organizations (GONGOS), and 4) people’s organization (POs). The first three NGOs are referred to as Third Party Organizations since they exist to serve the needs of the third party or those persons who are not members of the organization. The fourth sector is referred to as the First Party Organization, since they are basically governed and managed by the people themselves.

According to Korten, of the Third Party Organizations, VOs are distinctively value-driven, pursuing a social mission that make them relatively immune to the political agenda of either the government or the economic forces of the market place. Although small in size, their capacity for social and institutional innovation has been well developed. This feat is seldom found in government and business sectors. However, while VOs serve as channels for innovation, they are often placed in a controversial position as they pursue their commitment towards social change.

In this classification, PSCs are dependent on economic power in sustaining their program. They acquire their resources through the exchange and market of goods and services. They also tend to be responsive to economic needs rather than to genuine public service. In this type of NGO, the customer is the donor.

Korten observed that VOs and PSCs are, oftentimes, mistaken to be synonymous because of their characteristics as non- – profit organizations. Moreover, they have the same type of legal registration with similarities in mission statements. The difference, however, lies on their commitment. While the VOS are committed to social mission, PSCs are business – oriented. Unlike VOs, PSCs often evade advocacy and controversy.

As far as GONGOs are concerned, essentially they are instruments of the government in carrying its policies. Created and managed by the government, GONGOs are accountable to the state and not to their members or independent board. On the other hand, POs are organizations that represent their members’ interest. Characterized by self-reliance, they are considered organizations that are truly “ by the people, of the people and for the people.”


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