A Note on Capabilities that Contribute to the Success of Non-governmental Organisations

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are increasingly important actors in the field of development. They are diverse, in terms of their organisational form, structure and culture, and the issues they address. Correspondingly, the capacities that NGOs need in order to deliver on their mandate range across a broad spectrum. When asked, NGOs themselves list an interesting set of capacities that they believe make them sustainable and effective.

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    This is a case study prepared for the project ‘Capacity, Change and Performance’ organised by ECDPM.

    This paper draws primarily from the experiences of NGOs in the South Asia region, i.e. medium-sized to large organisations with annual budgets of a quarter of a million dollars and above, and employing anywhere between 25 and several hundred people. It is meant to be a collection of a general – freewheeling – set of observations on what ‘capacities’1 distinguish successful NGOs. It deliberately does not dabble in the contested ‘definitions’ of success, e.g. size versus numbers, service delivery versus general empowerment, impact versus funding available, etc., but seeks to find some easily discernible features that characterise NGOs that are deemed ‘good’ or ‘successful’ in the court of public perception. 

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