Civil Society by Design: Donors, NGOs, and the Intermestic Development Circle in Bangladesh

Civil Society by Design: Donors, NGOs, and the Intermestic Development Circle in Bangladesh

Civil Society by Design: Donors, NGOs, and the Intermestic Development Circle in Bangladesh

Civil Society by Design: Donors, NGOs, and the Intermestic Development Circle in Bangladesh

Synopsis

Drawing on years of research and direct experience in Bangladesh, Stiles pulls together theoretical strands from economics, sociology, and anthropology to help explain an emerging social structure in the Third World. These structures, which he calls "intermestic development circles," bring together international donor agencies with various domestic community and private organizations. In Bangladesh not-for-profit agencies are dramatically transforming their operation and organizational cultures, while in turn Western NGOs are themselves changing in subtle ways. Scholars of development will find Stiles's intriguing account of the reciprocating effects of extensive interaction, cooperation, and tensions between international donors and domestic recipients informative and provocative.

Excerpt

INTERMESTIC DEVELOPMENT CIRCLES: AN EMERGING STRUCTURE

Beginning in the mid-1980s, official donors began to channel funds both directly and indirectly to local non-profit organizations in the developing world. Variously known as the “civil society empowerment” approach (Stiles 1998) or an aspect of the “New Policy Agenda” (Robinson 1995), the policy has become extremely popular and widespread. Every major bilateral and multilateral donor, with the exception of Japan, has rear-ranged its budget lines and set up new offices to provide funds to so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs), typically lumping together international NGOs (INGOs) based in the North with indigenous NGOs (which I will call simply NGOs in this study). While figures are generally not disaggregated, estimates of the total amount of aid going through all types of NGOs are put at nearly one billion dollars, or roughly 15 percent of all official development assistance annually in the late 1990s (Van Rooy 1997, 3; Gordenker and Weiss 1996, 25). With respect to specific donors, Australia funnels roughly one-third of its aid through all types of NGOs, the United States roughly half, Canada two-thirds, and Sweden over four-fifths (Hulme and Edwards 1997, 7).

The infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars to local NGOs, many of which did not have telephones or computers in the late 1980s, has been nothing short of overwhelming. Whereas most NGOs were only vaguely aware of how donors did business 15 years ago, now they are

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