Strengths and Weaknesses of Ngos
The essay discusses what Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are. The essay also discusses the strengths and weaknesses The term NGO is usually applied only to organizations that per sue wider social aims that have political aspects. NGOs are legally constituted organizations created by people that operate independently from any form of government. It is not possible to give a universal definition Non-Governmental Organization. According to Kane (1990: 14) gives three criteria for the definition of an NGO: 1) It should be privately set up (not set up by the state) and Structured, and sufficiently autonomous in its activity and financing. (This characteristic is what ensures its Non-Governmental character). 2) It should be a non-profit making institution to ensure its voluntary or
benevolent character. 3) It should support development. (This is the characteristic that ensures its Public Interest character). Yansah, A (1995:16) puts it that NGO can be, “A private voluntary grouping or individuals Or associations not operated for profit or for other commercial purposes but which have organized themselves nationally or internationally for the benefit of the public at large and for
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the promotion of social welfare development, charity or research in the areas inclusive, but not restricted to, health, relief, agriculture, education industry and the supply of amenities and services. But Professor Peter Willets from the University of London argues; “The definition of NGOs can be interpretated differently by various organizations and depending on a situations context. So he defines an NGO as, an independent voluntary association of people acting together on a continuous basis for some common purpose other than achieving government office, making money or illegal activities”.
In support of the statements above it can be said that NGOs are private and voluntary, they are not owned by the governments and they are not designed to be profit making but operate on charitable bases. The purpose of doing this is to serve people. Even though the term,” Non-Governmental Organization” implies independence from governments, most NGOs depend heavily on governments for their funding (Asher, J.2008:87). NGOs are instruments that facilitate the process of development, therefore, they have strengths and they also encounter some weaknesses. The following are some of the strengths of NGOs; The first one is that NGOs can reach groups left out of development by the nation. This means that these NGOs are able to facilitate a relatively high degree of community participation. They furthermore perceived as a means of filling the gap between the state and the market by providing services to those that cannot be reached by the former (Clark 2006). They easily identify the needs of people in the community specifically, and this is because some of the members of the NGOs may belong to the same community which they serve. The other strength is that NGOs can be fast, flexible, innovative, objective, problem oriented, nonbureaucratic. Matanga (2010:p114) states, “overall, NGOs are thus regarded as flexible, innovative, grassroots oriented and (as having) broad knowledge and strong commitment to issues relating to the emancipation of the poor”. NGOs can respond faster to situations, because they have smaller organizational size, and most of these are voluntary in character.
The other strength is that NGOs have staffs that are motivated, idealistic, and professional. This Important in that some NGOs depend on donor funding and as such no donor would give an NGO which cannot meet the expectations of the people. And most of the NGOs depend heavily on governments for their funding. “Governments has lamented that NGOs are often unwilling to conform to their policies or development Plans. Governments feel that NGOs should be responsive to the needs of the community and work within the frame work of existing state institutions (Smith 1990)”. The other one is that NGOs are participatory, people or community, and partnership oriented. According to Kang (2010), NGOs focus on bottom up development as opposed to predominantly growth centered development approach pursued by many agencies and governments. They consequently have rooted in local communities or tend to develop bonds with the people they serve”. NGOs function at the community level and they have been created as a result of the community Initiative, and because of this they enjoy more legitimacy in the communities they serve. NGOs projects are thus often seen by the members of the community as their project and thus usually support them by participating in the community project. This is because people in such communities feel that such initiatives are their own hence, they effectively address their own needs and interests. The last and not the least on the strengths of NGOs is that they are more independent and can afford to be more radical and ensure people empowerment. From the discussion above it appears that NGOs makes easier the development in the country. In whatever way, it is important to note that there are certain weaknesses which can hinder the functioning of NGOs; and some of such weaknesses are as follows: Firstly NGOs are of limited reach. Most NGOs are regional hence, they operate in certain area and they cannot reach all communities. Cernea (1988) states that, “the direct interaction with local communities consequently enables NGOs to reach the rural poor and promote service delivery in remote areas were governments only have limited outreach”. So it is easy for most of NGOs to spread their operations to parts of the country. Some NGOs suffer from limited management capabilities which result into insufficient planning, organization and management.
The other weakness is that NGOs are inadequate staff training. They don’t train their staffs, and because of this they prefer to employ staffs who are already trained and qualified. The other weakness is that there is lack of co-ordination of the efforts of individual NGOs to ensure an effective macro level of development. Benneth (1995) states; “operations of NGOs seem to be
uncoordinated, competitive and duplicate work”. NGOs have also weaknesses in the sense that they depend on the donors and hence basically insecure funding. Thus they often have low financial sustainability which results into failure of sustaining their activity. Nyoni (1987) said; “it would require transparency that NGOs are open about the sources and amounts of funding and receiving governments have access to such relevant information”. NGOs have also accountability problems. Most of the NGOs would wish to be accountable to their boards that may not even have sufficient knowledge to ask difficult questions. NGOs are also project oriented. They have limited supervision on their projects. The other weakness is that some NGOs compete themselves. And this result in goal displacement. Instead of aiming at providing services to people they engage in selfish competition. Another weakness is that there is also the problem of proliferation of NGOs and risk of misuse. They tend to misuse the money coming from the donors because most of such NGOs may be formed not to serve the community but to get the donor funds and use it for the interest of the managers of the NGOs. Finally and not the last, NGOs’ success has dependence on the presence of strong leadership. NGOs with weak leadership fail easily and disintegrate. Just to sum up, NGOs are good organizations not designed to be profit making but operate on charitable bases and they can be owned locally or foreign. For that reason NGOs have to be accountable to their government not just for the increasing proportion of funds that drive from donors but also comply with the provision of accountancy laws, charity laws not for profit regulation or the equivalent.
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