NGOs, dont back off – be more political

In my latest livemint column, I argue that NGOs need to be far more political than they currently are, if they wish to really serve the communities they work with. Malicious political masters and their misguided tools such as the IB should not be allowed to dictate the choice of strategies on the ground.

While every organisation must face questions – both from the inside and outside – about its mode of functioning, the response to these questions should be aimed at improving organisational performance

It is easy to brand NGOs as utopian or Luddite as opponents struggle with their conception of public interest. What gives an NGO the legitimacy to pick a particular issue over another? Why is it water and not housing; or watershed development and not skills training; gender equality and not income generation? In making these choices, NGOs either use their own narrative about the situation on the ground, or allow themselves to be driven by needs expressed by communities. One can argue for or against either approach. It is also fair to argue that NGO activity that focuses purely on mounting pressure on the state neglects many immediate needs that communities face and therefore, ignores potential fixes to those problems. It should be evident to anyone who thinks through this that depending on the issue at hand and the context, these are all legitimate questions that must be asked of organisations that are supposedly working in public interest.

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