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'Reclaiming development:
Assessing the contributions of Non-Governmental Organisations to development alternatives'


Deryke Belshaw1
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Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester

27-29 June 2005

SARPN acknowledges the University of Manchester as a source of this document.
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Introduction

Within the recent paradigm shift favouring the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as recipients and implementers of development assistance, the paper focuses on the capacities and performance of the diverse group of agencies which can be termed Christian Faith-based Organisations (CFBOs). This group consists primarily of (1) churches, which can be categorised as either denominational or independent, and (2) faith-based non-governmental organisations, amongst which it is useful to distinguish Christian international NGOs (CINGOs) from Christian national NGOs (CNNGOs). Their relative strengths and weaknesses in pro-poor development activity are reviewed in the second section of the paper.

The paper goes on to suggest that there is a pressing need for funders and governments to be able to assess and, if judged worthwhile, assist CFBOs in three major knowledge domains if their present highly variable pattern of development performance is to be significantly improved. The three domains, which are reviewed in section 3 of the paper, are:
Ability to Select and Use Relevant Conceptual and Analytical Frameworks: included here is comprehension of operational concepts such as sustainable development (in its multiple dimensions), pro-poor 'engines' and drivers of economic growth, sequential problem selection, evidence-based best practice and net impact assessment; and useful analytical constructs such as sustainable livelihoods, urban bias, social 'safety nets' and elite capture:

  1. Familiarity with Participatory Development Processes: These procedures enable intended beneficiaries to contribute local knowledge to the selection and design of interventions in partnership with the CFBOs, and to participate in dialogue concerning strategy, programme and project priorities, resourcing and design features. 'Ownership' and socio-economic 'empowerment' objectives are pursued here, of course;


  2. Awareness of Potentially Impact-enhancing Interventions and Key Components: 'Development content' knowledge from external sources may be obtained from the experience of both development agencies and communities working in similar contexts located in different areas or countries. Willingness to produce and share reliable information requires prior contacts and investment in communication channels with international coverage.
In the final section, the paper links the present need and opportunities to enhance these knowledge bases to (1) general and specialist professional training of CFBO leadership, and (2) the case for ongoing objective assessment of CFBOs' competence levels and achievements attained from both training programmes and their own evaluated development experience.


Footnote:
  1. Professor Emeritus Deryke Belshaw is Director of the Institute for Development Research, Oxford and Dean of Development Studies in the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (email and ).


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