This Practice Paper aims to contribute to ongoing reflections and debates taking place among aid practitioners about if, and how, big international NGOs (BINGOs) can be more effective agents of ‘progressive social change'.
It summarises a series of conversations that took place among seven members of the Institute of Development Studies Participation Power and Social Change team and staff from eight BINGOs between July 2008 and March 2009. During the conversations, participants considered how internal and external factors influence the potential of BINGOs to contribute to shifts in power relations; greater realisation of rights; and enhanced economic, political and social justice for poor and vulnerable people.
All of this was encapsulated in the term 'progressive social change'. At the end of the process, participants agreed that there is considerable scope for many BINGOs to pursue a more progressive agenda. They recommended that similar conversations need to continue and branch out, both in topical range and in participants in order to stimulate the kind of reflection and organisational learning required to do so.
This paper includes accounts of discussions, case studies shared by participants, inputs from academic critiques of BINGOs and practical tools to feed into such deliberations. It explores the types of changes that BINGOs are trying to achieve, the approaches they use - their models of change, and challenges and tensions commonly perceived to prevent BINGOs pursuing more radical social change agendas.
Provocative questions are raised as a means to help practitioners identify changes that their organisations need to make in order to more actively pursue social, economic and political justice. In some instances inspiring examples from BINGO participants suggest means to do so. References to organisational theory, meeting discussions and BINGO case studies are used to interrogate assumptions about how large complex organisations behave and to identify lessons that may be used to inform efforts to transform BINGOs into more effective agents of progressive social change.
The authors explore the use of Web 2.0 tools for development and introduce readers to the concept of Web2forDev. Web 2.0 tools are radically changing the ways we create, share, collaborate and publish digital information through the Internet. Participatory Web 2.0 for development (Web2forDev for short) is a way of employing web services to intentionally improve information-sharing and on-line collaboration for development. It presents us with new opportunities for change - as well as challenges - that we need to better understand and grasp. The authors consider learning and reflections from practice and consider ways forward.
The author describes the development of an on-line social networking website. Members of the international Forest Connect Alliance had expressed a strong demand for greater information-sharing. The website provided a platform for members to quickly and easily access and share information about state-of-the-art practice in small and medium-sized forest enterprises. Since its creation, the online social network has attracted an increasing number of genuinely active members. Although donors still need persuasion to fund further website development, early indications are that the initiative is having a positive impact.
The authors describe the work of the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative (BROSDI) in Uganda. BROSDI works with a network of farmer organisations to generate, collect and share local information about effective agricultural practice. BROSDI integrates a range of Web 2.0 tools and more traditional approaches û from digital radio, mobile phones, and blogs to regular Knowledge Sharing Forums and working with Village Knowledge Brokers
The author explores the potentials for citizen journalism or æcrowdsourcingÆ, and how in Kenya during the 2007 election crisis the innovative Ushahidi website was developed for sharing information. This website enabled citizens to send in and receive news reports either via the internet or by mobile phones. The Ushahidi platform has now been redeveloped to improve its potential in humanitarian crisis situations û integrating a series of Web 2.0 applications.
The author explores the lessons learnt from the information communication technologies for development (ICT4D) paradigm shift to Web2forDev. ICT4D helped to mainstream ICTs in to development thinking and highlight issues of access and connectivity in the developing world. Whilst ICT4D was mostly driven by technology hype and a narrow approach to how we use the tools, Web 2.00 has a stronger focus on social and decentralised networking. However, key issues remain: access, connectivity, capacity-building, literacy and language. The author argues the need to holistically appropriate, adapt and integrate these technologies in our work.