Development Cooperation Handbook/The development aid organization/Organizational Types

Steps and Tools

Organization (from Greek: Ὄργανον = "instrument, tool, organ) is generally loosely defined as a social entity that has a collective goal. (⇒ Wikipedia). From a formal point of view one can distinguish various types of organizations, including corporations, governments, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, armed forces, charities, not-for-profit corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, and universities. In the development cooperation sector we can classify the organizations mainly as:

  • intergovernmental organizations,
  • governmental organizations,
  • non governmental organizations.

Governments at national levels are mainly "donors"; however armed forces and other governmental bodies may have a major role in humanitarian relief works. At local levels governmental institutions may be important actors of development cooperation actions.

Non governmental organizations in a general sense include all civil society organizations; however generally this term is given to no-profit organizations working at programs characterized by the fact that the objectives are not conceived for the benefit of the owners or the workers of these organizations bu for the benefit of the recipients of work activities (see more on Wikipedia about the difficulty in defining the term 'NGO') These kind of organizations are main actors in development cooperation actions. The knowledge resources here shared have been mainly by NGOs development actors that have a specific competence in this sector.

Intergovernmental organizations like UNICEF, UNDP, etc. are both Actors and Donors: however it is being increasingly recognized that their "big" and "bureaucratic" status often makes them inefficient, especially at local level; so there is a growing efforts to make them active more at "programming" level, with designing, coordination and monitoring tasks, while the actual project implementation work is better performed by non governmental organizations.

However many international NGO's that have been assigned a major role in executing international aid projects have grown so big and their operational capability has expanded so widely that they themselves have become increasingly "bureaucratized" and the internal personnel relationship have tended to become more and more "state like" or "UN like". So the present effort of making them also act more at "programming" level and less at "field work level". The most forward looking big international NGO's are therefore now increasingly committed to empower local organizations to carry on the actual development cooperation work and they take upon them a role of coordination and support. The problem is that managing development cooperation actions requires specific know-how at the level of project management and communication. If that competence is not transferred also at local level actors, they tend to act as a sort of sub-contractors of the big organizations, whose size make them victim of bureaucratic delays high organizational costs. And this is the main reason for which we have prepared this handbook, to better enable the local organizations to interact adequately with international cooperation consortia.


Further reading

  • David Lewis and Nazneen Kanji (2009): Non-Governmental Organizations and Development. New York: Routledge.
  • Issa G. Shivji (2007): Silence in NGO Discourse: The Role and Future of NGOs in Africa. Nairobi: Fahamu.
  • Jens Steffek and Kristina Hahn (2010): Evaluating Transnational NGOs: Legitimacy, Accountability, Representation. New York: Palgrave, Macmillan.