The Big Ones
I’m not going to lie. I have a problem with large multi-national NGO’s (LMNGO’S). I vaguely alluded to it here.
Why do I have such a problem with organisations that are allegedly doing a lot of good work? Because they aren’t doing good work. To be fair my actual personal experience is limited to amnesty international but the criticisms I have of them can be extrapolated to other multi-national ngo’s (although not all).
LMNGO’s are Bureaucratic machines
Organisations such as Amnesty International spend the vast majority of their funds on administration and getting more funds. Anywhere from 75-90% of funding can get spent on bureaucracy. I certainly understand the need to fund operational costs but when you consider that small local NGO’s who cannot rely on the goodwill of the public to get funding are usually capped at level of 10% operational costs – even when they are providing services- this seems ridiculous.
LMNGO’s Are Not Effective
It is very hard for these organisations to actually provide what people who are on the ground doing activism need. By their very nature they are not local organisations. They often do not have a nuanced understanding of the local contexts in which they are trying to help social change come about and rely on briefings from privileged experts who may not have any idea what daily life is actually like for the people they are trying to help. They also tend to neglect gendered analysis. This has time and again resulted in ‘solutions’ that do not actually help the people they are trying to help.
LMNGO’s Divert Attention and Resources Away from Organisations which Are Actually Effective
Because of their marketing clout and the substantial effort given to branding, the giving public tend to trust LMNGO’s and they get the largest share of individual donations. The problem is this money is then diverted into bureaucracy and ineffective projects when it could be going straight to small local NGO’s who actually have a nuanced and contextual understanding of the issues.
I guess my main point is that LMNGO’s are like trying to use a hammer when you need a scalpel.
I don’t believe that these organisations are totally useless – but they have diversified from their original purposes – often to their detriment. Amnesty International for example has no history has a development organisation – they were founded to free political prisoners and do political activism around the world and they were very good at it. There is no infrastructure for development work in AI they do not have the in house expertise for it and the they are not good at finding a range of perspectives. Often they end up doing more harm than good.
There are a vast number of smaller local NGO’s out there struggling to do what they know needs to be done. If you are planning to donate money to NGO’s I beg of you – please look past the big ones. It may be harder to find one which you trust but your dollars will go much further.