Social Policy in a Developing World

Social Policy in a Developing World

Edited by Rebecca Surender and Robert Walker

This volume provides a critical analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing social protection systems in the global south, and examines current strategies for addressing poverty and welfare needs in the region. In particular, the text explores the extent to which the analytic models and concepts for the study of social policy in the industrialised North are relevant in a developing country context. The volume analyses the various institutions, actors, instruments and mechanisms involved in the welfare arrangements of developing countries and provides a study of the contexts, development and future trajectory of social policy in the global South.

Chapter 4: Building the welfare mix or sidelining the state? Non-governmental organizations in developing countries as social policy actors

David Lewis

Subjects: development studies, development studies, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, social policy in emerging countries


When almost half a century ago Arthur Livingstone (1969, pp. 60–61) noted that the ‘voluntary worker’ was a key figure in community-level work in developing countries in his review of social policy and development, he was perhaps a little ahead of his time: ‘Not for many years to come will many developing countries possess even the rudimentary professional services to make comprehensive welfare programmes effective. In the meantime, assistance to the present skeleton staff of specialists must be provided by either voluntary or partly qualified assistants.’ Today, both local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come to be regarded as key players in international development and poverty reduction work across the world. They play roles in what has sometimes been termed ‘big D’ development in terms of projects and programmes, as well as in ‘little d’ development as diverse actors within wider processes of capitalist change and transformation (Bebbington et al. 2008). An estimated 10 per cent of total overseas development assistance is channelled through NGOs, and international NGOs based in developing countries raise an estimated USD 20 billion–25 billion annually in the form of additional development assistance to low-income countries (OECD 2009). Some NGOs remain voluntaristic and small-scale in forms that Livingstone might still recognize, while others have grown to become highly professionalized, even corporate, entities. Still, questions remain as to the effectiveness of these organizations, and whether NGOs complement or substitute for governments.

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