Handbook of Research on NGOs
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Handbook of Research on NGOs

Edited by Aynsley Kellow and Hannah Murphy-Gregory

This volume provides a critical overview of research on Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). While it notes that the definition of NGOs is contested, and can include both business and national groups, it focuses primarily on international NGOs engaged with human rights, social and environmental concerns, and aid and development issues. With contributions by Peter Willetts, Tom Davies, Bob Reinalda and other leading scholars, it provides a series of critical essays on both general aspects of NGOs and significant issues of particular concern.
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Chapter 5: A return to the classification problem: revising a framework for studying NGOs

Anna C. Vakil


This chapter revisits an earlier effort in 1997 to address the ongoing challenge of defining and classifying NGOs. A revised definition of NGOs incorporates faith-based organizations, environmental NGOs and civil society organizations. Once again, organizational attributes are utilized rather than fixed typologies, and two types of NGO descriptors are suggested as the basis of a classification framework. Essential descriptors include orientation (or activities), level of operation (location) as well as a new category of constituency (people). Contingent (or secondary) descriptors include sector/issue focus as well as numerous evaluative attributes that are frequently the focus of discussion about NGOs. The chapter concludes that the NGO sector is vital yet organic, continually evolving in response to shifting social, political and economic realities.

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