Handbook on Development and Social Change
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Handbook on Development and Social Change

Edited by G. H. Fagan and Ronaldo Munck

This Handbook provides an accessible critical review of the complex issues surrounding development and social change today. With chapters from recognized experts, examining economic, political and social aspects, and covering key topics and developing regions, it goes beyond current theory and sets out the debates which will shape an approach better suited to the modern world.
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Chapter 10: Development NGOs, civil society and social change

Su-ming Khoo


In order to understand development-focused Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), it is useful to situate them in terms of their role in civil society and, more generally, in relation to the global historical context of social change. The three main elements of this chapter – NGOs, civil society and social change – are hard to define, are dynamic and are contested. NGOs are difficult to define and classify, and the lack of an agreed definitional framework poses ongoing difficulties for understanding and analysis. The term ‘NGO’ merely defines what they are not, leaving an extremely broad canvas of differing origins, motivations, organizational and funding structures. NGOs may have exogenous or endogenous origins, and are usually associated with voluntarism, ‘private’ constitution and non-profit orientation. The definitional dilemma surrounding NGOs is not merely a theoretical or conceptual problem; it also presents practical obstacles for understanding and learning. This chapter contributes to clarifying these issues.

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