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close this bookPartners in Time? Business, NGOs and Sustainable Development (UNRISD, 1999, 85 p.)
close this folderPart 1: The changing nature of business-ngo relations
close this folderNGO Responses to Sustainable Development
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDefining NGOs
View the documentThree or Four Waves of Environmental NGOs?
View the documentFour Generations of Development NGOs
View the documentSouthern NGOs
View the documentNGO Diversity and Tension
View the documentCase Studies of Business-NGO Relations

Four Generations of Development NGOs

Development NGOs based in the North have also begun to embrace the sustainability agenda. Korten (1990) describes three generations of development NGO strategies. First-generation development NGOs focus on the provision of disaster reli ef and welfare - the original role of Northern NGOs such as Oxfam. Second-generation strategies focus on promoting small-scale, self-reliant community development. And third-generation strategies involve increasingly large and sophisticated NGOs “working in a catalytic, foundation-like role rather than an operational service-delivery role... facilitating... other organisations [to develop] the capacities, linkages and commitments required to address designated needs on a sustained basis” (Korten, 1987:149).

Later, we describe a natural extension of this third-generation strategy, with development NGOs beginning to influence the role of international and local businesses in the social sustainability of the South. Korten goes on to describe the need for fourth-generation NGOs, which aim to build “a critical mass of independent, decentralized initiative in support of a social vision” (1990:127). Part of this strategy is building links between different NGOs and addressing the more structural issues at the heart of social and environmental problems. Whereas third-generation NGOs “seek changes in specific policies and institutions”, Korten suggests that fourth-generation NGOs will facilitate the coming together of loosely defined networks of people and organizations to transform the institutions of global society (1990:123).