Cover Image
close this bookNGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)
close this folderPart I: NGOs: what they are and what they do
close this folder2. The historical context
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1 Care and welfare
View the document2.2 Change and development
View the document2.3 The historical evolution of NGO/government relationships
View the document2.4 Welfare pluralism
View the document2.5 The emergence of alternatives
View the document2.6 New concerns

2.1 Care and welfare

To understand the role and function of NGOs today, it is necessary to examine their historical roots.

Many NGOs are involved in what can be termed "care and welfare" activities inherited from the charitable work or philanthropy which flourished in industrialised countries from the 19th Century onwards.

Such work led to organisations being formed by the middle and wealthy classes to provide relief and welfare to the poor and less privileged, either to meet their material needs or to help them meet their needs themselves. It was a way, albeit a limited one, of transferring resources from rich to poor. This kind of work has been termed "voluntary action" and has led to the establishment of NGOs called charities, charitable organisations, or welfare organisations.

The word "welfare" is used here, as by NGOs, in a positive way - i.e. promoting well-being - even though it is recognised that it has, to some, negative connotations (public hand-outs, dependency, etc.)