|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|2. The historical context|
As NGOs pioneered some form of needed provision and then secured recognition of its necessity by government, or showed that they could achieve objectives that governments found it difficult or impossible to achieve, the two parties often developed close relationships based on consensus and contract. Such relationships were strengthened when NGOs went on to help government to deliver new public service programmes. Both groups saw themselves as working partners in service delivery and resource mobilisation in a pattern termed "welfare pluralism".
As the scale of provision of public services grew, governments inevitably became the dominant partner. Nonetheless they often recognised that NGOs were frequently better placed to deliver services, especially where there was a need for speed and flexibility, or additional resources. Governments realised that in these and other respects, NGOs could often do things that they could not.
NGOs can, for example, attract financial resources from funding agencies which are not accessible to governments. The public in many countries will give directly and voluntarily to NGOs not just money, but time and other resources as well, through volunteer efforts.
While people do donate money and volunteer their help to government institutions and programmes (in hospitals and schools, to take just two examples), they are far more prepared to give to NGOs for a number of reasons. Many people already give to government through taxation, while others, such as private companies, feel that donations to government may be seen as being politically partisan, and therefore prefer to give to NGOs. In addition, in recent years the private sector in many countries has become actively involved in supporting the work of NGOs, by providing both financial and human resources.
Welfare pluralism reached its zenith during the period after the Second World War and up to the early 1970s. There was the general expectation, in both North and South countries, that government-financed, largely institutionalised public service provisions, delivered through welfare pluralism would be the means by which people's basic needs would be met.