Telling the right story: development NGOs as brokers of global citizenship

Conference paper


Pickering-Saqqa, S. and Mortensen Byrne, Emma 2017. Telling the right story: development NGOs as brokers of global citizenship. EADI, Globalisation at the Crossroads, Rethinking inequalities and boundaries. Bergen, Norway 21 - 23 Aug 2017
AuthorsPickering-Saqqa, S. and Mortensen Byrne, Emma
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Recent scholarship around INGOs has drawn attention to their central role in mediating and brokering knowledge about “development” amongst their domestic publics in the global north (Hayman et al 2016). It suggests the need to re-frame their civic engagement in the way they communicate and advocate, moving from charity to justice (Dogra 2012; Yanacopulos 2016). This paper moves these debates forward, aiming to provide empirical evidence as to the factors that promote and constrain innovative approaches to public engagement. Drawing on two different studies of INGOs in Denmark and the UK, the evidence suggests that new approaches to public engagement may require re-conceptualisations of “development” and individual agency.
The paper considers three case study INGOs from Denmark, all of which have framework agreements with Danida, requiring them to have a programme of development education and “popular rooting”. Data from these INGOs was taken from web text, which addressed the individual, for example content addressed primarily to potential volunteers, donors or legacy givers. The two UK case study INGOs (Oxfam GB and Islamic Relief) were selected because of their decisions to establish domestic poverty programmes in the UK, partly driven by the need to demonstrate their civic rootedness. Data was collected from interviews with INGO staff, partners and beneficiaries in addition to archive documents. Our analysis makes use of a three-dimensional approach to discourse analysis (Fairclough 1992) and understandings of organisations as a matrix of “perceptions, appreciations and actions” (Bourdieu 1977: 159).
Findings indicate that it is only by telling the “right story” (Edwards 2013) that INGOs can break the vicious circle in which they find themselves: being unable to promote civic engagement and agency because of the very mechanisms they use to communicate with and fundraise from their publics. The individual agency enabled by Danish NGOs is mainly restricted to that of a donor. The use of emergency discourse to create a sense of urgency for the purposes of fundraising is counter-productive. Distorted understandings of poverty in UK and Denmark have a detrimental impact on INGOs’ public engagement. An approach to development that encompasses domestic poverty programmes can offer important civic rootedness. These findings point the way forward to the possibilities of INGO-public engagement, which is rooted in alternate understandings of an individual’s agency beyond “donor” and a new conceptualisation of development beyond the binary “them and us”.

KeywordsNGOs; education; citizenship
Year2017
ConferenceEADI, Globalisation at the Crossroads, Rethinking inequalities and boundaries
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Feb 2018
Accepted01 Apr 2017
Completed21 Aug 2017
Accepted01 Apr 2017
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