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In what way does isomorphism caused by western donors influence effectiveness of non-governmental organizations in Africa?

Hausarbeit 2015 15 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: Afrika

Leseprobe

Table of contents

List of abbreviations

Table of figures

1. Trend of homogenization

2. Introducing the aid delivery system, African non-governmental organizations and the term effectiveness
2.1 Aid delivery system
2.2 African non-governmental organizations
2.3 Three conceptualizations of effectiveness

3. Institutional theory
3.1 Types of isomorphism
3.2 Organizational field

4. Effectiveness of isomorphism in African non-governmental organizations
4.1 Management domain
4.2 Program domain
4.3 Environment domain
4.4 Partnership domain

5. Conclusion

References

Abstract

This paper examines in what way isomorphism caused by western donors influences the effectiveness of non-governmental organizations in Africa. As about 40 % of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa live below the poverty line it is interesting to know if African NGOs work effectively. For that institutional theory as well as the conceptualizations of effectiveness, goal attainment, resource acquisition and reputation, are applied to find out the influence of isomorphism on the management, program, environment and partnership domain of NGOs. It is concluded that without donors many NGOs could not exist. Nevertheless NGOs became local managers of foreign aid money, not managers of local African development processes and are too much influenced by donors.

List of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table of figures

Figure 1: Aid delivery system

Figure 2: Combined effectiveness measurement model

Figure 3: Organizational field of NGOs

1. Trend of homogenization

Usually organizations try to differentiate through own missions, however, they become more alike. That can be explained i.e. through political influences and the aim for legitimacy, imitation in case of uncertainty and people having similar educational backgrounds (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). Di Maggio and Powell declare this homogenization as isomorphism. Particularly in projects, strategies and governance structures of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) isomorphism is prevalent, caused by the international aid system (Claeyé & Jackson, 2012; Kontinen, 2005). Does that paradox come up because isomorphism caused by Western donors leads to more effectiveness in the involved organizations? The question will be analyzed using the example of African NGOs receiving funds from Western donors. The paper concentrates on NGOs as up to now, research in organizational theory focused mainly on firms, governments and schools (Rauh, 2010). Yet, as about 40 % of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa live below the poverty line (United Nations, 2013) and since it is the donors’ expectation, it is particularly important to analyze if African NGOs work effectively.

To answer the above mentioned question first the terms NGO and aid delivery system are clarified in chapter 2.1. Thereon, characteristics of African NGOs will be derived and the term effectiveness will be defined in chapter 2.2 and 2.3 before the institutional theory will be introduced in chapter 3. The focus will lay on the three types of isomorphism as well as on explaining an organizational field. Finally in chapter 4 the theoretical concept of institutional theory and the model to measure effectiveness will be applied to African NGOs.

2. Introducing the aid delivery system, African non-governmental organizations and the term effectiveness

2.1 Aid delivery system

To answer the question if isomorphism caused by Western donors leads to more effectiveness in non-governmental organizations first the terms NGO and aid delivery system are explained. NGOs are defined as “self-governing, private, not-for-profit organizations that are geared to improving the quality of life of disadvantaged people.” (Vakil, 1997, p. 2060). Out of many, this definition was chosen as it best shows the NGOs’ focus on their mission of serving people, which is - according to Burger and Owens - their main aim. NGOs focus i.e. on poverty alleviation, sustainable development, human rights, health, women empowerment, education or rural development.

For an overview of the aid delivery system the model of Burger and Owens, that presents the three-agent relationship between donors, NGOs and the local community, has been expanded by adding INGOs (international NGOs) and donor agencies, as money is often not transferred directly but via these organizations. Moreover, governments in the home country of NGOs as well as in the developing country play an important role as they regulate NGOs (Madon, 1999; Nelson, 2006). The aid delivery system is presented in Figure 1. (1) Donors mostly from high-income countries give money to (2) international non-governmental organizations, like Oxfam, Action Aid or Save the Children, which cooperate with (3) intermediate NGOs to provide help to (4) beneficiaries in low-income countries (Madon, 1999; Nelson, 2006). There are individuals donating and formal fund provider. The difference between both is that first mentioned donate directly to local programs while the latter usually request NGOs to monitor performance targets as a prerequisite for their donations (Smith, 2004). Formal fund provider are i.e. governmental or multilateral donor agencies, foundations, trade unions and faith-based organizations (Rauh, 2010). The best known are multilateral agencies like UNICEF, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which spend money to the government of the developing country or INGOs which than get in contact with intermediate NGOs (Foli & Béland, 2014; World Bank, 1995). In this paper donors are defined as formal fund provider who request monitoring and reporting.

Figure 1: Aid delivery system

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: modelled after Burger & Owens, 2013; Madon, 1999, p. 258

2.2 African non-governmental organizations

To evaluate the effectiveness of African NGOs, it is necessary to understand how they operate. Therefore their characteristics like the organizational structure and the dimensions, as well as the working conditions in Africa, are briefly explained.

According to Kontinen (2005) the structure of NGOs was often copied from i.e. religious organizations and commercial enterprises. It was designed for the registration of the NGO but not practical in use. Nevertheless, in most cases there was an executive committee, responsible for daily business, different departments like finance, administration and operations, as well as offices. The founder members, Kontinen states, often came from one family, ethnic network or professional network. NGOs are divided into six dimensions: value, technic, resource, human, politics and law. The values of NGOs are mirrored in their mission, which is achieved with the right skills and organizational assets, like expertise and capacities (technic), along with resources and the sourcing strategy itself (resource). Moreover, there are relationships within and among organizations (human) but also informal ties through networks or alliances (politics). The legal dimension demonstrates statutory, regulatory, contractual and other formal arrangements (law) (Nelson, 2006). Furthermore, it is important to look at the environment the African NGOs works in. Africa is characterized by a low level of economic development, unpredictable factors and a high level of corruption. Often African employees do not follow instructions, deliver poor quality, do not innovate because it is not expected, respond to problems only when they come up and often come late because relationships are more important than timeliness and efficiency (Muturi & Parris, 2013). According to Michael (2004) NGOs reflect usual weaknesses of African civil society.

2.3 Three conceptualizations of effectiveness

After introducing the aid delivery system and the characteristics of African NGOs the term effectiveness has to be clarified. In general efficiency stands for doing the things right, choosing proper means and focusing on the present whereas effectiveness stands for doing the right things, heading for an end and focusing on long-term. Nevertheless both are needed to be successful as efficiency drives effectiveness and is mostly not the end objective (Sudit, 1996). The paper focuses on effectiveness setting the output in relation to NGOs´ end objectives. Since little data is available for the input factor which would be required to calculate efficiency and as effectiveness is more important to explain the African working conditions (cf. 2.2) efficiency is not taken into consideration.

Effectiveness will be measured according to a framework of Lecy, Swedlund and Schmitz (2012). The researchers concluded that there is no consensus on a definition for NGOs´ effectiveness. That is why they came up with a new model combining four dominant domains of research: (1) Organizational management means improving the NGOs´ own management effectiveness. (2) Program design and implementation represent the impact of programs including the improvement of aid delivery and their ability to help. (3) Global and political norms and the donor system represent the NGOs´ environment. Here the NGOs capability to secure resources, build networks and protect against threats is inspected. Moreover, the audit culture, transparency and legitimation as well as the external influences that affect NGOs are looked at. (4) Concerning networks and partnerships between i.e. governments, Western donors and NGOs, NGOs are challenged to mobilize others and work effectively with people of different cultures, values and expectations. Lecy et al related these four to earlier “effectiveness approaches” namely goal attainment, resource acquisition and reputation and so created a combined effectiveness measurement model. Figure 2 demonstrates that management is effective if goals are met, if recourses are brought up and if a good reputation is gained. For the environment´s effectiveness the resource and the reputational approach are best. Advantages of this model are the user-friendliness and a better capturing of relational aspects of effectiveness (Lecy, Schmitz, & Swedlund, 2012).

Figure 2: Combined effectiveness measurement model

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Lecy et al., 2012, p. 36

3. Institutional theory

3.1 Types of isomorphism

After introducing the aid delivery system, African NGOs and the tool used to measure their effectiveness, institutional theory – applied to answer the research question – will be explained.

“Institutional theory attempts to provide a conceptual lens for organizational action.” (Sellers, Fogarty, & Parker, 2012, p. 182). Actors try to change their organizations (North, 1990) but in the end they become more alike. This homogenization can be explained by institutional isomorphism which is conferring to Hawley (1968) a “constraining process that forces one unit in a population to resemble other units that face the same set of environmental conditions” (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983, p. 149). A distinction can be made between institutional and competitive isomorphism (Fennell, 1980; Meyer & Hannan, 1979). The focus of this paper lays on institutional isomorphism as it focuses on legitimacy (Carroll & Delacroix, 1982) which is for NGOs more important than competition as it enables getting support and grants (Hager, Galaskiewicz, Bielefeld, & Pins, 1996). There are three mechanisms describing institutional isomorphic change: 1) Coercive isomorphism resulting from political influence and aiming for legitimacy. Pressures by other organizations, upon which the company is dependent, expectations from society, environmental regulations or reporting requirements lead to homogenization. 2) Mimetic isomorphism, the modeling and imitating of other organizations, is an answer to uncertainty. Especially employees, consulting firms and industry trade associations can diffuse models. 3) Normative isomorphism is caused by professionalization which means norms developed during education. This can be either in universities or in professional networks. Moreover, the hiring process and typical career paths such as assistant, associate and professor lead to normative isomorphism as in the fight for talented employees an organization feels pressure to provide the programs and services offered by other organizations (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983).

3.2 Organizational field

To analyze the effectiveness of isomorphism, the NGOs’ organizational field - including players, intermediators and beneficiaries - is identified. According to DiMaggio and Powell an organizational field is formed by organizations “that, in the aggregate, constitute a recognized area of institutional life: key suppliers, resource and product consumers, regulatory agencies […] [and competitors]” (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983, 1983, p. 148). In this field, institutions are the rules of the game while organizations are the players. Institutions can be created or come up over time and differ depending on the country (North, 1990). According to DiMaggio and Powell, a field only exists if it is institutionally defined, that means if it fulfills the following four aspects, namely the rise of interaction among organizations in the field, the existence of inter-organizational structures, the rise of information and the awareness to be part of a common enterprise.

To identify the players of the field the stakeholder approach of Freeman is used. Freeman (2010, p. 46) described stakeholder as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives” and differentiates between primary and secondary stakeholders. Primary stakeholders, the most important stakeholder of NGOs, are donors, employees, the management and the advisory board, and beneficiaries, which are kind of customers of the NGO. Secondary stakeholders are governments, media, influential local elites, outside consultants and public administrators. To demonstrate the dependencies Figure 1 was expanded (Figure 3). Without donors many projects could not be realized so that they are the most important stakeholder group. In this paper the most important stakeholders are employees, the advisory board and beneficiaries as they benefit most from donations.

Figure 3: Organizational field of NGOs

Blue = primary stakeholder, white = secondary stakeholder

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: modelled after Burger & Owens, 2013; Madon, 1999, p. 258; Smith, 2004, p. 2

4. Effectiveness of isomorphism in African non-governmental organizations

In this chapter the isomorphism caused by Western donors and its influence on effectiveness will be measured by using the model introduced in chapter 2.3. Therefore the chapter is divided into the four domains management, programs, environment and partnerships, to evaluate the influence on each of them.

In all four domains, coercive isomorphism, mainly caused by regulations and reporting requirements, is predominant. This is caused by the donors’ geographical and political distance to African NGOs: Project visits are expensive and instead methods like quantifying, measuring and controlling NGOs by feedback forms, reports and audited financial statements are used to get information about the NGOs’ work (Burger & Owens, 2013).

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Details

Seiten
15
Jahr
2015
ISBN (eBook)
9783668215566
ISBN (Buch)
9783668215573
Dateigröße
701 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v322150
Institution / Hochschule
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg – Chair for Corporate Sustainability Management
Note
1,6
Schlagworte
africa

Autor

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Titel: In what way does isomorphism caused by western donors influence effectiveness of non-governmental organizations in Africa?