A study of relations between Northern and Southern NGOs in Kenya
For the last 30 years, an increasing proportion of development assistance funds has been allocated to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), often in OECD countries. The received wisdom is that NGO programmes make an important contribution to development. However, whilst many funds are given to Northern NGOs, increasingly development projects are implemented by Southern NGOs. Many Southern NGOs secure most of their income from Northern NGOs, often with few alternative sources of funds. This study draws on the literature on relations between Northern and Southern NGOs, theories about inter-organisational relationships and six detailed case studies of such relationships in Nairobi (Kenya) to understand current experiences, to explore the problems that exist and to analyse how agencies are responding to their situation. The research findings suggest that Southern NGOs are generally dependent on a small number of Northern NGOs for most of their income. Despite this situation, Southern NGOs seek to secure their autonomy in establishing their goals and activities through three strategies: donor management, donor diversity and donor independence. A further finding is that Northern NGOs are encouraging the formalization of Southern NGO administration, with potential detrimental effects for their relationship with target groups. Northern NGOs are themselves constrained by their need to identify a Southern NGO that shares their objectives. For this reason, half the Northern NGOs contacted in the study are directly initiating or encouraging the formation of new Southern NGOs. In this way, Northern NGOs are influencing the development of the NGO sector as well as the work of individual agencies. Further analysis suggests the existence of three types of relationships between Northern and Southern NGOs, with Northern NGO's attitudes being a critical determining factor: shared values (close alignment of mission), common agenda (time-bound agreements between agencies with mutual respect) and coincidental interest (temporary alliances to address different but overlapping interests).