Many times I get asked: What are NGOs? The answer is usually a bit more complex than you’d expect.
But before going into my own definition, let me share with you some definitions by some renowned sources. So here they are:
- “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government.”- www.UN.org
- “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.” – www.NGO.org
- “A nongovernment organization is an association which is based on the common interests of its members, individuals, or institutions has no governmental status or function, and is not created by a government, nor is its agenda set or implemented by a government.” – www.SIL.org
- “Private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development” – www.WorldBank.org
Now the problem is, none of the above is complete or accurate, here is why:
- The UN definition misses out that such organizations should have a cause for the benefit of the community and that they should be not for profit. According to UN definition, most private sector companies would fall under the category of “NGOs”, which is obviously incorrect.
- The NGO.org definition misses out that they should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGO bodies. Moreover, it limits the to “voluntary” work, while in reality there are thousands of NGOs that have paid staff.
- The SIL.org definition also misses out on the not for profit part, thus once again being an inadequate definition.
- The World Bank definition misses out on many factors. Their definition misses out on the fact that should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGOs, nor that they should be not for profit. Just to name a few that is.
In this context, after further research, discussions and meetings with stakeholders from NGOs, I’ve managed to identify the components that one can use as a checklist to check if the organization in study is an NGO or not. Here are the components or attributes if you’d like to call them so:
- Is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons.
- Not initiated nor managed by any government.
- Doesn’t accept membership of governmental bodies.
- Works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not for profit.
- Can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.
Using the above, I can assure you that you’d be able to clearly identify what is an NGO and what is not. You can put them in a definition as follows:
“An NGO is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons that is not initiated nor managed by any government nor does it accept membership of governmental bodies. An NGO works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not profit, and it can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.”
Thus, the following organizations are not, and should not, be considered as NGOs or labeled as such: UNDP, ESCWA, UNESCO, ILO, OPEC, FAO, Arab League.
I hope that clarifies the issue for you and I look forward to hear your feedback on the definition.
Last month I’ve given a lecture/session titled “Project Management for NGOs” to the PMI Lebanon Chapter as part of their monthly lectures.
In this context, I thought of sharing it with you. So below you’ll find the session description, learning outcomes and the link to download the presentation for your own knowledge and entertainment…. let me know what you think! 🙂
The world today has hundreds of thousands of active NGOs majority of which are project and program based and depend on ongoing grants and funding to secure resources for their projects. With grants and funding summing up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the amounts being lost on failed projects, unmet objectives and re-work is counting up to tens of millions of dollars.
Many leaders of NGOs consider this as a reasonable and un-escapable price to pay due to the fact that it is hard to recruit enough qualified project and program managers in the NGO field due to the short period of engagement, low wages with respect to private sector and lack of well identified project management training, tools and techniques.
With thousands of program managers, program coordinators, project managers, project coordinators, assistant program and project managers and so on and so forth, there is a huge gap to be filled for both the organizations and the individuals working in them.
What many don’t realize is that PMP standard can apply to NGOs by simply matching many of the terminology that is used by PMP with those present in NGOs. This lecture will help you understand how.
Lecture Learning Objectives:
- Understand and Define an NGO
- Identify the Numerous Types and Fields of Work of NGOs
- Understand the NGO Project Life Cycle in Most NGOs
- Map NGO Project Related Terminology with PMI’s Terminology
Link to Presentation in PDF: PMI Leb Chapter – PM for NGOs Presentation by Afif Tabsh – April 2012
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I have recently been awarded the Ambassador for Peace certificate by the Universal Peace Federation and so it was a delightful surprise to know that I joined a network of leaders from all walks of life all around the world in further promoting Peace, Inter-religious and human development.
Consequently many started asking me, “So what does it really mean? What do you do?” …so here’s a small briefing about it hoping it will quench your curiosity 🙂
What is an Ambassador for Peace?
Ambassadors for Peace are part of a global network of leaders representing thereligious, racial and ethnic diversity of the human family, as well as all disciplines of human endeavor. They stand on the common ground of shared principles and arecommitted to the path of promoting reconciliation, overcoming barriers, and building peace.
So what is the Ambassador for Peace Award?
The Ambassador for Peace award honors achievement and signifies a new appointment to a mission to serve the common good.
What do Ambassadors for Peace do?
- Exemplify the ideal of living for the sake of others.
- Promote universal moral values, strong family life,inter-religious cooperation, international harmony, renewalof the United Nations, responsible mass media, and the establishment of a global culture of peace.
- Transcend racial, national and religious barriers.
- Contribute to the fulfillment of the hope of all ages, a unified world of peace, wherein the spiritual and material dimensions of life are harmonized.
- Serve as members on national, regional and global peace councils promoting and safeguarding world peace.
- Develop a broad strategic alliance of partnerships among individuals, educational institutions, organizations, reli-gions, corporations, the media and governments.
So I hope you all join me in this life long journey of serving the community, being at peace with ourselves, families and community and further promoting ethical values.