The problem with #NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and the wider (vertical adjacent) thinking they represent. In part, the issue is about how the organizations operate and adapt to pressures, particularly regarding funding.

  1. Agenda Shifting for Funding: All NGOs rely on funding from various sources, including governments, private donors, international organizations and foundations. To secure this funding, they feel compelled to adjust their agendas or priorities to align with the interests of funders. This leads to a disconnect between the organization’s original mission and the activities it pursues to maintain financial support.
  2. Cultural Shift: As NGOs continue to receive funding based on their adjusted agendas, these shifts can become entrenched within the organization’s culture. Over time, what was initially a strategic adaptation to secure funding evolves into the norm, shaping the organization’s identity and operations.
  3. Neutrality and Weakness: The pressure to maintain funding leads to NGOs prioritizing neutrality and avoiding controversial or confrontational stances. In doing so, they become less effective agents for social change or challenge, as they are hesitant to take bold actions or advocate for transformative policies that could jeopardize their funding relationships.
  4. Reactivity: In their efforts to sustain funding, NGOs develop a tendency to react to external demands rather than proactively pursuing their mission. This reactive approach limits their ability to address root causes of social issues and instead focus on short-term, band-aid solutions to appease funders or respond to immediate crises.

Overall, this dynamic results in a situation where NGOs, initially formed to challenge the status quo and advocate for change, become co-opted by the systems they seek to change. They prioritize stability and survival over meaningful impact, ultimately undermining their effectiveness as agents of social change.

This also applies to fluffy activist groups who are happy to shift their agenda to get funding, and as they get funding this shift becomes their working culture. In this, they are “neutralized” into weak agents for social change/challenge, and a tendency to become reactionary to keep funding flowing.

Hope talking about this mess help you see how to take a powerful path through the fluffy/spiky debate.

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