GS211 Lecture #6 Notes
Lecture #6: Grassroots development: NGOs and participation: bottom-up: participatory development
Many critiques to mainstream top-down approaches (i.e. Modernization Rostow-style and ISI) in 1970-
oBeen accumulating loans to have everything trickle down but poverty still exists
Poverty still rampant.
New leaders/dictators elected
About industrialization & modernization
Liberation theology religious discourse in Latin America where men were involved with illiterate groups
& peasants and wanted to help them through religion liberate the poor
Progressive activists and intellectuals start questioning notion of development itself as it is presented by
Start looking at development from below.
First official formulation of bottom-up approach: basic needs
Basic needs approach (BNA)
ILO + World Bank focus development policy on poorest (1976).
oBNA was easy to integrate into these organizations
BNA to happen at the same time as modernization.
Big focus on agriculture (green revolution: how to boost yields to feed growing population: pesticides,
etc.) and support for informal sector of economy (trade, craft, art, not always taken into account
statistically with ministry of economy)
Rationale: meetings basic needs of poor will help them + improve greater economic growth in long run =
alleviation of poverty & better economic development
See Box 4.1 in course-pack reading for basic needs categories: food, shelter, clothing, access to essential
services, education, clean water, transport, health care, paid employment, healthy and safe environment,
Critique of BNA
oCost-implications if implementation especially with rural areas
oIn many cases, BNA was appropriated to re-label ongoing activities, technocratic programming
where the poor were viewed as target groups rather than participants in development.
oNevertheless, this approach further legitimatized poverty reduction as an ODA goal separate from
There are 2 major modalities of fostering participation:
oCommunity development: ‘process of bringing villages, urban neighborhoods and other household
groupings into the process of managing development resources without relying on formally
oLocal decentralization: Efforts to strengthen village and municipal governments on the demand
and supply side & demand = boost citizen participation in gov, elections, access to info, etc.
Supply = enhance ability of local government to deliver services, boost capacity of elected
officials, streamline administration…
oDifference between the two: local decentralization is with government & community
development is with the local community
Ideas of community development and of decentralization share common intellectual pedigree rooted in
classical notions of participatory government.
oAdvocates of community development see it as:
Mechanism to scale up poverty reduction programs.
Enhance sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency.
Build social capital.
By aligning development priorities with community goals (+boost communication between
donors and receivers aid)
oAdvocates of decentralization see it as:
Way for government to be more closely observed when we reduce distance between people
Improve transparency, accountability, enhanced visibility.
Citizens have more capacity to activate collective action that will have impact on locally
Advocates for both see them as ways to train for citizenship.
This has been challenged, as we shall see. Not all agree. But let’s look at history.
oThe ekklesia in Ancient Greece participation mainly of men for Greek politics (managing the
city) existed in Golden Age in Athens for all men with at least 2 years of military service. Any free
man can participate in the affairs of the city
Importance of deliberative assemblies found all over the world (archeological evidence for this):
oHinduism and Buddhism (debate as superior form of discourse)
oQuran requires that communal affairs be decided by mutual consultation (shura)
oPre-European Africa: Zulu chiefs had to consult their tribesmen
oDecentralization found in small city-states of Mesopotamia (32000 BC) (now Iraq, Syria, and Iran)
oDecentralization found in South East Asia in Mauryan (321-185 BC) and Mughal (1526-1857)
periods (autonomy of villages)
Modern theories of participation
•Jean-Jacques Rousseau The Social Contract
•Vision of democracy where equal citizens assemble to make decisions, in a deliberative manner to uncover
the ‘general will.’ Remember he was a proponent of human progress, Enlightenment would lead to free
•For him participation was more than a method of decision-making, it was a process by which an individual
developed empathy for another.
•Main question: what binds people together
•Rousseau is foregrounding participation: desirable for not only organization but also individual bridge
between macro society and us
•John Stuart Mill
oSkeptical of centralized forms of governments (too much power, corrupt, etc.)
oCitizens ought to be prepared for participation at local level (before universal suffrage)
oSent to India 1860’s, came across information regarding thriving indigenous systems of
autonomous village governments. Led him to see community government as an alternative to
•Gandhi is also leading figure in terms of decentralization and participation…
•2 Foundational thinkers
oFranz Fanon. Wretched of the Earth (1961) Work born out of frustration with torture, racism, and
French colonial rule over Algeria. He critiques imperialism and nationalism and calls for
redistribution of wealth and technology toward young people. Advocates for better education, sees
participation as something to empower people. Participation is necessary to get out of imperialistic
forms of government
oPaolo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) Stresses need to develop education system that
is dialogic, rooted in lived experiences, values local and diverse knowledge. Education as tool to
‘conscientize’ poor people and empower them. For liberation theology and wants education
endeavors for remote areas
Decentralization (1980s-90s) and the rise of NGOs
•Regardless of history, it is the same for everyone
•What is being cut out by the government is education, health, the softer sectors, etc. leaving room for the
NGOs to enter
•Popular because state is leaner, neoliberalism
•In line with neoliberal agenda to make the State leaner (i.e. better cost-effectiveness and efficiency)
•Power should be transferred at local level (in fact: local level of government...)
•Decentralization meant people’s participation: easier said than done.
•At all levels of project management
•Enter NGOs as main players of participatory development.
•Decentralization of power is key, fits well with structural adjustment programs opening a hole for NGOs
•Huge growth and variety of NGOs. They can be categorized according to: location, level of operation,
orientation and ownership (see table 4.2)
oI.e. Difference between local grassroots NGO and CARE, Oxfam, etc.
NGOs that come from the country that needs the help are much more efficient since they know what the
people need and want to help
•Rationale for success:
oCan better provide for local populations
oMore efficient service delivery
oUse of local knowledge and materials
oCan enhance non-material side of development: empowerment, democratization and people's
oMore accountable to people because locally embedded
•NGOs seen as vector for social change and democratization, “magic bullet”.
•Governments giving tons of $ to NGO means they become big players in development.
•NGO programs replaced government policies/spending due to neoliberal agenda + civil unrest (conflict
zones) “soft stuff”
oSocial welfare provision
•But they cannot replace State intervention...
•Types of NGOs organized by area of intervention
oBINGO – It is a short term used for business-friendly international NGO
oCITS – It is a type of NGO that basically devoted in helping the scientific community by
motivating the young talent towards R & D.
oCSO – It is short term for civil society organization