SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) as Development Agencies

Module Code:
Module Withdrawn

The massive expansion of the NGO sector in both the North and the South is widely recognised. In the 1980s, the decade of neo-liberalism, the market was seen as the panacea of development and the NGOs were to play an increasingly significant role in development discourse and practice. Since the 1990s, there has been recognition that liberalisation alone is an inadequate response to the social and economic development of developing countries. The New Policy Agenda regards markets as the most efficient mechanism for development, states as facilitators and NGOs as service providing agencies. NGOs are also seen as appropriate vehicles for democratisation and strengthening civil society.

This course concentrates on Development NGOs. They are diverse and act in very different ways and some of them apply different participatory approaches. The aim of this course is to evaluate their direct impact on localized projects as well as their attempts at policy influence or advocacy at both national and international levels.

Through a critical review of recent experiences and the debates, this course will analyse the relationships between:

  • international NGOs and national NGOs; 
  • NGOs and states; 
  • NGOs and International Organisations; 
  • Corporate Social Responsibility – partnership between the private enterprises and NGOs and NGOs and conflicts. 

Through case studies of women's groups, environmental groups and communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the course will assess the success and failures of NGOs in rural areas and urban areas.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The course aims to:

  • Address key issues that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s ont he theme of development and NGOs.
  • Examine theoretical and policy debates on NGOs, states, civil society and democracy.
  • Critically assess the roles and relationships of development NGOs and international organisations and the relationships between NGOs.
  • Critically assess the ongoing debate about the benefits of participation in development.
  •  Examine case studies in relation to advocacy, gender and environmental issues and the role of NGOs.


By the end of the course students will have:

  • A critical understanding of debates on NGOs as development organisations.
  • The ability to use different approaches in analysing the lived realities in different communities of developing countries.
  • The ability to use empirically informed analysis to identify the tension between theory and practice.

Method of assessment

70% examination 30% coursework


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules