Non-governmental organisations, development and change

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

Since the 1980s, the NGO sector in the Global South and North has expanded substantially. The emergence of the Washington Consensus in the 1980s saw the victory of the market over the state, with private enterprise identified by international development organizers, donors and policy-makers as the key driver of development. NGOs were regarded as a vital part of the solution, and given an increasingly significant role in development discourse and practice, and increased access to donor funding opportunities.

However, the massive expansion of the NGO sector, its heightened engagement in development interventions, has led to questions being asked of the role and contribution of this sector, and of the status of its continued independence from the state (and donors in particular). This module examines the role of NGOs in development since the 1980s, asking through a study of how they engage in particular sectors and interact with other development sectors, to what extent they have retained their original vision of offering an alternative to state-led, top-down development models. It questions the extent to which NGOs can function as effective vehicles for democratization, their contribution to civil society, and their role in advocacy for and on behalf of the poor.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of this module, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to analyse and evaluate the role of the NGO in development
  • An ability to assess the types of relationship, and implications of those relationships, NGOs have with civil society, the state, international organisations and donors
  • An understanding of the role of NGOs in conflict environments
  • An understanding of how international development policy has affected the role and function of the NGO in development practice
  • An ability to engage with debates concerning popular participation in development
  • An understanding of differing theories of NGO action, role and purpose, and an ability to anaylse and evaluate the literature on NGOs
  • An ability to use empirically-formed analysis to identify gaps and tensions between theory and practice


Teaching will take the form of a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar per week.

Method of assessment

100% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of worth 70% and a Presentation worth 30% of the overall grade.  Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules