The role of NGOs and communities

Some NGOs see themselves as champions of the poor, lobbying government to give them a better deal. Others play a watchdog role, ensuring that governments and utilities remain honest, focused on serving the people. A third variety prefer to focus at ground level, finding ways to bring communities together to provide basic services to those in most need. Many look to combine these roles within one organisation.


Partnerships can struggle to accommodate these different visions, making it hard to harness the skills, abilities and local contacts that NGOs offer to best effect. NGOs themselves can be torn between engaging other stakeholders in order to provoke change from the inside and maintaining their independence from the outside.


Equally, how partnerships can engage and relate to poor communities is not straightforward.  In some cases Community-Based Organisations are preferred to NGOs as partners.


Key BPD documents on the role of NGOs and communities

Community engagement

Community engagement can be a vague concept.  Use these tools to map out what it really means in a partnership context.

Community-focused partnerships

How can community-focused approaches scale up and develop ownership within government?  Read about one NGO’s experience in Tanzania.

Education and awareness through partnership

What can utilities learn from NGOs about education and awareness activities within poor communities?

NGO workshop report

Viewpoints, experiences and recommendations from civil society representatives from eight multi-sector partnerships, brought together by BPD. 

Local urban management models

Many NGOs have drawn inspiration from how rural communities are brought together over water supply and sanitation. Urban settings pose particular technical and institutional challenges and require a variety of locally-based management arrangements.  

Contracting NGOs

Bringing NGOs into a partnership arrangement can be challenging.  Here we look at the pros and cons of contracting in NGO support.  

Benefits of partnership to civil society

A short overview of some of the main benefits (and challenges) of multi-sector partnerships for civil society bodies.

Stakeholder engagement in partnerships

An overview exploring the meaning of "stakeholder engagement" in relation to partnerships and related discussion tools.