NGOs, social change and the transformation of human relationships: a 21st-century civic agenda

NGOs, social change and the transformation of human relationships: a 21st-century civic agenda

NGOs and personal change for social transformation

This paper explores the role of personal values in achieving social change. It argues that globalisation has shifted the balance of power from public to private interests, resulting in an emerging social order that excludes or oppresses certain groups of people. In order to achieve sustainable development a deeper change in power relations is necessary. Hence, there must be a shift from using power over others to advance selfish interests, to using power to facilitate the self development of all, and this can only be achieved by personal inner change.

The paper argues that NGOs, as explicitly values-based organisations, have an important role to play in making these changes. They can play it through:

  • their programme activities: they can regulate, and ultimately re-construct, all systems of power in ways which achieve a more equal distribution of what they deliver, less costly ways of producing it, and more co-operative values and behaviour among those involved as producers or consumers
  • their constituency-building: NGOs should use their high levels of public trust and extended fund-raising networks as channels for personal transformation and lifestyle change amongst their constituency in the North
  • their own organisational practices: NGOs must be exemplars of the society they want to create by showing that it is possible to be an effective organisation which values its employees as it does its partners, fights discrimination, practices internal democracy, and always uses the organisational power it has in liberating ways.

[adapted from author]

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