21st Century NGO

21st Century NGO is a paper published by Sustainability after a research about the future for NGOs, how they will increasingly do business, and the challenges that their ‘markets’ increasingly present.

Surprisingly — at least for someone heavily ICT-biased as me ;) — Information and Communication Technologies are rarely treated, just when one should expect them to have an important role in the new relationship among markets and organizations.

Though I’ve not digged enough in the paper to know it by heart, I only found just two explicit references to ICTs in the section Networks, a strength shown in the SWOT analysis (page 39):

In turn, New Economy technologies — among them the internet and mobile telephones — have powerfully fuelled activism with some interviewees suggesting that in the same way that the printing press served to drive the growth of the early Protestant Church, so the internet is supporting the capacity of NGOs and civil society to network and grow. 104 As Sabine Leidig of Attac Germany put it, ‘We are the Linux model NGO.’

I guess the Internet has done — and is doing — much more than just giving a loudspeaker to NGOs. In fact, just the same concept of “network” relies on much more things than just one-to-many communication, being capacity building, exponential increase of productivity and instant and ubiquitous many-to-many communication, maybe the most important ones just to mention some of them.

I guess Sabine Leidig means by “the Linux model” the way the free software community works. I think it is quite a good example, but it can only be applied to few NGOs, being Attac one of them… but most will consider Attac not an NGO just because of its decentralization, lack of an stablished structure and budget, etc. which, in the end, was the target of the research.

ICTs are not mentioned, for example in the External Agenda, point 9, when talking about New technology:

Closely linked to trade, health and environment concerns, a number of new technologies (e.g. GM foods, human genome work, nanotechnology) will continue to spark major
controversies.

I do agree that these technologies are very important and are the debate on technology and the society — and thus, NGOs. But in the third sector, the digital divide is also the debate, fare more than in developed countries. I guess ICTs should be included in this point.

Nevertheless, besides my ICT-bias, the report is very worth reading and very rigorous :)

More info:

  • Piece of news about the report release
  • PDF file 21st Century NGO (1.27 Mb)
  • If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

    Peña-López, I. (2005) “21st Century NGO” In ICTlogy, #22, July 2005. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
    Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=299

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