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Ngo Research Program


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  • 1. NGO Research Program
    • Collective action perspective
    • Theories from social movement and international political economy (political science) literatures—a largely macro perspective
    • Reason about NGOs as we reason about firms
      • As purposeful organizations
      • Draw on the non-profits literature
    • The theories do not fit the focus very well
      • Theories are macro and focus on the organization
      • Theories tend to blend the positive and normative
      • Should focus on interactions between NGOs and economic agents: What NGOs want and their strategies for getting it.
    • The missing discipline is (micro)economics
  • 2. Microeconomics perspective
    • NGOs as rational and strategic actors
      • Agents of social pressure—funded by and draw strength and influence from the public
    • Preferences are different for those of firms—environment, redistribution, rights
    • Their business is eliciting change on the part of private economic actors
    • Engage in public and private politics
    • Most specialize—by issue (issues may be linked)
    • An issue is like an “industry” with suppliers (NGOs) and targets, consumers/public, donors
    • The institutional arena is public sentiment
  • 3. Microeconomics perspective (cont.)
    • NGOs as organizations choose their capabilities; e.g., science, litigation, advocacy, harassment
    • They differentiate their product.
      • Collaboration—Environmental Defense, Conservation International
      • Confrontation—Greenpeace, RAN, Global Exchange
    • There is matching—which NGOs work with/target which firms?
      • Do collaborators have to have in-house expertise; e.g., science
    • They compete in markets
      • For resources—funds, employees, members, volunteers
      • For influence
      • For public credibility (the extent to which the public believes their advocacy/claims)
    • There are successes and failures
    • An industrial organization of activism
  • 4. Research questions
    • What do they really want (objectives, goals)?
      • Is it economic efficiency? E.g., addressing negative externalities?
      • Is it redistribution?
      • Is it a change in how resources are allocated?
    • How are they organized?
    • How do they raise funds and manage donor relations?
    • How does matching of NGOs and economic agents work?
      • How are targets and collaborators selected?
    • How efficient and effective are they? Which strategies are most effective and in which circumstances?
    • Why are they effective; i.e., why do firms change their behavior? Are firms really vulnerable? Will the public act given collective action problems?
    • Why does the public view NGO advocacy as credible and business advocacy with skepticism? Because of their objectives?
  • 5. NGOs as managed organizations
    • What are the boundaries of the organization
      • For what do they contract
      • For what do they enlist volunteers; e.g., unions eliciting college students
    • What capabilities do they maintain inside the organization: scientific, legal, lobbying, climbing buildings
    • Internal organization, leadership, and agency relationships
    • What resources do they attract and how do they attract them
    • Performance—what do they accomplish with their resources?
      • What is the return (financial and reputational) from a successful campaign?
      • Which organizations thrive, survive, and fail and why?
    • Governance structures and accountability (to whom?)
    • Carriers of reputations
      • Greenpeace and RAN have reputations that discourage collaboration
      • CI and ED have reputations and expertise that attract collaborators
      • How is credibility enhanced or diminished?
  • 6. Strategies
    • Mix of public and private politics strategies
    • Target firms rather than citizens or governments
      • Little emphasis on educating the public
      • Many have abandoned trying to influence governments
    • Mix of campaigns—corporate and market
      • Developing leverage; e.g., in socially-conscious markets
    • Get others to carry your water
      • NGOs attack international banks; banks seek to avoid heat and obtain cover by forming the Equator Principles; lead organizing banks recruit other banks
    • Use of the media
      • To increase pressure
      • To build own reputation
    • Leverage through partnering/alliances/networks
  • 7. Anatomy of a campaign
    • Campaign goals
    • Strategy and tactics
      • What do they do and when do they do it?
        • Use of the media
        • Pressure and coercion
      • How far to go; e.g., harass a CEO? Break the law?
      • Alliances
    • Target responses
      • Proactive
      • Reactive; e.g., fighting
    • When to give up and redirect the campaign
    • How resolutions are reached
    • How outcomes are governed
  • 8. Anatomy of collaboration
    • Who initiated an effort at collaboration?
    • Who accepted and rejected an invitation and why?
    • Was, and if so why was, trust present at the beginning? At the end?
    • How was the collaboration organized?
      • Was there a common understanding? A formal agreement?
    • What was the outcome? What were the costs and benefits? What was learned?
    • Did the collaboration lead to follow-up collaborations?
      • NRDC and Dow Chemical
  • 9. What are the consequences?
    • Of campaigns and collaboration
      • Changes in firm behavior/no changes
        • costs and benefits
        • NGO: externalities and redistribution
        • Firm: sales and profits; i.e., did consumers or the stock market reward the changed behavior? Was a target penalized for not changing?
      • Agreements and governance arrangements
        • monitoring and compliance
        • dealing with unanticipated events
    • Induced (forestalling) behavior (in advance of targeting)
      • Seeking cover—SFI
      • Embracing CSR
      • Self-regulation
      • Reputation management
    • How effective is the induced (forestalling) behavior in deterring a campaign or social pressure?
  • 10. What are the problems of NGOs?
    • An inability to commit; e.g., does a timber firm want to get into bed with the NGOs sponsoring FSC?
      • Oneself—not to act opportunistically
      • Others—that may target collaborators; e.g., FLA & WRC
    • Are they coercive? Is coercion outside the institutions of government acceptable? What are the limits?
    • Conducting affairs through the media and in the absence of a deliberative consideration of the matter
    • Are they punished by the media and the public for their mistakes, inaccuracies, and exaggerations?
    • Can they handle monitoring and compliance?
    • Accountability to whom and for what?
      • Should there be regulation? SOx
  • 11. Research approaches
    • Normative (public economics)—which can provide a public good most efficiently
      • government
      • firms
      • not-for-profits and NGOs
    • Positive
      • Why the ascendancy of NGOs?
      • Why have NGOs turned to private politics rather than public politics?
      • Understanding campaign and collaboration strategies
      • Can the locus of campaigns and collaborations be predicted? Matches?
      • Consequences?
    • Empirical
      • Case studies
      • Databases
    • Comparative—across countries/societies/cultures
  • 12. Example: Private Politics Campaign
    • Four year campaign by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) against Citigroup regarding project finance
    • Citigroup weakened by a series of major scandals
    • In June 2003 Citigroup and 3 other banks (also under pressure) announced the Equator Principles for project finance—to protect ecosystems
    • RAN (and other NGOs) praised the EP but stated that the loopholes were big enough to “drive a bulldozer through”
    • After 8 months of negotiations with RAN, Citigroup adopted a new policy going considerably beyond the Equator Principles; e.g., identified “High Caution Zones;” covered general corporate loans; no minimum project size; investments in sustainable development; supporting FSC certified forest products in emerging markets; no illegal logging
    • RAN sought and Citigroup refused public enforcement
      • A signed contract
      • Board approval of the agreement
    • Citigroup and RAN developed (evolving) monitoring mechanisms
      • Citigroup quarterly shows confidential lending data to RAN
      • Plus a “no surprises” agreement
    • Enforcement limited to resuming the campaign
  • 13. Example—Fair Labor Association
    • Participation (bargaining)
      • Participants—Apparel and footwear firms and NGOs
      • Non-participants—unions and their allies
    • Representation (on board)
      • Participants plus licensors
    • Legislation; e.g., revisions of code
      • Supermajority of board
    • Regulation
      • Promulgation of rules
    • Information generation
      • Self-reporting—to FLA
      • Independent inspections
    • Enforcement
      • Board directives—comply with rules
      • Public disclosure—release of inspection reports by majority rule
    • Judiciary—hear and resolve complaints and disputes