The editors of this selection of essays on the management of non-govermental development organisations (i.e. those groups tackling poverty or injustice in the developing world) compare the task to that of steering a white water raft.
The recent revelation that some smaller UK-based NGOs face extinction because of difficulties in getting funding from the Department for International Development would seem to bear out the analogy. The statistic, noted in this volume, that aid from northern governments fell by 21 per cent from 1991 to 1998 perhaps illustrates the precarious situation in which UK overseas aid agencies find themselves. Ironically, Clare Short has secured an increase in the aid budget but NGOs do not seem to be the chosen conduit.
The editors argue that the NGOs' managers face a more complex set of demands than either elected politicians or the chief executives of companies.
Unlike governments held to account through elections or businesses which must face their shareholders, NGOs have no bottom line to measure performance.
Instead they are accountable to many different stakeholders including donors, trustees, and beneficiaries. As a result, NGO managers need "managerial skills of the highest order
- their own set of skills, not borrowed from government or business schools.