Faculty Scholarship Digest
Garry W. Jenkins
Garry Jenkins, Nongovernmental Organizations and the Forces Against Them: Lessons of the Anti-NGO Movement, 37 BROOKLYN J. OF INT’L L. 459 (2012).
This rich and comprehensive article thoughtfully examines the rapid rise of nongovernmental organizations (“NGOs”) and the critiques of NGOs that have arisen from both right and left and from governments, and offers normatively and instrumentally prescriptive lessons for NGOs from this analysis. International NGOs have grown tremendously in size and significance to become important participants in international “humanitarian relief, conflict resolution, economic and social development, environmental protection” and much more. This growth and influence, carefully described in the article, has provoked a backlash that the article also details. From the right, NGOs are criticized for undermining democratic practices and national sovereignty, as well as for undermining free-markets and corporate interests. From the left, in ironic contrast, NGOs are criticized for “furthering Western capitalist interests,” for being ultimately more concerned with the interests of their underlying funding sources than of the populations they are organized to serve.
What to make of these critiques? “Accountability” is a concept increasingly imported from the private to the nonprofit sector with inadequate appreciation of the differences in its application. Garry is nationally recognized for his work mapping those differences and their effects and for developing important critiques of the new fashion of “philanthrocapitalism.” While a supporter of NGOs, Garry uses that same toolbox to offer them lessons from the critiques they now face. While rejecting the notion that NGOs have become too powerful, Garry argues that NGOs based in developed countries have become too directive of the NGOs they support in developing countries. NGO’s must not only be “accountable” to funders, but also sensitive to their “authenticity and voice,” as opposed to merely serving as subcontractors for funders in developed countries. “As foundation assets and interest in international philanthropy grow, the anti-NGO movement will grow as well, unless . . . funders address the problem and their own responsibility for its creation.”
Garry W. Jenkins, Who’s Afraid of Philanthrocapitalism?, 61 Case Western L. Rev. 753 (2011)
This article closely examines and critiques the related phenomena of philanthrocapitalism and strategic grantmaking, which are profoundly changing the operation of the nonprofit sector in subtle but very significant ways. From both theoretical and empirical perspectives the article reveals the subtle but very serious negative consequences of these highly touted new approaches.
“[P]hilanthrocapitalism seeks to improve the practice of philanthropy through the application of techniques common to for-profit businesses.” These techniques includes an emphasis on efficiency, performance metrics, and strategy. Garry documents how a movement that began with a few high profile billionaires moving into philanthropy has spread to foundations with a number of profound effects on nonprofits. Foundations have moved to making fewer and larger grants, have placed much greater limits on what grants can be used for and have shown an increasing tendency (documented in the article’s original research) towards “proactive grantmaking,” in which the foundation initiates the idea and the grantee carries it out. Garry analyzes how these changes may damage nonprofits. For example, the emphasis on metrics fails to understand the desirable social outcomes sought by nonprofits may be less easily measured than “profit” in business, and may create perverse incentives for grantees while stifling innovation. Another example: the “top-down” approach of proactive grantmaking substitutes the judgment of the on-the-ground charities and nonprofits about what to try and what will work with the one-size-fits-all and often less expert views of the grantors. The article takes care to acknowledge the potential advantages of the new approach, but raises very important red flags about critical shifts that, once identified and documented by Garry, will be readily visible to anyone working in the field.