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SP18 - Exploring Grassroots NGO Ecosystems: Support Structures, Networks, and Practices

Convened by John-Michael Davis (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, UK), Andrea Paras (University of Guelph, Canada) and Edward Lahiff (University College Cork, Ireland)

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Over the past fifteen years, researchers have generated new knowledge about the unique experiences and contributions of grassroots NGOs and initiatives as distinct from large international development NGOs that have tended to dominate analysis. Grassroots NGOs occupy distinct organisational ecosystems: they distinguish themselves with their flexibility, durable partnerships, and expertise in specialised issues or geographic locations that can be overlooked by large NGOs. The panel welcomes papers that address any of the following question.

  • What lessons, positive or negative, can researchers learn from grassroots NGOs and initiatives?
  • What kinds of support structures can most effectively build the capacity of grassroots NGOs?
  • How do grassroots NGOs and citizen-led initiatives participate in and contribute to different kinds of development networks in the Global North and Global South?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of grassroots organisations in relation to localisation and decolonisation?
  • How do grassroots organisations make choices about where and how they work?
  • How do organisations that are defined by their relational qualities actually perform in terms of downward accountability?
  • How do citizen-led initiatives navigate humanitarian dilemmas?
  • How do grassroots NGOs imagine their roles, operations, and aspirations in a post-COVID future?
  • What are the unique contributions of grassroots NGOs and citizen-led initiatives in reshaping our understandings and approaches to development?

The panel conveners are particularly interested in papers that examine grassroots NGOs from different organisational ecosystems in the Global North and South, in order to generate a comparative analysis.