Accepted paper:

Organizational legitimacy and the goal of tackling inequalities: Multiple strategies and practices of a Ugandan gender NGO


Tiina Kontinen (University of Jyväskylä)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from the theory of organizational legitimacy the evolving strategies to reach the organizational goal of tackling inequalities vis-á-vis different audiences such as power holders, beneficiaries, members and donors in a gender NGO are examined.

Paper long abstract:

The NGOnization of civil society in development has been under critical scrutiny. The legitimacy of professionalized NGOs has been challenged on the basis of the detachment from the grassroots, assumed right to intervene, and their inability to address structural inequalities. However, at the same time, a number of NGOs hold tackling inequalities as their organizational goal. Drawing from the theory of organizational legitimacy in organizational institutionalism, the paper explores the ways this particular goal is made legitimate vis-á-vis different audiences. On the basis of an example of and Ugandan gender NGO with a history of over 30 years, it identifies simultaneous strategies of realizing the goal and gaining legitimacy vis-á-vis the decision-makers, rural populations, members, and international donors. The strategies and the explicit practical perceptions of inequality have changed over the years through organizational encounters, and the NGO has remarkable achievements in many fronts. Taking the perspective of one particular NGO, the paper scrutinizes the roles, possibilities, and challenges of tackling inequalities within organizational manifestations of civil society.

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The role of civil society in addressing inequalities in developing countries (Paper)