Accepted paper:


Exploring NGOs' compliance and resistance to managerialism: whose interests matter?


Emanuela Girei (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on empirical work with NGOs, this research explores various forms of resistance and scrutinises their political clout. It concludes by suggesting that micro-resistance can play a crucial role in emancipatory projects only when organically linked with transformative political agenda.

Paper long abstract:

This article is about resistance to managerialism. In the last decade, several scholars have explored how the progressive managerialisation of the NGO sector has detrimentally impacted on their commitment towards social justice and emancipatory transformation. In particular, it has been argued that the dominant development management framework, focused on value-for-money, standardization and performance measurement has progressively oriented them toward service delivery and depoliticised democracy promotion, encroaching their engagement with long-term social transformation agendas. Analysing the literature that explores NGOs mangerialisation, it emerges that NGOs are represented along three different roles. According to some scholars, NGOs are powerless actors that reluctantly adopt managerialist thinking and practices, so to meet donors' requirements and ensure their financial survival. Other studies see the progressive managerialisation of the NGOs as the result of internal opportunistic pushes, largely due to NGOs' ambition to grow financially and elevate their status. Thirdly, other researchers associate NGO managerialisation to their progressive professionalization and thus explain it as an evolutionary step that has allowed NGOs to grow in size and influence within the development industry. However, while the extant literature has explored in depth how NGOs have reacted to the pressure toward managerialisation, little attention has been given to analyse whether NGOs resist it and how, in what circumstances and with which outcomes. This study aims to engage with this gap, drawing on extended fieldwork with NGOs in sub-Sahara Africa, which provided enlightening opportunities to reflect on various forms through which NGOs oppose and resist the managerialisation of their work.

E-paper: this paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed

panel C3
Unravelling, unfolding and unsettling NGOs' work, role and methodologies