The Role and impact of NGOs in capacity development: from replacing the state to reinvigorating education

Ulleberg, Inger
Rethinking capacity development
48 p.

Online version

About the publication

As development actors, NGOs have become key service providers in countries where the government is unable to fulfill its traditional role. In the education sector, many NGOs have gone past 'gap-filling' initiatives into capacity development activities. Through a review of academic articles and NGO working papers, this paper examines the impact of NGOs on capacity development, their comparative advantages and the specific challenges they encounter. NGOs are increasingly involved in capacity development. As development focuses more on reinforcing skills and tools for strengthening the public sector and civil society, NGOs have moved away from a simple focus on traditional service provision. In their capacity development work, at times, they show greater ability to innovate and they adapt more quickly than national governments, therefore, their actions may undermine government initiatives. But if they scale up their activities and impart their knowledge and techniques to the government level, the country as a whole could benefi t. NGO interventions are also plagued by severe obstacles. Their impact suffers from limited outreach and from their general independence from the state. Unless they become partners with government, and not competitors, their capacity development initiatives may remain stunted.