Study Groups

NGOs in Development

The NGO Study Group provides a forum for academics and researchers working on issues around civil society and development. The NGO Study Group has debated themes such as: research collaboration between academics and practitioners, NGOs and migration, local organisations and emergency relief, the ethnography of NGOs, and civil society and counter-terrorism.
An internet discussion forum, accessed via the INTRAC website, offers a private space for researchers to share their experiences and resources. Regular emails keep members informed of upcoming events. The study group has over 50 members.

If you interested in joining the NGO study mailing list and/or the internet forum then please contact:
Rachel Hayman, INTRAC
Susannah Pickering-Saqqa


DSA Conference 2014: Panel Concept Note - CALL FOR PAPERS

Development Studies Association Annual Conference 2014
London, 1st November 2014

‘NGOs in the new global context’

In line with the broad conference theme, the NGOs in Development Study Group is interested in receiving papers which explore the following issues:

  • What are the implications of the changing global context of development for international, national or local NGOs? What new challenges are they facing and how are they addressing them? What new patterns of interaction are we seeing? Which traditional areas of NGO activity are declining and what new areas are arising?
  • What contributions are NGOs making to the reconceptualization of development in the changing context? To what extent can and do NGOs shape our understanding of development in light of global economic change, new forms of international interdependence, new actors, and new forms of vulnerability?

The NGOs in Development Study Group will convene one panel at the conference, including three papers addressing the above themes. Preference is given for papers that present exciting, new theoretical or empirical research that has not yet been published.

We aim to have a panel that balances academic and practitioner inputs, so we welcome papers from academics and NGO practitioners, and also from research that has emerged through collaboration between academics and practitioners.

Panel Convenors: Rachel Hayman and Susannah Pickering-Saqqa

Key dates:

  • Deadline for Abstracts (please see below for the format of abstracts) – Monday 2nd June 2014
  • Authors will be informed of the decision on papers by Monday 9th June (note that if we are unable to accommodate your paper, there is the possibility of submitting it to the DSA as a stand-alone paper; the deadline for these is Monday 16th June).
  • Deadline for Submission of the full Panel Proposal by the convenors to the DSA to include Panel Concept Note and Individual Paper Abstracts – Monday 16th June
  • Selected panels will be notified by Friday 27th June 2014
  • Deadline for receipt of papers - Friday 12th September 2014
  • Registration deadline for presenters and chairs:  Friday 12th September 2014
  • Deadline for Presentations to the DSA: 24th October 2014

We would advise that you read the full call for papers/panels, available on the conference pages of the DSA website, which explains the parameters and restrictions for papers. For example, please note that you can only present one paper at the conference, and you must be available for the whole day as we cannot guarantee the slot we will have. 

Format for Abstracts

Abstracts must be submitted in the following format:

- Title of Paper
- Saved (electronic) file name of Paper Abstract

- Name(s) of the paper author(s)
- Affiliations of paper author(s)
- Contact email of paper author
Abstract (between 250 – 500 words):


Next meeting: 23/04/2014

Next meeting agenda:

Knowledge(s) in civil society organisations in development

University of Leeds, 23-24 April 2014

The DSA NGO study group, in conjunction with the BISA NGO working group, invite contributions to a workshop on 23-24 April in Leeds on the production and use of knowledge in civil society organisations. In development practice, CSOs often have the role of mediating between local and expert knowledge. In this context CSOs are considered to have a comparative advantage since they often have in-depth knowledge of local realities. Recently there has been pressure on CSOs to demonstrate evidence of the impact their work is having. This pressure has increased the knowledge production in CSOs and added to the volume that already exists in relation to CSOs advocacy work. The managing of knowledge production in CSOs is a challenging combination of value-based, issue-focused, managerial and academic aspirations, combined with questions related to capacity and research-practice relationships.

The 2-day workshop intends to explore the practicalities surrounding these issues and reflect on what constitutes knowledge in this particular organisational sphere. It will focus, among others, on epistemological questions on the nature of knowledge, objectivity in advocacy, as well as opportunities and challenges for knowledge production in CSOs in relation to programme management and academic research.

The workshop aims to identify topics for publication that can be submitted to a journal or for an edited book. Papers will be divided into groups based on the abstracts and each paper will be allocated sufficient time to be profoundly discussed. In order to give each paper sufficient time, the number of participants is limited to 20. The selection of participants will be conducted on the basis of the abstracts. NB: participants must be members either of the DSA or BISA.

Please send an abstract of maximum 500 words including your name and affiliation by 10 March 2014 to: and . Participants will be expected to produce a draft paper by 15 April for circulation amongst other participants.

More information on the venue, accommodation and subsidies for PhD students will be made available to participants.

Previous meeting(s):

DSA Annual Conference, 6 November 2013

“NGOs and Development Communications in the 21st Century”

There are clear indications that the issue of how and with whom development agencies and specifically NGOs communicate is moving up the agenda. These include the introduction and rapid growth of the Communication for Development (C4D) network and the increasing range of roles in NGOs for those with digital communication skills. 

Development NGOs have engaged with this debate through practice that reflects the full spectrum of understandings of C4D. Major international NGOs are increasingly making use of technologies such as Contact Record Management systems to take their supporters on “journeys” from casual engagement through to regular donors and campaigners. 

At a time when researchers are still teasing out the implications of the Kony2012 film (Beckett 2013) and critiquing the likely effectiveness of the IF campaign around the 2013 G8 development policy “asks”, it is important for NGOs to consider the implications of these wider C4D debates for their own practice. This panel seeks to engage with theoretical and empirical research by exploring NGO responses to these issues. We will invite papers that explore the following questions:

  • How do development NGOs conceptualise and operationalise C4D?
  • What empirical evidence is there for “dominant” and “participatory” approaches to C4D in NGOs?
  • What are the factors that contribute to the adoption by NGOs of different approaches to C4D?
  • Is there evidence from that participatory approaches to C4D are more likely to lead to sustainable outcomes?
  • How can NGOs use participatory approaches to C4D to respond to the “results” agenda?
  • What has been and is the attitude of donors to funding different approaches?
  • What challenges do development NGOs face in evaluating their communications work?
  • What structural constraints do NGOs face in seeking to mainstream participatory approaches to communications across their work?
  • What evidence is there that communications work is marginalized by development NGOs into one-way messaging and public relations?
  • How do development NGOs communicate with their peers?
  • In what ways do digital technologies and social media constrain or liberate participatory approaches to communications in NGOs?
  • How has the production and reception of international development news been affected by changes in development needs and new/social media?
  • What challenges do NGOs face in developing the appropriate skill-set amongst staff and volunteers for participatory communications?

Confirmed panel speakers:

·         Funmi Ogunlusi (University of Oxford) 'Framing Poverty: Investigating Charity Campaign Photography'

·         Dr Kalpana Wilson (Gender Institute, London School of Economics) ''Leading the revolution?' NGOs and the language of social justice'

·         Teresa Hanley (independent consultant) ‘Challenges in evaluating communication work: the case of arts in development’


NGOs, Evidence, Policy and Practice

DSA Study Group on NGOs in Development

Wednesday 1st May 2013 (webinar)
View the Webinar Report

This virtual seminar (webinar), organised by the DSA Study Group on NGOs in Development, explored the pressure on NGOs to produce more robust evidence in their reports, evaluations, case studies and communications. There were four presentations, questions and discussion: 

Research and advocacy: ideas from NGOs in Malawi, Kate Gooding, University of Leeds

Towards contextual evidence of empowerment in a development NGO, Tiina Kontinen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Experiences from a systematic review of aid for maternal health: a reflection on why NGO studies rarely made the grade, Rachel Hayman, INTRAC

The Evidence Principles: experiences from a pilot tool, Jo Jeans, CAFOD (representing PPA Empowerment & Accountability Learning group)


The Accountability, Legitimacy and Credibility of International Development NGOs
DSA Annual Conference
November 2012

The Study Group held a panel at the DSA Annual Conference on 3rd November 2012 to explore new theoretical and empirical research on questions around the accountability, legitimacy and credibiilty of NGOs. Papers explored peer-regulation initiatives; public accountability; accountability between NGOs, donors and their publics; downwards accountability betweewn NGOs and local partners and beneficiaries. 

Cracking Collaboration – A new look at partnerships in international development research March-June 2012

The Study Group was awarded a small grant under the New Ideas Initiative. Run by researchers from INTRAC, the University of Bradford and World Vision UK, the project explored research collaboration between academics and NGOs. A one-day workshop, attended by Study Group members and representatives of NGOs and DFID, was held on 3-4 May 2012.

Full details and project outputs can be found here  

Rachel Hayman, Susannah Pickering Saqqa
01865 263 044