Capacity development: NGOs versus Church Development Organisations

What makes a capacity development intervention with a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) different from one with a Church Development Organisation? It was one of the questions, which was discussed during the training Capacity Development with Organisations on the 7th and 10th June, 2011 at the Hendrik Kraemer Institute (HKI). The training was led by Simon Koolwijk and attended by participants from ICCOenKerkinActie and Mensen met een Missie.

The following eleven differences can be identified:
1. A NGO has more autonomy and flexibility to decide on how to develop their capacities at Human Resource (HRD), Organisational (OD) and Institutional (ID) level. A development department within a church is more dependent on approval and authorisation from church leaders. This makes the development process in the capacity development intervention slower.
2. Sensitive issues, taboes and conflicts are more easy to discuss in NGOs. Churches generally have an idealistic and spiritual mission. Through this conflicts can longer stay untouched within an organisation, because the organisation is working towards a spiritual aim and that is considered always to be good. Eventually this can contribute to extreme and explosive conflicts.
3. Injustice within a church is generally a topic not open for discussion. Many churches belief their organisational culture is fair and sincere. For NGOs the issues of injustice amongst staff members can be discussed more easily.
4. Church leaders coming from Nothern countries generally are modest and belief in participatory approaches. The religious leaders from Sounthern institutions are generally more authorative and do not leave much space for discussion in their organisation. NGOs worldwide are generally open minded for discussion about organisational development within their organisation.

5. NGOs generally have a transparent financial management system. They are obliged to publish annual financial reports including balance sheets and income-expenditure statements. Church organisations tend to have a less transparent financial system, including accountability responsibilities. The church is considered as a faith based institution and therefore members feel less commitment to make financial systems transparent. The church is from inside considered as a sincere institution.
6. The church has deeper roots and is more embedded at the grassroots level in the society. Through their structure, church development programmes can more easily reach and support poor and deprived groups than NGOs. NGOs are generally managed by well educated people and intellectuals. For them it takes much more effort to get their service delivery effectively implemented at the grassroots level.
7. The church is promoting and preaching spiritual norms and values. NGOs generally focus on support and service delivery. Therefore poor people are consulted in decision making processes about improving the quality of service delivery in programmes and projects. Churches tend to belief their practices, norms and values are right and fair. Therefore, they are less open minded to involve their beneficiaries in adjusting their programmes and projects. It is a tendency a capacity development advisor has to be aware of.
8. Usually Church based organisations observe mistakes outside their organisation. Generally they tend to have a 'blind eye' about internal mistakes. NGOs are generally more open to discuss 'mistakes'and their 'failures' within the organisation. For a capacity development advisor it is more easy to stimulate a learning organisation within a NGO. An organisation that is not willing to learn, will never be a learning organisation!

9. Staff members working with Church Development organisations generally are more committed with their work than staff with NGOs. Through their value based orientation, staff feel more connected to the values of the church and therefore have more commitment in their work.

10. Staff members working with Church Development organisations are mostly coming from the target group. They speak the language of the local people and understand their dilemma's and needs. Staff from NGO's are generally well educated people, some of them coming from elites in the society. They feel less connected with their target groups.

11. Church Development organisations are generally more sustainable organisations. They have a longer time span in implementing projects, and they continue to work and continue their service delivery whatever what happens. This creates more trust with the target groups and they feel more committed to get involved with the work of the Church Development organisations. NGOs generally have a shorter time span and their projects most last a couple of years. Therefore, it is more difficult for them to build trust with the target groups.

The differences between Church Development Organisations and NGOs have been published in the Handbook 'Religion and Development - Practitioners Guide'.

A capacity development advisor has to act cautiously and diplomatically in both types of organisations. Six months are at least needed to build relationships. By getting to know each other informally, a capacity development advisor can identify the key people in the organisation who are willing to change the organisation for the better; the so called 'change agents'. After having identified them, the next challenge is to play an assisting role as a capacity development advisor to make them some steps further in strengthening the organisation.


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