3.2 Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

NGOs are any organisation that is not governmental, but in the literature the term has a narrower conceptualisation, for example: Potter and Taylor (1996) define an NGO as an organisation that is not only non-governmental, but also non-profit, hierarchical, with several full-time staff, a budget and an office. Also, as Thomas et al (2001) notes “Most writers restrict usage … further, excluding political parties and religious congregations and, in some cases, peasants’ organisations and trade unions.” This is still quite broad, but an NGO typology (see table below) helps develop a clearer idea of the range of organisations under consideration.

Table 2 Types of NGO (adapted from Thomas et al, 2001).

Mutual benefitPublic benefitPublic benefit
Membership NGOsCampaigning NGOsCharitable or service providing NGOs
InternationalFederations of local and national membership organisations e.g. International Co-operative AllianceEnvironmental NGOs such as GreenpeaceDevelopment NGOs such as Lutheran World Federation
NationalNational membership organisations or federations of local organisationsConservation NGOs and pressure groupsService providing NGOs
LocalMember-based ‘grassroots organisations’ and local environmental campaignsLocal campaigns for public benefitLocal charities or service providing NGOs

Associations would be a subset of the range of organisations in column 1 (mutual benefit). When considering how associations and NGOs exert influence, it is important to consider their co-ordinative function both internally, managing relations with their constituent groups, and externally, managing relations with the market and/or the state. In the section above on associations we focused on how associations can influence state policies and the institution of the market, largely through a complex corporatist bargaining process.

Both the corporatist bargaining process typical of the association model, and the exertion of influence through political and democratic processes, represent important ways of thinking about how technology policy and institutions are influenced and changed.

3.3 Innovation in institutions: policy and NGOs