NGOs, Civil Society, & Development

Th 9:00AM - 11:50AM / 3800 Wesley W Posvar Hall / CRN 29539

This course explores the range of non-state actors in developing/transition countries that are important to promoting socioeconomic and political change.  We will examine the origins, evolution and multiple roles played by this diverse group of non-state actors, including business and professional associations, trade unions and political movements, policy advocacy groups and civic education/democracy-building organizations.  Among the issues preoccupying practitioners and researchers, and this course, are: What factors influence the presence and vibrancy of civil society in different countries?  How do long-standing, customary forms of organization and authority shape local development, and interact with NGOs?  How has the state – in various times and places – regulated and shaped how civil society organizations pursue their goals?  With what strategies and with what success have civil society organizations been able to influence or change state policies?  What autonomy and accountability issues arise in state-civil society relations, and how does the international donor community facilitate or complicate these relationships?  Is the concept of “civil society “ as used in the aid donor countries universally applicable?

In the process we will introduce specific tools from the social disciplines and development practice for working with civil society organizations, including assessing the strength of civil societies, measuring social capital, and assessing “partner” organizations.  Understanding civil society and its relation to states and donors has direct implications for the practice of NGOs, and of other concerned with development, human rights, and the environment.  We will highlight these implications, and resources for working in the field

Number of Credits


Paul Nelson

Course Term


Course Category

Category D: Designated Courses

Course Year