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Living with paradox in sustainable development: An extended case study of an international NGO

Wadham, Helen and Urquhart, Cathy and Warren, Richard (2019) Living with paradox in sustainable development: An extended case study of an international NGO. European Journal of Development Research, 31. pp. 1263-1286. ISSN 0957-8811

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Abstract

International non-governmental organisations (NGOs) combine practical and advocacy efforts to address global challenges like poverty and climate change. However, NGOs are embedded within the same global system they seek to challenge. This article explore the tensions this raises from the vantage point of one particular organisation (Concern Universal). Drawing on a paradox perspective, we find that despite the structural constraints, NGO actors and the poor people they work alongside are active and well-informed participants in the development process. However, a focus on the communicative labour of NGOs uncovers the power relations at play in that work. Nonetheless, our paper challenges ideas about development as ‘us versus them’. Rather, by focusing our analysis on the relationships between NGO actors and multiple others, we show how the organisation is effectively constituted by these and other relationships.

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