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The NGO Café: What are NGOs??
What are NGOs? "Non-Governmental Organizations" or NGOs are best understood by what they are not - they are not governmental, they do not make a profit, or are not partisan/sectarian. In general, an NGO is (a) formally or informally organized around shared purposes; (b) nongovernmental, and so not part of the state apparatus; (c) self-governing, rather than externally controlled; and (d) voluntary both in the sense of being non-compulsory, and involvement in their governance or operations.

Recognizing the importance of understanding the nature of NGOs and their activities, the NGO Cafe has devoted a whole section on defining NGOs: "NGO Pigeon Holes." Documents such as "Definitions of an NGO"; "NPOs, NGDOs and CBOs: NGO acronyms"; "Three Generations of NGO Development Programme Strategies"; "Types of NGOs: By orientation and level of Operation"; "Classifying NGOs"; "NGOs: Advantages and Disadvantages"; "Keywords and Concepts associated with NGOs"; "Policy Networks and Decision-making Styles" etc. are available in the section.

Throughout the Cafe, the term NGO is used in a very generic sense and includes most of its variations and forms. While there are a number of variations to the definition of NGOs, here it is taken to mean small NGOs, focussing on activities in developing countries, operating at the local level in cities and towns, and targeting low-income groups for their development.

Comments, suggestions and contributions will always be welcome. Please send an email to - Hari Srinivas at

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