There are power differentials between donors and recipient organizations that can undermine results at the community level. This paper explores perspectives of staff, partners and contacts of a particular non-governmental organization (NGO1) who work in and with Malawians in Central Africa. The data for this qualitative study is derived from 26 semi-structured interviews that were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using Atlas.ti, a data software system, to organize themes. Interviews were conducted in the US (n=6) and Malawi (n=20). Non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) and community-based organizations’ (CBOs) perspectives about providing community services within the constraints of donor directives in a country beset with poverty, disease and a poor mortality rate across the population provide a framework for three themes identified in the data: 1) Donor accountability and recognition; 2) What to fund?; and 3) Sustainability. Participant perspectives echo principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR), an egalitarian, bottom-up approach in which community knowledge is valued alongside scientific knowledge. Participants were in agreement that unless the community supported a program, project or research, it was not sustainable. Maintaining bottom-up approaches requires resisting donor dictums, the NGO’s internal pressure to be more efficient and external pressures from communities that rely on experts. Donors who support communities in achieving their own objectives act as benefactors rather than bullies.
|Keywords:||Donor Accountability and Recognition, What to fund?, NGO, Community, Sustainability, CBPR Principles, Bottom-up Approach, Malawi|
Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor, Community Health Systems, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, USA
International Programs Director, Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, USA
Associate Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, USA
Professor, University of California, San Francisco, USA
Head of Sociology Department, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Malawi
Country Director, Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, Malawi