In the provision of public services, a certain integrity of intent is necessary to build a healthy and vibrant society. The services provided by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are part of the brick-and-mortar foundation of social protection. The projects and programs they implement can be understood as a manifestation of the compassion of those who have (in dollars) for those who suffer in unjust and dire circumstances. Rarely are these projects intended to be a permanent solution to these social ills. Instead they are meant to catalyze a self-healing within the people that participate. To do this they must be fine tuned to the situations and contexts which they address. Partnerships with local NGO’s have become increasingly important. However, the “partnership” between donors and these local NGO’s sometimes suffers from uneven power dynamics. As the number of dollars spent on social services and ‘development’ projects undertaken by NGO’s increases, development is simultaneously burdened with higher expectations of both process and product. In the case of Sarvodaya, the largest indigenous NGO in Sri Lanka, the rapid increase in aid dollars received as a result of the Indian Ocean Tsunami has created an exaggerated case of the impact of this ‘scaling up’ in one organization. Some of the lessons learned from this case can be applied to other actors within what has become the aid industry. The research in this paper focuses on the relationship between the donors and the institution of Sarvodaya. It seeks to determine the nature of their influence, and whether that relationship can truly be termed a ‘partnership’. It will explore the nature of vertical and horizontal accountability in partnership. It seeks to make recommendations to the practices and structures that could improve the dynamic between the actors. Practically, this is expected to have implications for the establishment of a Partner Coordination Unit within the Sarvodaya organization. Although Sarvodaya is a unique case, many of the findings and suggestions are applicable in other contexts as well.


International and Area Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences