Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Winter 2017

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


South Africa is considered one of the most unequal countries in the world, even after the fall of the apartheid government in 1994. In order to address the disparities present within the country and the inability of the government to meet the needs of the disadvantaged, NGOs emerged as a possible solution and development alternative. This study aims to understand how NGOs currently operating in Durban, South Africa negotiate their role as intermediaries between donors and community members. Focusing on the perspectives of experts who work for justice-oriented NGOs, each participant’s understanding of their organization’s intermediary position is explored: what constitutes this role, how it is shaped, and how it is executed.

Qualitative data was collected for this study through semi-structured interviews in which participants were encouraged to take the conversation in whichever direction they felt most appropriate. Despite this open format, common themes emerged regarding participants’ understanding of their organization’s role as an intermediary. Sustained connections with communities were ever present, as each NGO’s work revolved around community input. Further, even amidst funding challenges, NGOs stayed true to their values and the beneficiaries they serve. In this way, each NGO’s role as an intermediary was significantly influenced by their connection to communities. Additionally, government inadequacy led to the initial foundation of each participant’s NGO and continued to impact the work each organization did and the way this work was carried out. Ultimately, this study showed that participants’ NGOs can and do create transformative development in the communities that they serve.


African Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Organization Development | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Politics and Social Change | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


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