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Tiina Kontinen
LEARNING CHALLENGES OF NGOs IN DEVELOPMENT
Co-operation of Finnish NGOs in Morogoro, Tanzania

2007
Price 30 €
ISBN 978-952-10-2684-3 (pbk)
ISBN 978-952-10-3636-1 (PDF)

Publisher
University of Helsinki
Department of Education

Orders
Helsinki University Press
Email: books@yliopistopaino.fi
WWW: www.yliopistopaino.fi/kirjamyynti

Author
Tiina Kontinen


Abstract
 
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have gained an important role in development co-operation during the last two decades. The development funding channelled through NGOs has increased and the number of NGOs engaged in development activities, both North and South, has been growing. Supporting NGOs has been seen as one way to strengthen civil society in the South and to provide potential for enhancing more effective development than the state, and to exercise participatory development and partnership in their North-South relationships.

This study focuses on learning in the co-operation practices of small Finnish NGOs in Morogoro, Tanzania. Drawing on the cultural-historical activity theory and the theory of expansive learning, in this study I understand learning as a qualitative change in the actual co-operation practices. The qualitative change, for its part, emerges out of attempts to deal with the contradictions in the present activity. I use the concepts of developmental contradiction in exploring the co-operation of the small Finnish NGOs with their Tanzanian counterpart. Developmental contradiction connects learning to actual practice and its historical development. By history, in this study I refer to multiple developmental trajectories, such as trajectories of individual participants, organisations, co-operation practices and the institutional system in which the NGO-development co-operation is embedded.

In the empirical chapters I explore the co-operation both in the development co-operation projects and in micro-level interaction between partners taking place within the projects. I analyse the perceptions of the Finnish participants about the different developmental trajectories, the tensions, inclusions and exclusions in the evolving object of co-operation in one project, the construction of power relations in project meetings in three projects, and the collision of explicated partnership with the emerging practice of trusteeship in one project.

On the basis of the empirical analyses I elaborate four developmental contradictions and learning challenges for the co-operation. The developmental contradictions include: 1) implementing a ready-made Finnish project idea vs. taking the current activities of Tanzanian NGO as a starting point; 2) gaining experiences and cultural interaction vs. access to outside funding; 3) promoting the official tools of development co-operation in training vs. use of tools and procedures taken from the prior activities of both partners in actual practice; and 4) asymmetric relations between the partners vs. rhetoric of equal partnership. Consequently, on the basis of developmental contradictions four learning challenges are suggested: a shift from legitimation of Finnish ideas to negotiation, transcending the separate objects and finding a partly joint object, developing locally shared tools for the co-operation, and identification and reflection of the power relations in the practice of co-operation.

Keywords: activity theory; expansive learning; NGO development co-operation; partnership; power

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