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October 18, 2017: Invitation to evaluate collected data & presentation of results

We are pleased to release our ‘checker’ that will allow for organisations to explore the information we have collected about them throughout this project. We invite organisations to discover if they have been included in the research and check and feedback on the data we hold by using the database available from this link.

We are also pleased to announce we will be presenting our research at a discussion on the 13th November 2017 at the University of Sheffield.

Public Attitudes to International Development in the UK and Funding for UK-based Development NGOs: Trends, Patterns and New Data

The attitude of different elements of the UK public to the work of development NGOs, and support for international development itself, is a continual source of fascination for all working in the sector. And with good reason – without the right political support or funding it becomes difficult to fight for the juster world for which the sector strives. The general impressions are that while political support for international development remains high across party lines, this is likely to be the view of a political elite. Attitudes among the general UK public to development causes seem to suggest declining support.

It is, however, difficult to get anything other than anecdotal evidence for this view. Indeed it is hard to get robust evidence at all as to what people ‘really’ think, and how those thoughts shape their actions. It is methodologically hard to do. This is an issue which requires triangulation of different sources.

On November 13th we will bring together three unique and novel pieces of research that explore this problem from three different angles, as well as an excellent audience to interrogate the findings.

The research projects are:

1. The Gates Aid Attitudes Tracker which explores changes in attitudes to development aid and behaviours by tracking a nationally representative sample of 8000 respondents by surveying them every six months since 2013.

2. The findings of a 3 year study that provides the first evidence-based psychosocial account of how and why people respond or not to messages about distant suffering.

3. Our own project- research into the changing income and expenditure patterns of a panel of 900 development organisations since 2004, with a detailed breakdown of the changing sources of income from 2009-2015.

We are excited about this prospect. The projects presented here are individually fascinating. But taken collectively, they have the potential substantially to improve our understanding of the issue, raising a host of insights, questions and further issues.

 But be warned! The results of these studies are not all concordant. Part of the purpose of this seminar is to work out why. Our hope is that by bringing together an audience of academic researchers and NGO colleagues, and by highlighting the findings which excite, alarm and puzzle us, we will stimulate feedback that will shape the next stages of our work and produce useful outcomes for the sector as a whole.

 Each team will speak for 20 minutes (short summaries can be found here and more details will be released nearer the time). There will then be at least an hour for questions.  

The event will be held in Conference Room, ICOSS Building, Sheffield, November 13th 2017, 3pm- 5pm.

You can participate in person (the event will be held in Sheffield) by registering via eventbrite here (or cut and paste https://siid_13th_nov.eventbrite.co.uk into your browser)  or to receive further information about the live stream please complete the form here. If you have any queries or want to know more please contact Dan Brockington at d.brockington@sheffield.ac.uk, Nicola Banks at nicola.banks@manchester.ac.uk or the Faculty of Social Sciences Events Team at fss-facultyeventsteam@sheffield.ac.uk. You can follow the event on #att2dev

September 30, 2016: Invitation to evaluate collected data
For the past nine months our team have been creating a database that holds information on close to 1000 UK-based development NGOs. These data have been taken from publicly available sources, and encompass the financial output of the NGOs, the activities they undertake, and the partners with whom they work.

This database has thus far enabled us to identify key financial trends within the development NGO sector over the last five years, and emphasised the tendency of NGOs to favour headquarters in the South of England. Further detail as to the first stage of the research project can be found here, taken from this draft report produced for the FSI Small Charities Debate back in June.

As we move into the second stage of the project we will be inviting organisations to comment and/or amend the information we have collected about them. We are aware our inputs may be at times messy or deficient, and we encourage NGOs to feedback and engage with the research. We hope this process will enable a detailed map of the development NGO sector in the UK to be produced, the first of its kind in attempting to understand the operations of the organisations as a whole, alongside the networks within the sector.

We will open the database up to all NGOs involved in the study, and encourage interaction with the data, later this month. In the meantime, we invite organisations to discover if they have been included in the research. An explanation of why some general categories of NGOs have been excluded is here.

We are excited to engage with the sector and hope our findings can help to build a more effective and connected network of development NGOs.

June 15, 2016: FSI Small Charities International Development Debate
Represented by Prof. David Hulme (GDI, Manchester), we participated in the FSI’s Small Charities International Development Debate at the House of Lords in London on June 15, 2016, as part of Small Charity Week. Research Associate Sarah Illingworth wrote this recap of the day.

Global Development Institute (GDI) head David Hulme represented a research project run jointly by GDI (the University of Manchester) and SIID (the University of Sheffield) today, at the Small Charities International Development Debate at the House of Lords in London. The project is seeking to map and give insight into the operations of and relationships within the UK-based international development NGO (INGO) sector. Hosted by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI), the debate was part of FSI’s Small Charity Week, and addressed the moot: The future of international aid: will small international development charities survive? David took the affirmative, as did S.A.L.V.E. International CEO Nicola Sansom and SNP National Secretary and Westminster Spokesperson on International Development Patrick Grady. On the opposing team were campaigner, writer and consultant on NGO strategy Deborah Doane, and founder and CEO of Teach a Man to Fish, Nik Kafka. The debate was chaired by Bibi Van der Zee, Editor at the Guardian’s Global Development Professional Network.

Speaking first, Nicola Sansom pointed out that small INGOs are risk-takers, have low overheads and develop and maintain strong networks. She also noted that increasingly affordable comms routes mean costs are less of a barrier to awareness-raising, and also make it easier for charities to exercise transparency with donors and other stakeholders. David also made a case for small INGOs’ capacity for networking and partnerships, pointing out that they play an important role in connecting complex debates at an interpersonal, community level and in diversifying ‘official’ development messaging and activity. He argued that plenty of donors are still looking to engage with small INGOs in their capacity as an important, active component of civil society. However, as our (SIID & GDI) research has so far shown, he acknowledged that the biggest 9% of UK NGOs receive 90% of all development spending, and that if small charities are to survive there exists a clear need for better distribution of funds. SNP’s Patrick Grady argued that small INGOs can and should survive, and therefore that they will. He emphasised that there will always be a desire amongst people at the grassroots to contribute to humanitarian causes, as donors and/or volunteers. He also noted that the larger INGOs often rely on smaller partners for actual, in-country project delivery, concluding that there is certainly a need for flexibility and adaptability as the development sector continues to change, but that its reforming will include big opportunities for small INGOs.

The opposition presented some convincing counterpoints, with Deborah Doane taking the stance that small charities are unlikely to survive in their current form. She made the point that NGOs and donors alike are feeling the financial pinch, and that, generally speaking, philanthrocapitalists tend to push small INGOs to operate as social enterprises not charities, and in so-doing undermine the charity model. She also noted a growing hostility toward donors on the part of recipients in the Global South, and a desire amongst the latter to take ownership of their countries’ development needs. She summarised by saying small INGOs won’t survive as they are today because of: the changing funding environment; the global assault on civil society; and the fact they’re ‘too damn authentic’. Nik Kafka agreed that the current funding environment is not conducive to the survival of small charities; donors are increasingly ‘honing in’ on causes with very specific mandates (such as ‘educating girls in Uganda’), rather than more general foci that allow for a wider range of small INGOs to benefit. He also argued that the costs of conclusively monitoring and demonstrating impact are rising, and similarly that, while technology is generally cheaper now, it is still costly to purpose-build tools (like apps) that could improve operational efficiency, funds that small INGOs don’t tend to have. Conversely, he did make the point that while big INGOs may be good at securing donor support, they don’t always have the specialist knowledge needed for effective project delivery.

Ultimately, there was general consensus that there is a future for the small charity cohort, but that adaptability and an openness to working collaboratively are crucial. It was noted by FSI co-founder and Chief Executive Pauline Broomhead that networking is a strength for many small charities, but that not all are as good at developing connections into active collaborations and partnerships.

The debate provided compelling context for the SIID and GDI mapping project. Research is still in progress, but has produced interesting preliminary findings, including that:

1. Growth of the sector has been most vigorous in the mid-2000s. But it is premature to view current (downward) trends as indicative of a long term decline in vigour of growth in numbers of organisations

2. The development sector is substantial, with expenditure equalling approximately 50% of current ODA

3. Distribution of expenditure is highly unequal, with less than 9% of organisations accounting for nearly 90% of expenditure (and 1% accounting for 50% of expenditure)

4. The sector has experienced growth generally, but the largest organisations experienced a dip in expenditure in 2012. Smaller organisations have experienced a decline in expenditure in recent years

5. Change in expenditure is highly variable, with the smaller organisations most likely to experience declines from one year to the next

Small Charity Week was first established by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) in 2010, to celebrate and raise the profile of the small charity sector. The week is one of a series of activities and initiatives to support and raise awareness of the hundreds and thousands of small charities that, every day, make a huge difference to vulnerable communities right across the UK and the rest of the world. Thank you to the organisers for their work, and what was a thought-provoking event!