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Civil Society Partnerships: Power Imbalance and Mutual Dependence in NGO Partnerships

  • Nina F. O’Brien
  • Sandra K. Evans
Original Paper

Abstract

This study examines the distinction between power imbalance and mutual dependence to better understand how NGOs manage resource dependencies in their relationships with civil society partners. The NGO leaders we interviewed emphasized mutual dependence in the relationships they developed with other NGOs regarding access to financial and information resources. In contrast, discourse about their relationships with IGOs focused on the acquisition of legitimacy and access, and was dominated by power imbalance. NGOs were largely accepting of both forms of dependence in pursuit of the community’s shared goals and for the greater good of constituents. Our finding that NGOs refrain from terminating suboptimal relationships also reflects the extent to which mutual dependence governs NGOs partnering strategies.

Keywords

Partnerships NGOs Resource dependence Power imbalance Mutual dependence 

Résumé

La présente étude se penche sur la distinction entre le déséquilibre du pouvoir et l’interdépendance, pour mieux comprendre la façon dont les ONG gèrent leur dépendance aux ressources dans leurs relations avec des sociétés civiles partenaires. Les dirigeants d’ONG que nous avons interrogés ont mis l’accent sur l’interdépendance qui existe dans leurs relations avec d’autres ONG pour l’accès aux ressources financières et documentaires. Par opposition, le discours sur leurs relations avec les OIG accentuait l’acquisition de légitimité et d’accès et était dominé par le déséquilibre du pouvoir. Les ONG acceptent largement les deux formes de dépendance dans la poursuite des objectifs partagés de la communauté et pour le plus grand bien des électeurs. Nos résultats confirmant que les ONG évitent de mettre fin à des relations sous-optimales reflètent également la mesure dans laquelle l’interdépendance gouverne les stratégies de partenariat des ONG.

Zusammenfassung

Diese Studie untersucht den Unterschied zwischen Machtungleichgewicht und gegenseitiger Abhängigkeit, um zu einem besseren Verständnis dahingehend zu gelangen, wie nicht-staatliche Organisationen mit Ressourcenabhängigkeiten in ihren Beziehungen zu Partnern in der Bürgergesellschaft umgehen. Die von uns befragten Leiter nicht-staatlicher Organisationen betonten eine gegenseitige Abhängigkeit in den Beziehungen zu anderen nicht-staatlichen Organisationen mit Hinblick auf den Zugang zu Finanz- und Informationsressourcen. Bei ihren Beziehungen zu internationalen staatlichen Organisationen hingegen konzentrierten sie sich auf die Erzielung von Legitimität und Zugang, und die Beziehungen wurden von einer Machtungleichheit dominiert. Die nicht-staatlichen Organisationen akzeptierten weitgehend beide Arten der Abhängigkeit zugunsten der Ziele der Gemeinschaft und des allgemeinen Wohlergehens der Gemeindemitglieder. Unser Ergebnis, dass nicht-staatliche Organisationen von einer Beendigung suboptimaler Beziehungen absehen, spiegelt auch den Umfang wider, in dem die gegenseitige Abhängigkeit die Partnerstrategien nicht-staatlicher Organisationen bestimmt.

Resumen

El presente estudio examina la distinción entre desequilibrio de poder y dependencia mutua para comprender mejor cómo gestionan las ONG las dependencias de recursos en sus relaciones con socios de la sociedad civil. Los líderes de ONG que entrevistamos destacaron la dependencia mutua en las relaciones que desarrollaron con otras ONG con respecto al acceso a recursos financieros y de información. En cambio, el discurso sobre sus relaciones con Organizaciones Intergubernamentales (IGO, por sus siglas en inglés) se centró en la adquisición de legitimidad y acceso, y estuvo dominado por desequilibrio de poder. Las ONG aceptaban ampliamente ambas formas de dependencia en la búsqueda de objetivos compartidos de la comunidad y para el mayor beneficio de los componentes. Nuestro hallazgo de que las ONG se abstienen de terminar relaciones subóptimas refleja también la medida en que la dependencia mutua rige las estrategias de asociación de las ONG.

本研究对权力不平衡与相互依赖进行了探究,以更好的理解非政府组织是如何管理存在于他们与民间团体合作伙伴的关系中的资源依赖性的。我们所访问的非政府组织领导强调他们与其他非政府组织就获取资金与信息资源所建立发展的关系之中的相互依赖性。相反,关于他们与政府间组织(IGOs)关系的论述则着重取得合法性与进入权,为权力不平衡所主导。在追求社区共同目标以及为了选民更大利益的目的上,非政府组织大多能接受两种形式的依赖性。我们发现,非政府组织在结束未达最佳标准的关系时所保持的克制态度也反映了相互依赖性对非政府组织的合伙策略所具有的约束性的程度。.

本研究では、NGOが市民社会のパートナーとの関係において力の不均衡と相互依存性の違いを検討して、どのように資金依存関係を管理するかを理解する。インタビューしたNGOのリーダーたちは、金融へのアクセスと情報資源に関してNGOが開発した関係における相互依存性を強調した。対照的に、NGOとの関係におけるディスコースでは、正当性とアクセスの獲得に焦点を当てたが、力の不均衡によって支配されることがわかった。NGOは、コミュニティ共通の目標追求と多大な利益に依存する形態を主として受け入れていた。結果から、NGOでは最適とみなされない対人関係を終わらせることなく、相互依存によるNGOの提携戦略の支配を展開することが明らかになった。.

تفحص هذه الدراسة التمييز بين إختلال ميزان القوة والإعتماد المتبادل على فهم أفضل لكيفية إدارة المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) لتبعيات المورد في علاقاتهم مع شركاء المجتمع المدني. قادة المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) الذين قابلناهم أكدوا الإعتماد المتبادل في العلاقات التي أقاموها مع المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) الأخرى فيما يتعلق بالموارد المالية والحصول على المعلومات. في المقابل، ركزت المناقشة حول علاقاتهم مع المنظمات الحكومية الدولية (IGO) لإكتساب الشرعية والحصول عليها، كان يسيطر عليها إختلال توازن القوى. أعربت المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) عن قبول كبير لكل أشكال التبعية في السعي لتحقيق الأهداف المشتركة للمجتمع وتحقيق الصالح العام للمكونات. وجدنا أن إمتناع المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) عن إنهاء العلاقات دون المستوى الأمثل يعكس أيضا” مدى تحكم الإعتماد المتبادل على إستراتيجيات مشاركة المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO).

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the members of the Annenberg Networks Network for their assistance, feedback and support throughout this research project. We would also like to thank anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and recommendations.

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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Management and Communication Studies—Simpson Tower 702California State University Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of CommunicationCalifornia State Polytechnic University, PomonaPomonaUSA

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