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«Juxtaposing doers and helpers in development Henry Mintzberg and Nidhi Srinivas Abstract A classic part of the community development process is ...»

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& Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2009

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Juxtaposing doers and helpers in


Henry Mintzberg and Nidhi Srinivas


A classic part of the community development process is people facing

an acute economic or social problem connecting with others

Downloaded from cdj.oxfordjournals.org at McGill University Libraries on August 11, 2011 specializing in conceptual solutions. For example, South Asian villagers confronting chronic poverty may work with non-governmental organizations offering micro-credit schemes. These are two sides of the development relationship, the doers and the helpers. While the doers face problems that are unique to themselves, the helpers offer solutions that tend to be generic, applicable to a variety of contexts.

In this paper we seek to bring some conceptual clarity to the relationships between doers and helpers in development, with a focus on the social sector that operates between business and government.

We present a typology of the organizational forms involved in development, and then look at the gaps between helpers and doers and the approaches used to bridge them.

Roots and roofs In the historical sense, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) tended to be both grassroots doers and their local helpers, functioning in communities (Boli and Thomas, 1999). But when we use the term NGO in the contemporary sense, we tend to think of cosmopolitan helpers: foundations and developmental agencies that function at national and international levels, with activities directed into many localities. It is in this latter sense that NGOs have been ‘discovered as a new institutional form of development resource’ (Carroll, 1992, p. 1), so numerous as to represent a ‘global associational revolution’ (Salamon, 1994; see also Avina, 1993; Glasius and Kaldor, 2002; Lewis, 2001).

Developmental activities can therefore be roughly divided between organizations rooted locally that reach out, with the pull of need, and organizations floating more globally that look in, with the push of help.

Community Development Journal Vol 45 No 1 January 2010 pp. 39–57 40 Henry Mintzberg and Nidhi Srinivas Uvin (1995, p. 496) has described this divide as a spectrum, from the grassroots (‘small localized’ organizations) to the summit (‘big international development aid organizations’). We prefer the metaphor of roots and roofs.

If local doers, and even some local helpers, can be thought to grow up from the grassroots, then the cosmopolitan helpers might be thought of as coming in, as if as a set of roofs.

One side tends to appear naturally, indigenously, often unexpectedly, all over the place, emerging from the soil that has nurtured them. The other side sits over and above this, artificially constituted in a sense, as wide and rather independent covers that on the one hand can protect the local activities yet on the other hand can also obscure or block them.

How do the roots and the roofs collaborate? The roofs, compelled by this push of help, translate general solutions into a particular application.

Downloaded from cdj.oxfordjournals.org at McGill University Libraries on August 11, 2011 In that sense, they are deductive. The roots, in contrast, impelled by their pull of need, seek solutions to a particular problem. They tend to be more inductive. Where these meet – where induction combines with deduction – is likely to be where the best developmental practice takes place (see Table 1 for a summary of the parameters relating to these two sides of development; the last part of the table is discussed later in this paper).

Table 1. The two sides of development

–  –  –

Mapping development organizations We believe that these two sides of development have not been sufficiently conceptualized within the burgeoning research on NGOs, partly due to the peculiar vagueness of the term ‘NGO’ itself (Martens, 2002; Mageli, 2005). Through the 1990s, theorists sought to identify unique developmental roles of NGOs: in charity, service, participation, and empowerment (Cousins, 1991); relief, technical innovations, service contracting, advocacy, grassroots development, and popular development (Clarke, 1995); service delivery and policy advocacy (Desai and Preston, 1999); and as implementers, partners, and catalysts (Lewis, 2001, 2003). Other studies identified NGOs that represented or aided grassroots efforts (Padron, 1987; Uphoff, 1995), or identified their distinctive features such as their non-profit distributing, self-governing, and voluntary qualities (Salamon and Anheier, Downloaded from cdj.oxfordjournals.org at McGill University Libraries on August 11, 2011 1999). More recent research has emphasized unique organizational forms involved in development, such as ‘globally oriented NGOs’ (Young et al.,

1999) and resource supporting organizations (Brown and Kalegaonkar, 2002, p. 239).

We build on these efforts with a typology of the organizational forms identified as NGOs on the two sides of development that we have identified. We focus on their structures and activities, a vital and currently neglected theme in the literature (Lewis, 2003, p. 335).

We developed the framework (Figure 1) mainly along a diagonal, from the pull of need at the bottom left to the push to help at the top right.

Local root organizations are correspondingly mapped starting in the lower left, and cosmopolitan roof organizations starting in the upper right. Between them, we speculate, is a ‘no organizations’ land’, a gap that has to be bridged.

The basis of this framework is the classical distinction in organizational theory between differentiation and integration (Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967). Organizations differentiate, distributing specialized tasks, and they integrate, co-ordinating these tasks.

The vertical axis of Figure 1 describes differentiation in terms of the various activities these organizations perform. The most tangible concern the operating tasks of the doers, whereby goods and services are sourced, produced, and distributed. By sourced, we mean the acquisition of input materials, tools, energy, etc. (for example, supplies and machines for the making of textiles); by produced, we mean the transformation of materials and energy through the application of some technology (e.g. from cotton into textile); and by distributed, we mean the pooling of outputs, usually for logistic purposes or to get better prices (as in the collection of milk), and then their marketing, sales, and delivery to customers. Next up are 42 Henry Mintzberg and Nidhi Srinivas Downloaded from cdj.oxfordjournals.org at McGill University Libraries on August 11, 2011 Figure 1 Map of doers and helpers in development those activities that support these operations directly. They include financing, training, and researching (e.g. in the use of new technologies). And third are those activities that support the previous two indirectly, by developing the overall community. This often takes the form of the provision of infrastructure, whether physical (water, roads, electricity, etc.), economic (markets, banking, etc.), or social (health, education, etc.). Indirect support can also include organizing or mobilizing the community to action (e.g. to build a well), or else advocating to others on behalf of the community (e.g. to gain greater government support).

The horizontal axis shows integration, in terms of increasing formalized mechanisms of co-ordination (see Mintzberg, 1979, pp. 2–7), from mutual adjustment, in which the people of an organization coordinate informally among themselves; direct supervision, in which a manager in authority coordinates their work; and standardization, formalizing the coordination, through the work itself (e.g. rules and work orders), the outputs of the work (e.g. performance standards), the skills of the workers (through training), as well as the norms by which the workers are guided (e.g. in the established value and culture).

All organizations, of course, function through a mixture of most or all of these mechanisms of co-ordination. But most do favor some over others, Doers and helpers in community development 43 and that will be seen along our scale, from the least formal on the left to the most formal on the right From the inside-up Figure 1 identifies various types of developmental organizations. We begin from the inside-up. At the least formalized end are grassroots initiatives (GRIs), followed by grassroots co-operatives (GRCs), and finally co-operative federations (CFs). All are member-owned, in one way or another.

Grassroots initiatives GRIs are loose groupings of people within an identifiable community or neighborhood who recognize the benefits of working together in response Downloaded from cdj.oxfordjournals.org at McGill University Libraries on August 11, 2011 to some shared need, perhaps provoked by a crises. They operate with rudimentary structures, and use these to focus on single operating, or sometimes support or community activities. For example, fishermen in a coastal Kerala village banded together to get better prices for their catch (Srinivas, 2001).

Three organizational features particularly distinguish GRIs: their small size, group level of operation, and informal structure. GRIs tend to be the smallest possible aggregation of individuals unrelated by kin that engage in joint development activities (Carroll, 1992). As such, they tend to have narrow membership bases formed around some shared occupation, income group, or residential area, close to their communities (Uphoff, 1993; Batliwala, 2002). They often accommodate traditional institutions such as tribal and ceremonial groupings (Stephen, 1991; Bakshi, 1998;

Warren, 2005) as well as informal village-level councils (Ananthpur, 2004). Small scale and direct involvement help such initiatives respond to local needs rapidly (Warren, 2005).

Because GRIs are often spontaneous, ‘self-generating start-ups’ (Avina, 1993, p. 457) or ‘entrepreneurial initiatives’ (Uvin et al., 2000, p. 1412), they tend to have loose structures. Strong member involvement enhances mutual trust (Cleaver, 2000). In lieu of explicit hierarchies and clear divisions of responsibility, they are inclined to co-ordinate by informal, face-to-face communication notably mutual adjustment, and perhaps also some direct supervision.

Grassroots co-operatives GRIs, once they settle down, often incorporate and formalize their structures to become grassroots co-operatives (GRCs). Or else people may create such co-operatives directly. Both happen in order to expand operating 44 Henry Mintzberg and Nidhi Srinivas activities, such as processing perishable produce (Baviskar and Attwood,

1996) for scale economies. Paddy grains, for example, require milling and cleaning, which can be costly. Instead of selling their crops to merchants, paddy farmers may create a co-operative to process it for a better price.

[See also Pollnac and Poggie (1991) on shrimp harvesting in Ecuador and Aldaba (2002) on corn marketing in the Philippines.] GRCs generally focus on operating activities, although some eventually diversify into support and community activities. For example, Mola co-operatives in Panama started with textile marketing, but over time offered savings and loans programs (Stephen, 1991, p. 113). Likewise the co-operatively owned sugar factories in Maharashtra, India, began by pooling sugarcane and processing it into sugar and molasses, and later offered subsidized loans to their agricultural members (Attwood, 1992).

GRCs are inclined to turn increasingly to work standardization for Downloaded from cdj.oxfordjournals.org at McGill University Libraries on August 11, 2011 co-ordination as their operating activities become more reliant on routine technologies. Being member-owned, they tend also to have more formalized procedures for member governance, including by-laws for selecting and inducting members, as well as for electing representatives to their governing boards (see Rothschild and Whitt, 1986; Baviskar and Attwood, 1996).

Each member usually has a single vote, which cannot be sold to another member [although sometimes it can be sold back to the co-operative, as in the Mondragon organization in the Spanish Basque area (Whyte and Whyte, 1991; Cheney, 1999)].

Due to their incorporation and activities, GRCs tend to be larger and more formally structured than GRIs, which has often created challenges for their management. For example, although successful co-operatives tend to be based in distinctive communities, such as the Basque country of Spain or the Canadian province of Quebec, growth and formalization can dilute that base and threaten their social coherence. The search for new members has taken many GRCs beyond their founding communities, leading to more heterogeneous membership, and increased dissent.

Co-operative federations GRCs sometimes move to a next stage as a consequence of expanding their scope, whether by scaling up, namely expanding themselves, or by scaling out, namely combining with other GRCs through mergers. Scope can be expanded in two ways: across a wider geographic area (more rice paddies and more fishermen) and across a wider range of activities, for example, from production to support, such as financing members). At some point, the group becomes, de facto or de jure, a CF. Young et al. (1999, p. 328) labeled this ‘federating upward’, where pre-existing units create an overarching body to represent them. They distinguish this from Doers and helpers in community development 45 ‘federating downward’, where existing CFs subsequently encourage the creation of more local-level GRCs. Note, however, that CFs remain memberowned and member-governed, at least officially, even if the members are organizations, as in the Anand Milk Union (AMUL) in the Indian state of Gujarat. The farmer producers belong to village-level co-operatives which are in turn members of the regional federation (Srinivas, 2001).

There tends to be a natural division of labor between the member co-operatives and the federation, with the former often focused on operating activities and the later on support of a direct or indirect nature (such as financing and training).

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