Over the past two decades, the role of non government organizations (NGOs) in economic development has received increasing attention. Current development literature claims that NGOs have more positive characteristics than government organizations (GOs). Moreover, common people, donor agencies and governments have come to expect better performances from NGOs. Yet, there are few systematic evaluations of their general activities and even fewer of their programs, which are aimed at women. This study aims, in part, to fill this gap.
The study evaluates the performance of NGOs' economic development programs for women beneficiaries in compare to GO's economic development program. To identify the extent of effectiveness of NGO programs the study compares the performances of the economic development programs of NGOs with those of government organizations (GOs). The evaluation process includes a case study.
The evaluation is conducted with the help of a case study of the economic development programs of two NGOs and two GOs in two separate districts in the state of West Bengal in India. A semi-structured questionnaire survey of a sample of women, directly affected by the NGOs' and Gas' activities was used as the main method of gathering data. As well, group discussions were held with the beneficiaries and staff of the organizations was interviewed. In addition, organizational documents relevant to the program were examined.
The study finds that the effectiveness for women beneficiaries of the NGOs' economic development programs is greater than that of the GOs' programs. A larger proportion of women from the NGOs' programs gained economic benefits than those from the GOs' programs. A large number of women are employed after completing the NGOs' programs. The NGO programs also lead to higher wage rates and less working hours for the women. The NGOs' women beneficiaries also develop better savings habits than those from the GOs. Moreover, the study finds the social impact of the NGOs' programs on its women beneficiaries is stronger than the GOs' programs. A larger proportion of the NGOs recipients has business knowledge and market links than the GOs' women. In addition, participation in the intra-family decision making process and mobility outside the home is better for the NGOs' women beneficiaries.
Further, it is found that the economic benefits of the NGOs' programs reach the poorer sections of the society better than the GOs' programs. However, the study also finds that the benefits of the programs of both types of organization fail to reach the 'very poor' section of women. As well, women beneficiaries from better socio-economic backgrounds obtain higher benefits than the women beneficiaries from relatively lower socio-economic backgrounds.
The case study finds that the greater success of the NGOs' economic development programs is due to a high level of participation of beneficiaries in the development process and high member accountability of the program implementing organization.
The thesis concludes by suggesting the ways for NGOs to make their economic development programs more successful. The thesis argues that a simplified micro credit program and a skill-training program with better marketing networks may free women beneficiaries from the exploitation of middlemen traders and local moneylenders. It is also suggested that cooperation and partnership with government organizations in order to access raw materials at cheaper rates and marketing outlets for selling products is needed.
However, the thesis points out that there needs to be overall economic growth within an area for the success of any NGO's program. If good infrastructural facilities including road, transport and electricity are available, and if local market demand for produced goods increases then an NGO's economic development programs will be more successful.