The Revenge of Tocqueville – the resurgence of individual local politics and membership organising at the expense of apolitical and professional INGOs

This event will be in Zoom


  • Denis Kennedy (College of the Holy Cross, USA)
  • Alpa Dhanani (University of Cardiff, UK)
  • Nina Sharma (University of Cardiff, UK)
  • Marija Antanaviciute (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
  • Erla Thrandardottir (University of Manchester, UK)

This online panel explores the rising tension in the relations between professional and grassroots civil society organisations, and the rise of individual as responsible agents of aid delivery.

Denis Kennedy (College of the Holy Cross, USA) presents empirical research on the rise of grassroots NGOs in the US and consider what effect this may have on international norms. The findings show that despite expected differences in sophistication and financial accountability, small and large organisations alike converge in their narration of beneficiaries, with the “needs-based” approach prioritised over “rights.” Kennedy will discuss the implications of these findings for beneficiary empowerment.

Alpa Dhanani and Nina Sharma (University of Cardiff, UK) explore the wider context of the Oxfam GB scandal for the aid sector. They discuss the prevalence of sexual violence in aid in the context of power relations between NGOs and the vulnerable people that they purport to serve.

Marija Antanaviciute (Queen Mary University of London, UK) explores individual agency and moral responsibility of aid workers vis-à-vis the systemic and structural environment of NGOs, and will argue that authenticity stands at the core of responsible behaviours in a bureaucratic context.

Finally, Erla Thrandardottir (University of Manchester, UK) will present research co-produced by Antal Berkes (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Susanna Mitra (Ramaiah Public Policy Centre, India), which discusses the limits of leading NGOs and philanthropists as global governors in the context of national politics and weak international regulatory oversight. Comparing the regulatory changes in Hungary and India, the paper explores the boundaries of private non-democratic power of global governance actors. A Q&A session that invites input from the online audience will be opened up following the panel presentations. 

Registration will close two hours before the event starts.

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