SAMS / FGV EAESP Paper Development Workshop on NGOs and Management Studies

Call for Abstracts

SAMS / FGV EAESP Paper Development Workshop on NGOs and Management Studies

18th and 19th December 2019 at FGV/EAESP – São Paulo, Brazil


Professor Rick Delbridge (Cardiff Business School/UK)

Dr. Marcus Gomes (Cardiff Business School/UK)

Professor Mario Aquino Alves (FGV/EAESP/Brazil)


Key dates:

  • Deadline for abstract, research proposal and personal statement submission: 25th October 2019
  • Decisions by: 08th November 2019
  • Workshop will take place at FGV/EAESP on the 18th and 19th December 2019.
  • Bursaries available, check details below.


This workshop aims to shed light on the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in society, to examine the nature of management and organisational processes in these distinctive organisations, and to explore the implications of these for management studies. NGOs and other forms of not-for-profit organisation are important organisational forms but have been relegated to a relatively low level of attention in management studies (Barin Cruz, Alves and Delbridge, 2017) and there have been recent calls for the full range of organisations to feature more prominently in organisation and management studies (Parker, 2017). Non-profit organisations are a general category of organisation, they act upon a broad range of topics, varying from charity, education, health, emergencies, international aid and development of sustainability standards. Among those organisations, NGOs are the most prominent, their goals are both providing goods/services and advocating for causes. NGOs make a crucial contribution to society and the economy and constitute a distinctive organisational form within management is undertaken.

While often neglected within organisation and management studies, NGOs and other third-sector organisations have been receiving attention from the non-profit literature, which seeks to emphasise that, under conditions of struggle for economic and social development, NGOs emerge in deprived contexts as elements that articulate needs (income, rights and services) and opportunities (contacts and resources) (Annis, 1987; Lewis, 2014). Part of this literature considers the emergence of NGOs as a result of specific conditions of the regional contexts, without, however, forming an interconnected theoretical body (Carroll, 1992). For example, in Latin America, NGOs emerged and developed from a series of influences such as the action of the Catholic Church and the basic ecclesial communities inspired by Liberation Theology, the influence of Paulo Freire's ideas on education and awareness, community development actions in urban centres, and the struggle for land reform (Bebbington; Thiele, 2005; Landim, 1987; Lehmann, 1990). While in Asia, more specifically in the Indian subcontinent, NGOs emerged in the nineteenth century from the influences of Christian missionaries; in the post-independence period, many NGOs emerged from the ideas of Ghandi and the constitution of a middle class of reformist tendencies in Indian society (Sen, 1992). The Chinese government allowed the emergence of NGOs in late 1970s and even approved the establishment of some international NGOs (e.g. Save the Children) so that these organisations could deal with the problems of the Chinese developmental model (Whiting, 1991). There is thus significant potential for international comparative study of NGOs and management.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, the idea that NGOs would perform better than governments in development issues (Anheier, 1990; Teegen, Doh and Vachani, 2004) gained traction. The main argument for that was developed by Cernea (1988) who, in a World Bank-sponsored report, argued that NGOs would be more efficient than governments because they target directly the poor, operate at a lower cost, promote local participation and are innovative and more adaptable to the local context. Many authors have criticised such premises, stating that there is little empirical evidence on the effectiveness and efficiency of NGOs in development situations. For example, Tendler (1982) argued that NGOs almost always have a ‘top down’ decision making process (i.e. the guidelines are imposed) with little involvement of the staff that deals directly with the communities. Others highlighted the role of NGOs as resource brokers rather than agents of social change (McGregor, 1989; De Wit; Berner, 2009). NGOs are also framed as palliatives that counteract real structural changes (Arrelano-Lopez; Petras, 1994). In addition, NGOs have limitations in their care work (Waal and Omaar, 1993) and sustainability and impact problems (Hayman, 2016; Mendonça; Alves; Nogueira, 2016).The societal roles, efficiency and effectiveness of NGOs is an important and emerging area of research.

As capitalism evolves, NGOs and other third sector organisations assume new functions and roles within our capitalist democracies. It is common to find NGOs collaborating with governments to deliver public goods and services, as well as with multinational corporations (MNC), for example, to assure the development of sustainable standards to minimise their negative impact. Similarly, NGOs are confronting and questioning governments and companies, taming their wrongdoings and acting to assure the ‘common good.' Therefore, NGOs are assuming a pivotal role on governance systems, as a proxy for assuring that they operate in a legit and democratic way.

Such a phenomenon is being examined by the Political CSR literature (Scherer and Palazzo, 2007), arguing that business-NGO interactions are a result of globalisation which has created a governance gap that led corporations and NGOs to assume a political role, occupying such space that was previously the preserve of the state. NGOs, under this perspective, are usually defined as a new political actor that has the potential to voice concerns and tame corporate actions within a multi-level system of governance. Thus, the Political CSR approach focuses on the role of NGOs in shaping governance mechanisms and promoting a more just and sustainable society, attributing to NGOs a pivotal role in the democratisation and social control of business and capitalism.

However, there is an increasing concern about such an optimistic approach to business-NGO interactions. For example, Banerjee (2008) argues that corporations are often more powerful than civil society organisations, which might capture NGO's agenda and thus their interactions within the business are not balanced as the Political CSR literature assumed. On a similar note, Edwards and Wilmott (2013) demonstrate how NGOs are often lacking in transparency and accountability. Recently, Levy, Reinecke, and Manning (2016) argued that research on business-NGO interactions should go beyond the understanding of public discursive activity. On a similar note, Morgan, Gomes and Perez-Aleman (2016) argue that we need to shed light on the role of transnational NGOs while exerting governance within the Global-South.

The emergence of such critical appraisals emphasises the need to examine the role of NGOs further and develop theorisation that encompasses their activities, interests and impact on its own and how such organisations can promote alternatives to our economic systems. Despite their importance, NGOs still receive little attention from organisation and management studies and are often pictured as an essential medium between corporate objectives and societal interests, without enough scrutiny (Gomes and Merchán, 2017).

We aim with this workshop to bring scrutiny, problematisation and theorisation on the role of civil society organisation within our capitalist societies. We aim to explore, not limited to, the following topics:

  • How NGOs’ activism influences the governance of sustainability, regarding its limits and shaping new paths;
  • To whom NGOs are accountable; which mechanisms and strategies they employ to shape markets and governance mechanisms;
  • How NGOs are exploring social media (e.g., Twitter) in their strategies;
  • How specific ideas are spread around the world via NGOs' actions and campaigns;
  • How the UN framework disseminates policies and practices;
  • How NGOs shape and reinforce neoliberalism;
  • How management practices in NGOs compare to those in other organisational forms.



This workshop is designed to bring experienced academics and those starting their career together to exchange knowledge and support early career and PhD students’ publications development as well as expanding their network. The workshop will provide doctoral students and early career academics in Latin America with the opportunity to engage with senior scholars and peers in extensive intellectual and methodological discussion on their doctoral research, to consider the main theories and developments in the field, to reflect upon publication and career strategies, and to provide a unique opportunity to network within the international business and management research community and civil society in general.

Abstracts or research proposal should be up to 500 words and be submitted via email to by no later than 25th October 2019 midnight GMT.

The workshop is free of charge and there is limited funding to provide partial support for attendees. If you required support, send a personal statement (up to 200 words, including a budget) to support the bursary request to attend the workshop alongside with your abstract or research proposal. The decision on such bursaries will be based on the personal statement and the quality of the abstract or research proposal submitted. Funds are limited and the decisions on how much to support each individual will be made with the aim to increase the number of attendees.

The convenors are working to identify an opportunity to edit a special issue on the topic in a leading journal within the management studies field.

Any questions please get in contact with Dr. Marcus Gomes –


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