NGOs in Sustainable Development

I attended the seminar regarding the prospective curriculum for the new “Management: Sustainability” major. I had expressed both at the panel and in class that I felt NGOs should be one of the central focuses of the curriculum, allow me to clarify in this weeks blog post by pulling from my written material and resources.

As I learned in my class taught by Professor Martin last year, sustainable development is a difficult term to define. Sustainable development is, in simplest terms, the act of sustaining development; thus, we must truly understand development before we attempt to make it sustainable. Development is anchored in the existence, and co-existence, of the Public Sector, the Private Sector, and the Non-Profit Sector (NGOs). The Non-Profit Sector is perhaps the most elusive and undervalued of the three sectors. It serves the function of indentifying the many things that the Private Sector could potentially profit from, and identifying the many things that the Public Sector could do a better job at.

To quote one of the readings we had, Jude Howell and Jenny Pearce, of Civil Society and Development, believe, “The non-profit sector operates as a sphere of economic activities that generates outputs in the form of schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, and soup kitchens. These in turn provide employment and income and add to the gross national product.” The Non-Profit Sector deals with the issues that are left untouched by the Public Sector and the Private Sector. Once the Non-Profit Sector identifies and alleviates some of the issues in society, the Private Sector enables profit to be made out of issues. The creation of the soup kitchen offers both the public good from civil society but it also employs the servers, the custodial staff, and the chefs, hence pouring profit and dollars into the Private Sector. The creation of the soup kitchen points to some detriments in society that the Public Sector might want to address. If the soup kitchen becomes of enough public interest then the Public Sector might very well begin spending its energy and time toward fixing the societal problem.

Development often arises out of the Non-Profit Sector and finds a more efficient and effective setting in the Public or Private Sectors, respectively. We do not live in a Utopian society, which means civil society will always have a place in the world. As long as there are problems, demands, what-have-you there will be NGOs attempting to make heads or tails of the situation. Development begins in the Non-Profit realm, which is why I believe the new Managing for Sustainability Majors must become well versed in NGOs.