The impact of self-financing on the success and sustainability of non-governmental development organisations in The Gambia

  • Hannah Smith

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In the context of reduced and inadequate external funding, non-governmental development organisations (NGDOs) in The Gambia, West Africa, have introduced self-financing as a means of generating income and offering additional support and services to their local communities. These activities typically involve the provision of goods and services for a fee, and may or may not be directly linked to particular development projects. Given the lack of empirical research on this topic, particularly in an African context, the purpose of this research was to understand the extent to which self-financing may affect the success and sustainability of community-based NGDOs.

    Data was collected with participants from four case study Gambian NGDOs, their international partners, and members of beneficiary communities. Motivations for establishing self-financing were examined, with particular attention given to the funding context in which the NGDOs were operating. The impacts of self-financing were analysed with regard to relationships with communities and partner organisations, and the delivery of development programmes. The extent to which self-financing affected internal management and administration was also analysed, in addition to the impact it may have on NGDOs’ abilities to operate in line with their objectives and values.

    The research found that motivations for implementing self-financing went beyond income-generation and reflected the values and goals of the NGDOs, namely the desire to efficiently use resources and support communities by all possible means. The impact of self-financing was found to be predominantly positive, contributing to improvements in the day-to-day experiences of NGDO staff and the delivery of development-related goals. However, it was found that hopes for significantly transforming the fortunes of the NGDOs were not realised. The income generated could not compete with the levels of finance available from external donor organisations. Nonetheless, the non-financial outcomes of self-financing were often highly valued by community members and staff, contributing to their ability to thrive in a challenging context.

    This research contributes to our understanding of the experiences of community-based NGDOs in relation to their survival within a challenging funding system. The research provides empirical evidence of the ways in which traditional project-based funding can impact the experiences of NGDO staff, whilst indicating the commitment and innovation that they demonstrate through self-financing activities. It suggests that donor organisations should not view self-financing as a justification for providing less support to NGDOs, but that they should take note of the values and capabilities displayed amongst NGDOs and their staff, and identify ways to support and make greater use of those qualities.
    Date of AwardJul 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJessica Northey (Supervisor), Hazel Barrett (Supervisor) & Gordon Crawford (Supervisor)

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