A little while ago, I posted an old op-ed column by Rakesh Rajani, in which he asked “What if NGOs were newspapers?” And I promised to follow it up with some thoughts on our situation here at Daraja, where we are an NGO that runs newspapers, to see how accurate Rakesh’s ideas were. Well, here goes.
Rakesh’s main point was that NGOs are not subject to the strict deadlines that rule newspapers’ work, or to the same kind of pressure that newspapers face to give readers what they want. A reporter who misses a deadline finds that their story isn’t published. A newspaper that comes out late risks missing out on sales and undermining their readers’ trust. And if a newspaper writes about things that don’t interest their readers then that paper won’t get bought again. The nearest equivalent pressures on NGOs have often very little to do with the community – their “beneficiaries” – and more to do with keeping their donors happy.
In other words, NGOs aren’t as strongly accountable to the community as newspapers for doing their work on time or for doing it well. Continue reading