Working with NGOs

A Practical Guide to Operational Collaboration between
the World Bank and Non-Governmental Organziations

Summary of Key Points:

  • NGO is a broad term encompassing a wide array of diverse organizations.
  • The World Bank defines NGOs as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services or undertake community development".
  • The World Bank collaborates with CBOs, national and international NGOs in a variety of different ways.
  • Achieving the full potential benefits of NGO involvement implies enhanced roles for NGOs earlier on in the project cycle.

  • NGO involvement can contribute to the sustainability and effectiveness of Bank-financed projects by introducing innovative approaches and promoting community participation.
  • NGOs can help expand project uptake and reach, and can facilitate greater awareness of diverse stakeholder views.

  • NGOs are active contributors to the Bank's economic and sector work (ESW) and participate in lending activities from identification through to evaluation.
  • Currently, NGO involvement is most frequent during implementation. Evidence shows, however, that NGOs can provide particularly valuable input during project identification and design.
  • Where NGOs are expected to participate in implementation, they should also be consulted during design.


A. Identifying an appropriate NGO partner
  • Selecting an appropriate NGO partner involves: i) gathering information about the NGO sector; ii) establishing relevant selection criteria, and; iii) choosing a suitable selection process.
  • Clear selection criteria should be established based on specific project needs.
  • Organizational capacity should be assessed according to an NGO's proven track record, not its stated goals.
  • It is important to identify "capacity-building" needs and strategies.
  • Maximum transparency should be ensured in the selection process.

B. Time issues
  • Be prepared for possible extra staff/time needs early on in the project cycle.
  • Be aware of potential time fags/delays and the risk they pose to participatory processes.
  • Ensure NGOs have an adequate understanding of project time-frame and deadlines.

C. Flexibility issues
  • Seek NGO/community input early on in the project cycle.
  • Establish clear mechanisms for responding to local views and needs.
  • Use mid-term review process to adapt project priorities/processes as necessary according to local input.
  • In areas where NGOs have a recognized comparative advantage, take steps to maximize their institutional autonomy.

D. Funding issues
  • NGOs are generally cost-effective. They should not, however, be viewed as a "low-cost alternative" to other types of implementing agencies.
  • NGOs should not be expected to provide services free of charge or at lower than market rates (unless according to a co-financing agreement).
  • Clarify the expected status of NGO involvement (e.g.: informal unpaid advisor, paid consultant, contractor, etc.) from the outset.
  • Establish mutually acceptable fees and overhead costs.

E. Procurement and disbursement issues
  • Use simplified bidding documents, where appropriate.
  • Consider the use of alternative procurement practices.
  • If necessary, make provisions for advance payments.
  • Provide training for NGOs in procurement and disbursement procedures.

F. NGO-Government relations
  • Consider conducting a state-NGO relations study.
  • Keep in mind that government-NGO collaboration is not possible/ desirable in all cases.
  • Always seek government-NGO complementarity.
  • Understand how government policies influence the NGO sector and, where possible, promote an enabling environment for NGOs.

G. Importance of clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Share all relevant project documents with participating NGOs.
  • Consider the appointment of an NGO liaison officer.
  • Organize a government-Bank-NGO information-sharing workshop.

H. Contractual/legal issues
  • Adapt standard contract agreements as necessary to meet specific needs of NGOs/community groups.
  • Write contracts in simple language.
  • Consider using a Memorandum of Understanding or other alternative form of contract.

I. Capacity-building
  • Consult with NGOs on appropriate strategies to support their institutional development.
  • Where appropriate, build a training component for NGOs into project design.
  • Encourage partnerships between international and local NGOs.
  • Promote networking and information-sharing among NGOs.
World Bank, Working with NGOs A Practical Guide to Operational Collaboration between the World Bank and Non-Governmental Organziations . Operations Policy Department, World Bank, 1995, pp.7-9.

Return to the NGO Page

Comments and suggestions:
Hari Srinivas -