University of Oulu

Kontinen, T. ., & Bananuka, T. . (2022). NGO Legitimacy as a Continuous Negotiation Process: Fostering ‘Good Citizenship’ in Western Uganda. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 31(4), 350–373.

NGO legitimacy as a continuous negotiation process : fostering ‘good citizenship’ in Western Uganda

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Author: Kontinen, Tiina1; Bananuka, Twine Hannington2,3
Organizations: 1Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
2Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Finland
3Department of Adult and Community Education, Makerere University, Uganda
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Nordic Association of African Studies, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-09-27


The article draws on and contributes to debates on the legitimacy of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in development, defining organizational legitimacy as a social construct that is continually negotiated in relationships with diverse audiences. To explore the negotiated nature of NGO legitimacy, the article examines the efforts of a Ugandan NGO, Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC), to foster citizens’ capacities in rural communities in the western part of the country. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, we scrutinize the ways in which KRC balances between different and even contrasting legitimacy expectations stemming from three types of encounters significant to the NGO: those with international collaborators, community members, and local government. We show how international collaborators prioritize support for active citizenship, manifested in mobilizing to claim rights and accountability; village residents emphasize good citizenship, comprising a secure livelihood and community contributions; and local government endorses citizenship characterized by fulfilling obligations. The NGO must balance between those expectations to secure funding, fulfil their empowerment mission, and maintain their ability to act without restrictions. In conclusion, the article argues for a notion of NGO legitimacy as a state of continual negotiation, wherein the specificities of significant audiences and the nature of the negotiations vary, based on the activities and contexts of any particular development NGO.

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Series: Nordic journal of African studies
ISSN: 1235-4481
ISSN-E: 1459-9465
ISSN-L: 1235-4481
Volume: 31
Issue: 4
Pages: 350 - 373
DOI: 10.53228/njas.v31i4.963
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: We would like to acknowledge funding from the Academy of Finland DEVELOP-programme (2018–2022) for a research project “Theory and practice of learning to be a citizen: Experiences from Tanzania and Uganda” (decision numbers 316098 and 316100), and the excellent leadership of the head of the Ugandan research team, Ms Alice Nankya Ndidde from Makerere University.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 316100
Detailed Information: 316100 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.