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The Role of English and Welsh INGOs: A Field Theory-Based Exploration of the Sector

Abnett, Helen (2021) The Role of English and Welsh INGOs: A Field Theory-Based Exploration of the Sector. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.92563) (KAR id:92563)


This thesis takes a field theory-based approach to exploring the role of English and Welsh international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), using the lens of income source form.

First, the thesis presents new income source data drawn from 933 Annual Accounts published by 316 INGOs over three years (2015-2018). The research then draws on qualitative data from 90 Leaders' letters include within the Annual Reports published by 39 INGOS, as well as supplementary quantitative and qualitative data, to explore the ways in which INGOs represent their role.

Analysis of this income source data demonstrates that government funding is less important to most INGOs than has previously been assumed, while income from individuals is more important than has been recognised in the extant development studies literature. Funding from other organisations within the voluntary sector is the third most important source of income for these INGOs, while income from fees and trading is substantially less important than the other income source forms.

Using this income source data in concert with other quantitative data on INGO characteristics as well as qualitative data drawn from the Leaders' letters, I then show that the English and Welsh INGO sector is a heterogenous space, divided into multiple fields. The set of fields identified by this thesis is arranged primarily around income source form, which is also associated with size, religious affiliation, and activities of focus and ways of working. As Bourdieusian field theory suggests, within these fields individual INGOs are engaged in an ongoing struggle for position: competing to demonstrate their maximal possession of the symbolic capitals they perceive to be valued by (potential) donors to that field.

Further analysis of these Leaders' letters, alongside additional Annual Reports and Accounts data, also reveals a dissonance in the way in which INGOs describe their relationship with local partners in these different communication types. While these Leaders' letters and narrative reports tell stories of collaborative associations with locally-based partners, this obscures the nature of these relationships as competitive and hierarchical.

The thesis draws on the above findings to reflect on the role of INGOs as suggested in the extant literature. This discussion highlights how the various potential INGO fields identified are associated with differing theoretical roles for INGOs. Finally, the thesis considers how INGO role representations continue to contribute to unequal power relations between INGOs and their partners.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Breeze, Beth
Thesis advisor: Bradley, Kate
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.92563
Uncontrolled keywords: charity INGO funding income field-theory
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2022 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 08:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Abnett, Helen.

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