The Paradox of Scale
How NGOs Build, Maintain, and Lose Authority in Environmental Governance
256 pp., 6 x 9 in, 6 b&w illus.
- Published: November 13, 2018
- Published: November 20, 2018
- Published: October 26, 2018
An examination of why NGOs often experience difficulty creating lasting change, with case studies of transnational conservation organizations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Why do nongovernmental organizations face difficulty creating lasting change? How can they be more effective? In this book, Cristina Balboa examines NGO authority, capacity, and accountability to propose that a “paradox of scale” is a primary barrier to NGO effectiveness. This paradox—when what gives an NGO authority on one scale also weakens its authority on another scale—helps explain how NGOs can be seen as an authority on particular causes on a global scale, but then fail to effect change at the local level. Drawing on case studies of transnational conservation organizations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, The Paradox of Scale explores how NGOs build, maintain, and lose authority over time.
Balboa sets a new research agenda for the study of governance, offering practical concepts and analysis to help NGO practitioners. She introduces the concept of authority as a form of legitimated power, explaining why it is necessary for NGOs to build authority at multiple scales when they create, implement, or enforce rules. Examining the experiences of Conservation International in Papua New Guinea, International Marinelife Alliance in the Philippines, and the Community Conservation Network in Palau, Balboa explains how a paradox of scale can develop even for those NGOs that seem powerful and effective. Interdisciplinary in its approach, The Paradox of Scale offers guidance for interpreting the actions and pressures accompanying work with NGOs, showing why even the most authoritative NGOs often struggle to make a lasting impact.
Journeying through Palau, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines, Cristina Balboa unearths fascinating insights into the nongovernmental politics of conservation. Along the way, with striking originality, she offers an incisive theory to explain why transnational NGOs so often fail to produce lasting, effective local reforms, and why powerful local NGOs so often struggle to extend their influence into the international realm.
Peter Dauvergne, Professor of International Relations, University of British Columbia; author of Environmentalism of the Rich
How to work effectively across scales—how to integrate the local, the national, and the global in political strategy—is one of the great puzzles in contemporary world politics. This book combines conceptual innovation and rich case studies to suggest important ways forward on this crucial issue.
Jan Aart Scholte, University of Gothenburg and University of Duisburg-Essen
Many NGOs aim to “scale up” globally while staying relevant locally, yet often struggle to succeed. Balboa has provided a guide for how to think about organizations' authority—legitimated power—when working both locally and globally. Required reading for the thoughtful NGO practitioner aspiring to greater mission effectiveness.
Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, Director, Transnational NGO Initiative, Syracuse University
Balboa skillfully weaves together diverse literature from international relations, nonprofit management, and public administration to generate new insights for scholarship and practice on a challenge facing many environmental NGOs: how to successfully respond to pressures for institutional growth.
Mary Kay Gugerty, Evans School of Public Policy & Management, University of Washington
As it is, this book is a wonderful addition to the literature on environmental NGOs. It asks a question central to the field and answers it clearly and with substantial evidence. As I indicated, beyond scholars in various social science disciplines, her book will be of great interest to NGO practitioners, too. The case studies are also teacherfriendly: educators can easily use one or two of them as a reading assignment to help students work through abstract theoretical concepts like authority, legitimacy, or accountability.