Rethinking and NGO: Development, Donors and Civil Society in Jordan

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Such a village could have benefited from another intervention. These examples are by no means unusual. The new approach also boosts awareness and appreciation of local culture, which some claim is undermined by the established donor model as supposedly novel concepts are imported into the host country with little cultural awareness. The imposition of new mechanisms on communities without respecting or building on what they already have creates confusion.

It also limits activism. Recently, a post on the Facebook page of the US embassy in Jordan listed reasons why volunteering is desirable. The activists involved with the new organic civic initiatives are mainly around 25—35 years old, and tend to come from middle- or upper middle-class backgrounds. Many are Western-educated. Some are affluent enough to have been able to leave full-time jobs in order to establish these initiatives; others pursue them in their spare time.

For now, most of these initiatives are based in Amman. The themes addressed by the new non-profit companies vary. They have included broad issues, such as socio-economic empowerment and community and youth development; and more focused ones, such as documenting local heritage and providing platforms to discuss environmental and infrastructure issues. Despite this apparently draconian turn, a number of the organic civic initiatives have been relatively indifferent to the change in policy.

This reflects the fact that, as mentioned, many eschew donor money for reasons of credibility, authenticity, efficiency and independence. The organic civic initiatives tend to avoid association with formal politics. First, as mentioned, their legal mandate limits their work to the four areas of education, health, capacity-building and microfinance. Second, they saw that the Arab uprisings were followed by conflict and violence in neighbouring countries.

No structural social change is visible yet as a result of this form of activism. Instead, groups view their impact in terms of being able to influence their immediate local constituencies, even if these constituencies are small. This also reflects the fact that organic civic initiatives are not looking for large and quick gains, instead working on behavioural attitudes in the hope of achieving long-term effects.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

They would prefer to be perceived as authentic and credible rather than to scale up their initiatives too hastily. However, it is unlikely that organic civic initiatives will stay out of formal politics forever, especially given the absence of representative and visionary political parties in Jordan. The new initiatives have already combined social and economic causes, and will at some point add political ones to the scope of their work.

In at least one case, the authorities set up a website imitating one of the organic civic initiatives, even choosing an almost identical name.

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Another challenge is the lack of a philanthropic culture in the private sector. However, if some sort of studies were available, it would have saved us much time and criticism. Organic civic initiatives also face criticism and scepticism on account of their novelty.

There is little public awareness of their role. Moreover, the fact that most of the people running such initiatives are middle- to upper middle-class and Western-educated means that they are sometimes perceived as elitist. However, this mechanism does not comply with Jordanian law, and creates additional administrative tasks that impede donors and NGOs from pursuing their programmes. For example, Law No. The new mechanism creates an additional step by also requiring NGOs to submit their funding requests to the Societies Registrar in the Ministry of Social Development.


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Case study 1: Tammey for Human Development. An initiative to foster different thinking processes with, for and by youth. Headquartered in Amman, Tammey for Human Development is a micro-consultancy that operates in research, education and youth projects. People use the venue and equipment for meetings, rehearsals, shooting short films and a book club. Tammey also provides funding to community solutions that focus on social and economic solidarity.

Customers pay for sandwiches, minimally priced, but may voluntarily buy a token for an additional sandwich, which they place on the wall for a needy person to come and collect. Recently, Tammey has been working on an awareness campaign about the proposed gas agreement between the Israeli and Jordanian governments. The name refers to a traditional Arab way of eating, which involves bread and dips. In Jordanian culture, where patriarchy and patrimonialism are deeply entrenched, allowing people to express themselves in a safe, non-hierarchical environment means building their confidence that their opinions matter.

Supporting local development in the changing Middle East

This also enhances their critical thinking. One gathering discussed the issue of standards in public life.

Students at this stage experience strict evaluation from their families and acquaintances. As a result, many tend to feel that their social value is measured by their exam grades. Taghmees generates its funds through an income-generating initiative.

We recognize that these foreign funds come in the form of loans to Jordan, which are then paid off by increased taxes on a majority of already struggling people, who never asked for our help to begin with. The choice of terminology is seen by the participants and wider public as less alienating than the usual NGO jargon. The initiative provides a platform for people who did not succeed in the conventional education system to feel of worth.

This is achieved, in part, by substituting the concept of academic learning with that of learning from life experience. A social enterprise based on the concept of exchange tourism. Accordingly, after interacting with the locals, Zikra took another direction.

In exchange, the facilitators receive an understanding of the village lifestyle and engage in community discovery trips with local participants. In addition to giving the community innovative means of self-expression, these workshops provide it with unconventional sources of income. A community-built skate park in Amman.

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In October , three friends initiated an online crowdfunding campaign to renovate a public space and build a skate park in Amman. The idea was triggered by the fact that people lack public recreational facilities in the Jordanian capital. The co-founders chose a crowdfunding campaign in preference to pursuing corporate- or donor-led funding options.

However, it never asked the co-founders to set up a legal entity or to get the prior consent of the Ministry of Social Development and the Council of Ministers, as the law stipulates when receiving both domestic 57 and foreign funding. The money was sent from crowdfunding website www. The construction process involved both professional builders and community members working as volunteers. Through online crowdfunding, the organizers were able to complete the project within three months without the paperwork or scrutiny that a traditional aid arrangement would require.

However, the co-founders do report back to the individual funders periodically via online updates. This initiative shares some features with the other organizations described above. One is a growing sense of engagement with global issues, facilitated by technology and social media.

There is a sense of detachment from the agendas of international donors, and a desire to move away from formal frameworks and institutions towards informal work and new types of organization. Below the surface, such models also constitute potentially significant enablers of social change, underpinned by a more active approach on the part of engaged young citizens. The notification should include the source of funding, the amount, the means of transfer and the objectives for which the funding will be spent, in addition to any special conditions.

Between these two extremes, a new generation of civic activists is exploring different ways of doing things. They are operating through organic civic initiatives that register as not-for-profit companies rather than as formal NGOs. This allows them to eschew foreign funding and seek more independent and authentic outreach with their constituencies. These emerging forms of civil society still face limitations and restrictions. However, they have the potential to play a constructive role in strengthening social solidarity, and in encouraging more active and informed engagement by citizens.

The dominant, formal NGOs in Jordan are largely disconnected from politics or policy debates. Most notably, their core mission is often intentionally, and covertly, distorted by the government and donors. This happens when the government contracts NGOs as service providers to implement projects and programmes.

The job of providing basic community support keeps established NGOs busy, but it also means that they become depoliticized and unable to pursue a more radical role as advocates and agents of change. The new organic civic initiatives tell us that there is a vibrant civil scene going on in Jordan. Moreover, this less hierarchical, more inclusive way of operating is in itself a challenge to accepted social norms in Jordan. Practitioners are experimenting with alternative forms of organization on a small scale.

NGOs therefore have an interest in remaining on good relations with the government.

Central Data Catalog

Heba W. Heba is a Fulbright and a Chevening scholar and holds an MSc in social policy and development non-governmental organizations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. I would also like to thank the Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs and the Asfari Foundation for generously offering me the opportunity to conduct this research. I am grateful to all. Last but not least, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my family and close friends, whose support and love were all that kept me going.

To complement our research, the MENA Programme runs a variety of discussion groups, roundtable meetings, workshops and public events which seek to inform and broaden current debates about the region and about UK and international policy. We also produce a range of publications, including reports, research papers and briefings.

Academy fellows participate in a coordinated programme that includes expert discussions, engagement with key decision-makers and institutions, and personal development. These activities are supported by work fellows may undertake on existing Chatham House projects and on their own research project. In this way, fellows develop their thinking on the most pressing national and international challenges facing their countries and regions and work together to craft innovative responses. Research paper New Social Enterprises in Jordan.

Amman, 26 October Photo: Razan Fakhoury. Contents New Social Enterprises in Jordan. Summary Introduction Why care about civil society?

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