How do you deal with organizational politics

Organizational policy of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) using the example of Oxfam Germany

Contents overview

1 Introduction

2. Non-governmental organizations as a civil society initiative
2.1 What are non-governmental organizations?
2.1.1 Definition
2.1.2 Typologies of NGOs
2.1.3 Differentiation from other civil society organizations
2.2 How do NGOs work? An organizational policy overview
2.2.1 The organizational structure
2.2.2 The membership and influence logic
2.2.3 The importance of networks
2.2.4 Positioning in the institutional environment

3. Oxfam Germany as an example of a transnational NGO
3.1 Origin, structure and typification
3.2 Second-hand shops as a financing concept
3.3 The membership and influence logic

4. Conclusion

1 Introduction

Since the early 1990s at the latest, the term non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has been used in public and political discussions.[1]. This form of modern civil society is becoming more and more important, especially due to the globalization of the markets, and is increasingly taking a firm place in modern policy-making. But what is special, what is new about this type of civil society initiative? What can it do that other forms of organization have not been able to do up to now? And where are your weak points? In order to get an answer to these questions, it seems helpful to consider the organizational policy of these NGOs.

The following work tries to get an insight into this same organizational policy of NGOs by using the example of the development aid organization Oxfam Germany a concrete practical relevance is established. First, however, a precise definition of the somewhat undifferentiated expression of non-governmental organizations is given under 2.1. Furthermore, their different typologies are presented and the NGOs are distinguished from other civil society organizations, such as citizens' initiatives or associations, but also from political parties.

Under 2.2 the different possibilities of the organizational structure of NGOs are outlined and examined with regard to the membership and influence logic, and the important importance of the networks is discussed separately. Subsequently, by positioning the NGOs in their institutional environment, an attempt should be made to better understand the starting position of the non-governmental organizations in the political decision-making processes. The tension between the market, the state and the community, in which the NGO networks can be classified, is differentiated in that the areas of media and science are considered as separate subsystems. The reason for this lies in the important role these areas play in the work of NGOs.

Non-governmental organizations as a civil society initiative

1.1 What are non-governmental organizations?

The problem with the term non-governmental organization lies in its negative definition. Although it becomes clear what NGOs Not are, their exact nature is largely left to the subjective interpretation. Many authors have avoided this problem by simply avoiding dealing with the term (Martens 2002, p. 30). A very suitable way of defining NGOs is to break the term down into its three components Non-governmental organization. This approach was already used by Martens (2002) and seems to me to be very suitable for a precise definition.

2.1.1 Definition

This stands as a civil society initiative that is differentiated from the market and the state N in NGO for Not state and Not profit-oriented, that is Not guided by commercial interests. They provide services that Not traded on the market (Brunnengräber, Walk 2001). One can also transfer the negation to the way in which its goals and demands are achieved, in principle Not is violent (Martens 2002, p. 34).

The G underlines in connection with the N once again independence from the state. This means not only financial, but above all programmatic independence from the state or government. The founding of the NGOs goes back to private initiative. State bodies or even entire states are excluded from membership. However, we will see later in the typification in 2.1.2 that NGOs can still be distinguished precisely in their degree of non-statehood, and that hybrid forms can certainly also arise.

What all NGOs have in common, however, is that each of them has an organizational structure. The O in NGO already explicitly emphasizes this fact in the term. The structure varies in scope, but it can be assumed that NGOs "... have a head office, a permanent staff to deal with organizational matters and an officially approved statute [.]" (Martens 2002, p. 36 ). This fact also makes it clear that the NGOs are not a spontaneous association for a specific cause, but that the work corresponds to a long-term logic. There is a great deal of diversity with regard to other characteristics, so it makes sense to end the generally applicable definition at this point. The following classification of NGOs according to their degree of non-governmental status is intended to differentiate between the various manifestations and to further specify the still rather general concept of non-governmental organizations.

2.1.2 Typologies of NGOs

The decisive criteria for the typology of NGOs are funding, membership and the formation of the NGOs (Martens 2002). Using these three criteria, the degree of non-statehood can be determined and the organization under consideration can be assigned to one of two groups. The first group presents the so-called genuine NGOs the original form of the non-governmental organizations. Their members are exclusively private individuals and their formation goes back to a purely civil society initiative without state incentives. With regard to the financing, there is complete independence from public funds, their acceptance is in some cases even categorically refused. They only use private donations and membership fees.

In the second group, the so-called NGO deviator, NGOs can be found that are not independent of the state and therefore do not cope with the description of the genuine NGOs to match. They were either founded on the initiative of the state or have state bodies as members. Most or even all of the funding comes from public funds.

In addition to this categorization, both groups allow a further differentiation. The genuine NGOs you can still go to the Transnational Movement Organizations (TSMOs) and in the International Interest Organizations subdivide. While an altruistic idea predominates in the first form of organization, the second form focuses on the interests of one's own members. The TSMOs act "... to bring about progressive change in societies [.]" (Martens 2002, p. 40) and strive for a change in the status quo. Membership is usually possible for all private individuals. TSMOs mostly engage for disadvantaged groups in society or for all people, but not primarily for the interests of their own members. Their activity goes beyond national borders and can definitely be viewed as a continuation of the social movement, whereby in addition to the voluntaristic principle of action, a fixed organizational structure has now also developed. Prototypes of TSMOs are among other development aid and environmental protection organizations such as CARE or Greenpeace or human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.

The International Interest Organizations differ from the TSMOs above all in the fact that they are primarily committed to the interests of their own members. This means that membership in this form of NGO can also be limited or exclusive. Often these are independently operating national industries that come together internationally to form a rather loose association based on a federal model. Examples include international trade union associations or job-related NGOs.

The group of NGO deviator can be divided into the so-called QUANGOs and GONGOs[2] subdivide (Martens 2002). Under the QUANGOs are to be understood as NGOs that allow state bodies or entire states as members in addition to private individuals, while the GONGOs were only created on the basis of a government initiative. The GONGOs are generally no longer recognized as NGOs "... because they are still non-governmental in character only with regard to their legal status as a private organization [.]" (Martens 2002, p. 43). The allocation of the QUANGOswhich, however, are mostly still assigned to the NGOs, because despite the state share, they are assigned a logic of action that is independent of public authorities. Most of the North American and Canadian NGOs can qualify as QUANGOs must be considered, as funding from state funds is very common in these countries.

In my further investigations I will refer to the NGO term in the sense of Transnational movement organizations because the largest and best-known NGOs can be assigned to this type and, in my opinion, it most closely corresponds to the common ideas of a non-governmental organization. Based on this NGO term, the fundamental differences and possible similarities to other civil society organizations can now be discussed.

2.1.3 Differentiation from other civil society organizations

The term non-governmental organization alone makes a detailed distinction between NGOs and large political parties superfluous, but commonalities can be identified even here. Both forms of organization are aimed at every citizen regardless of their social situation, religion or gender. Professionalization and subject-specific expertise are two features that both have in common. However, these facts should not hide the fact that, of course, there are primarily serious differences between political parties and NGOs. Not only that parties directly form government and that this is also their primary concern, the fact that parties do not organize themselves across national borders is also a significant difference. In addition, NGOs do not look for solutions to problems like parties do (which are usually selected according to whether they draw the public interest sufficiently to the party profile), "... they look for the problems themselves and give them a value in dispute [.]" (Heins 2002 , P. 42).

If one delimits the NGOs from traditional associations such as the trade unions, then it applies to them as well as to the parties that their organizational structure usually stops at the respective national borders. Furthermore, associations, such as business associations or the trade unions, only address a certain group of private individuals through their program and are exclusively committed to their goals. These large associations also have a permanent place in the national institutional system and actively participate in the formation of political will. A commonality is nevertheless visible. In contrast to political parties, associations and NGOs do not get their legitimacy through free elections, but through the use of the fundamental rights of freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of information.

In terms of content, the social movements, in which many NGOs also have their roots, come closest to the non-governmental organizations (Martens 2002, p. 36). The decisive difference to them is that the NGOs have developed a specific organizational structure and thus act permanently and not just spontaneously. The same distinguishing feature applies to the usually short-lived citizens' initiatives that also only act regionally.

This specific organizational structure of the NGOs mentioned will be presented in more detail in the following section and the special features of this structure will be worked out.

1.2 How do NGOs work? An organizational policy overview

The purely formal structure not only affects the membership and influence logic of an organization, they are even mutually dependent. For example, a certain logic of influence excludes certain forms of organization from the outset and vice versa. An example is the form of the political party, which is based on §§1 and 2 of the Political Parties Act[3] must take part in an election at least every six years. However, if the logic of influence is defined outside of parliament, this form of organization is out of the question. Many of the internationally active NGOs call themselves an association[4]However, we have already found that NGOs have little in common with traditional large associations in terms of content. So a new association term seems to have developed. In the literature, NGOs are often referred to as the new “associations in the global age” or as “post-traditional associations” (Volker Heins 2002, pp. 42 and 45). This usually happens when looking at the organizational structure of the large NGOs, which certainly have association structures in the sense of an umbrella association and several branch associations.

2.2.1 The organizational structure

The most common form of organization of the NGOs at the local level is the association. The large NGOs in Germany, such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, CARE or the Naturschutzbund, are registered non-profit associations and therefore have a board of directors, an association statute and at least seven members, which are mandatory according to the BGB.[5] NGOs that emerge from a foundation (e.g. WWF) can also be observed. The reasons for registering as an association, however, lie in their primary goal of achieving a common purpose regardless of membership changes.

The international organizational structure of most NGOs is based on a multi-level system of local, national and international structures. Often an umbrella organization can be observed which fulfills coordination and communication tasks between the individual national organizations, but which has no direct influence on their specific national work. Dispensing with purely centralized control keeps the individual NGOs more dynamic and flexible, since the differences in the individual countries with regard to the social structure and the national political system of institutions do not permit a uniform, effective logic of action (Anheier and Themudo 2002, p. 316). In addition, mutual and joint control between the individual associations is always preferable to centralized control, as this form of control is more efficient and effective (ibid., P. 318). Only the purpose and goal of the union are clearly defined, and that one would like to achieve this together in a non-violent way.

A centralized control takes place at most in the points of financing and protection of the uniform organization name. For national associations with few resources, the centrally controlled distribution of funds offers the opportunity to adequately cope with their tasks despite the scarce local capacities. Centralization thus leads to cost savings from an economic point of view. The international secretariat is also responsible for “... ensuring compliance with the code of conduct on a global level [.]” (Anheier, Themudo 2002, p. 322) and thus preserving the reputation or name of the entire organization. The strength of the NGOs, however, lies in the network-like connection of numerous independent national or local branch organizations. A good balance between centralization in the areas just mentioned and decentralization through global networks is therefore of crucial importance.

Amnesty International is an example of this type of organizational structure. In the so-called bumblebee Alliance, there is lively interaction between the core and branch organizations. If a new organization is accepted, it is initially only under observation and is not yet a full member of the umbrella organization. However, if the new association works reliably and with commitment, and if it soon succeeds in standing financially on its own two feet, then it will receive unrestricted membership in the umbrella organization, more autonomy and a say. The NGO Greenpeace, which is characterized by a relatively strong core organization, falls slightly out of this pattern.However, many NGOs are organized according to the principle of subsidiarity, according to which the international headquarters only fulfills the functions that the individual branch organizations at the lower level cannot perform (Anheier and Themudo 2002, p. 319).

In principle, NGOs are member organizations. On the one hand, because some of them are members of the global political decision-making process and, on the other hand, because they have their own membership base. In the following, however, we will state that the terms “member” and “membership” may be used differently among the individual NGOs. This not only results in different forms of member participation and internal democracy, the legitimation of political action by NGOs is also firmly linked to the concept of membership. But there is definitely a way to be recognized, despite an intentionally low number of members, to be granted full legitimation to act. How important this legitimation is becomes clear when one looks more closely at the NGOs' logic of influence.

2.2.2. The membership and influence logic

In a study of eight international NGOs, Anheier and Themudo came to the conclusion in 2002 that NGOs can be divided into two groups with regard to membership. The first group of the so-called Member-owned NGOs are characterized by the fact that the members are directly involved in the organizational structure in the sense of a "bottom-up" approach. In contrast to this group are the Member-supported NGOs whose members are primarily understood as a resource (Anheier and Themudo 2002, p. 307). This also results in different membership participation. While all members of the first group have the right to vote, the members of the second group have little influence on the management and decision-making processes of the organization. As specific examples of the two groups are the NGOs Amnesty International as Members-belonging NGO and Greenpeace as Member-supported Mention NGO.

The most important problems with which both groups have to struggle to a greater or lesser extent are internal democracy and the legitimation of organizational activities. While the Member-owned NGOs must guarantee internal democracy through the grassroots approach to voting rights and thereby also gain their legitimacy to act Member-supported NGOs achieve their legitimation in a different way. You gain this, among other things, "... through demonstrated conformity with laws and rules, recognized standards, public expectations, contract contents and values ​​..." (Anheier and Themudo 2002, p. 313). They acquire legitimation through the expertise in their field, e.g. by publishing reliable reports and scientific studies, but they have to earn this legitimation again and again.

Member organizations that do not give their members the right to vote are not automatically undemocratic. Often these organizations cannot give each individual member voting rights for cost reasons. In the example of Greenpeace, the international board of directors is definitely elected by national representatives, who are present in the appropriate number depending on the number of members of the national association. This guarantee of internal democracy is particularly important for NGOs, which are themselves increasingly committed to justice, equality and democracy in the world. NGOs can certainly have a problem with internal democracy, because democratic structures do not allow the most efficient shaping of decision-making and decision-making processes. Smaller local organizations in particular are restricted by grassroots democracy in their quick decision-making and flexibility of action (Anheier and Themudo 2002, p. 322). In general, a very heterogeneous picture can be seen among the NGOs. In some cases, even within an NGO, there are serious deviations in terms of membership participation, which can be traced back to the differences between the individual regional organizations.[6]

An important aspect that still needs to be noted with regard to membership is the logic behind it. Membership in a trade union, for example, usually promises additional personal benefit that you could not generate on your own. It is hoped that the input (e.g. through membership fees or commitment) will generate added value that will benefit you in the form of a certain output (e.g. better working conditions). In the case of NGOs, however, this logic is different, since the output mostly goes to third parties or to all people. Due to this disintegration of input and output, one can speak of the members of the NGOs less as customers than as comrades-in-arms for a specific cause (e.g. poverty reduction).

One problem that arises from this form of membership logic is the unstable retention of the following, as it does not benefit directly from the engagement. The support is therefore usually created ad hoc and situationally and follows the 'freerider' phenomenon. But the NGOs make a virtue out of this need. They try to solve the difficulty of the insecure membership structure by recruiting permanent donors rather than members. This has the additional advantage that no consensus has to be formed from diverse member interests, which means that more efficient goals can be achieved in terms of political influence. Also the influence logic, which is mostly in contradiction with the membership logic[7] can thereby be strengthened.

The NGOs' ability to influence is already subject to a fundamental problem. In contrast to the organizations that have a permanent place in the political system of institutions (e.g. business associations or trade unions), NGOs have no negotiating power through e.g. 'exit options'. Their power resource is the conveyance of information, which can, however, become a 'voice option' (Brunnengräber, Walk 1997, p. 79f). What is meant by this is that through the expert knowledge that is often available in the NGOs and through their ability to learn, “the creation of publicity and consequently access to decision-makers can succeed” (Brunnengräber, Walk 1997, p. 80). Knowledge has thus become the most important resource of the NGOs and Heins even goes so far that he sees the NGOs as “products of the so-called knowledge society” (Heins 2002, p. 45).

NGOs are therefore increasingly included as legitimation partners in 'agenda settings', since problem-related specialist knowledge has long ceased to be a state monopoly. NGOs help to promote the scientification and professionalization of politics by building up the public reputation of intelligent, credible political actors. Not only the political parties and trade unions suffer from the lack of credibility, but even entire international government alliances, so that these sides increasingly resort to NGOs to legitimize the respective political decisions. None of the international organizations like EU, OECD[8] or the UN are more closed to advice from NGOs, on the one hand because of the legitimation just mentioned, and on the other hand because NGOs are much closer to the basics, e.g. when it comes to development aid.

The reason for this lead in terms of action and knowledge of the NGOs lies in their close international network, which can mainly be traced back to the new, improved information technologies. The Internet in particular does not only function as an organizational tool for protest actions and campaigns, it primarily serves to present social hot spots in the world via the media.

2.2.3 The importance of networks

A distinction can be made between two types of networks in which NGOs can locate themselves. On the one hand, there are the time-limited ones issue networkswhich are relatively unstable and made up of a large number of members. They form ad hoc due to a current problem or event. The policy communities on the other hand, are characterized by a high degree of interdependence between the members, a high degree of agreement with regard to goals and continuity (e.g. the Climate Action Network). Often these arise policy communities from the issue networkswhich occur far more frequently in practice than the permanent network type (Brunnengräber, Walk 1997).

An example of the volatile form of the situational alliance system is e.g. the formation of NGO networks on the occasion of the 1995 climate conference in Berlin. Some of the individual groups had different content-related concerns, but cooperated mainly in organizational terms. The decisive advantage of this form of network formation is the presence in the media. One must not forget that public support also forms the basis of legitimation for NGOs. The media attention at certain events (e.g. climate conference, G8 government meeting) is often the only way of attracting attention or even being able to exert influence, especially for smaller, low-resource NGOs. The expertise generated through networking and the exchange of information gives the NGOs a serious voice that finds its way into public opinion and policy-making.

"We have joined forces because we believe we will achieve greater impact by working together in collaborations with others." (Oxfam Annual Report 2002, P.2)

The problems that the networks can bring with them, however, are not small. Often the interests of the individual groups are so heterogeneous that they are more concerned with formulating common goals than with shining through a uniform strategy. The difference in size among the NGOs in particular harbors the risk of looking in different directions. While the large NGOs have already opened their network to state actors for cooperation purposes, this route is not exactly favored by all NGOs. There is a drifting apart and a “double strategy of autonomy and interference” (Walk 1997, p. 218). This problem is discussed again in Section 2.2.4.

So while the networking of the NGOs with one another has to be viewed with caution, one can speak of the Internet as a blessing for the NGO movement. It is no coincidence that the importance of NGOs grew in sync with the spread of the Internet in the 1990s. Some NGOs have pioneered the creation of interactive websites whose content is informative, revealing and fun at the same time. An exchange of information has arisen through e-mail, newsgroups and internet forums, which is possible at marginal costs. The news of small victories by local NGOs against poverty or environmental degradation, which are almost never reported in the classic media, reach millions of people all over the world through the Internet. Protest actions can take place at any location at the same time and the necessary protest letters or flyers can be downloaded at low cost. Experiences are exchanged and strategies are optimized. Intolerable conditions are audiovisually prepared for everyone and made media-compatible. Local hot spots thus receive global attention. The paradigm of the social movement of the 1970s 'act locally, think globally' is rewritten as 'think local, act global!' (Lahusen 1997). Tony Jupiter of the British environmental group Friends of the Earth even calls the Internet "the most powerful weapon in the toolbox of resistance" (Klein 2001, p. 406). The danger of violent free riders, which the switch from the data highway to the real roads brings with it, is one of only a few negative side effects of the Internet (Heins 2002, p. 145).

It would certainly be a mistake to believe that NGOs only frolic on the Internet. The presence in the classic media continues to be an important pillar in the acquisition of donors and fellow campaigners. It is not uncommon for celebrities who are committed to a specific campaign to be won over. For example, the Neptune Group was able to win TV star Jacques Cousteau, and Lady Diana successfully advocated a ban on landmines during her lifetime. For example, the writer Salman Rushdie is currently campaigning against the construction of a dam in his native India and the development organization Oxfam With the singer of the British pop band 'Coldplay' Chris Martin was able to win a currently very successful and well-known advocate for their trade campaign 'Make Trade Fair'. As long as the public is reached, it increasingly doesn't matter how this is done. Rather, the permanent media presence is of decisive importance, because many NGOs have now almost become brands that include professional public relations.

In view of the organizational structure of the NGOs discussed so far, the question now arises as to where they can be positioned in their institutional environment. That they, as civil society organizations, slide themselves between the spheres of state violence and economic power (Janett, 1997) is correct, but still rather imprecise. Their environment includes a large number of actors who can be allies or addressees of their protest.

2.2.4 Positioning in the institutional environment

Based on the modern concept of organization, societies are divided into functionally specified open subsystems, each of which specializes in overcoming socially recognized problems. Each system thus makes its own contribution to the social order. The economy maximizes profits, the media generates the public and science generates knowledge, while politics provides the bureaucratic administration. The NGOs now want to realize their goals in this heterogeneous area. To this end, they organize themselves in powerful networks through which they mobilize the global community of solidarity across these institutional fields. Their campaigns are not only aimed at politicians, but also at corporations, scientific institutes and the mass media. At the same time, they instrumentalize the respective subsystems and work in a multisectoral manner. In doing so, the NGOs deal with the logics of action that prevail in the respective subsystems (Janett 1997).

For example, environmental protection organizations in particular are increasingly instrumentalizing the market. The fact that as a not-for-profit organization it was not possible to close itself completely off the market has been evident for a long time due to the decline in donations and increasing competition among NGOs. Merchandising and lottery ticket sales have become established additional sources of funding for NGOs. What is new, however, is the sometimes very close cooperation between NGOs and large commercial enterprises. For example, companies are provided with the NGO's organizational logo to advertise the environmental friendliness of products (or even investment funds).[9] Collaborations on new product developments can also be observed.[10] The companies hope that this will improve their image and gain prestige. However, after its cooperation with Siemens, the nature conservation association NABU found that the economic orientation of the NGOs is not tolerated indefinitely. After an advertisement for a Siemens mobile phone in its member magazine, in which the phone was offered for sale at more favorable terms for its own clientele, there were strong member protests and resignations due to the well-known nuclear involvement of the Siemens group (Brunnengräber, Walk 2001) .

In the case of charities, on the other hand, a more governmental orientation has recently been observed. This resulted less from personal motivation than from the state's withdrawal from the social sphere. "Outcontracting" means that former government tasks are transferred to more efficiently working NGOs, who receive appropriate financial support for this. In the media sector, news is generated e.g. through current photos of crisis areas or spectacular protest actions. At the same time, however, the actions are legitimized by scientific expert reports. These reports, in turn, receive general media attention. The public pressure bundled by the NGO networks is passed on in a targeted manner and thus affects the fields of action in politics and business. In Figure 1, the mutual relationship between the four fields of action mentioned and the NGOs is shown again graphically.

Figure not included in this excerpt

illustration 1: Positioning of the NGO networks in the institutional environment (own illustration)

The networks are intended to reduce external dependency and external insecurity and to find alliance partners. The network structure allows the NGOs to react quickly to external changes in their highly complex environment and to adapt the internal structure to the circumstances.But this ability is also a problem for networks. There is a risk that the internal unity of the network can no longer be guaranteed. The internal conflict potential increases and the coordination effort increases. One consequence of this is, for example, the so-called North-South conflict. The more powerful (and usually richer) NGOs from the north anticipate environmental changes differently than their southern alliance partners, so that different strategies can emerge within the network. "While one group ... is still busy formulating a fundamental criticism of the system, their fellow campaigners are already sitting at dinner with the government officials [.]" Or business representatives (Walk, 1997, p. 195). This problem needs to be solved in the future in order not to endanger the effectiveness of the network any further. This topic is now explicitly addressed by many NGOs. The prospect of improvement is very good, because the inimitable strengths of the NGO networks are their ability to learn and change.

3. Oxfam Germany as an example of a transnational NGO

Due to the very high heterogeneity of the NGOs with regard to the membership and influence logic, the organizational structure and the strategy of action, we shall now use the specific example of the development aid organization Oxfam Germany a possible organizational policy of NGOs will be presented.

3.1 Origin, structure and classification of Oxfam Germany

Oxfam Germany was entered in the register of associations in Berlin in 1995 as a non-profit association. "The association exclusively and directly pursues charitable and non-profit purposes in emergency and disaster relief, in long-term development projects for self-help as well as in public and development education work." (, 2003). Oxfam Germany is one of 12 members of the Oxfam -Family, which sees itself as a network of independently working national NGOs.[11] Each national group sets particular priorities in its work, but above all action is the goal of "... helping people to exercise their rights on their own." (Ibid.). The fight against poverty, suffering and social injustice is thus defined as the primary goal. Oxfam and Oxfam Germany in particular can be used as a Transnational movement organization understood and thus the genuine NGOs are assigned. Their actions follow the altruistic thought and focus on the concerns of third parties.

The organization of these national departments follows the federal model. On the inside, diversity should be allowed, but on the outside it should appear as a unity. As the umbrella organization Oxfam International Registered in the Netherlands in 1995 with its seat in Oxford, which performs a coordination function and is not authorized to issue instructions to the national units. He is national of all Oxfam -Members financed and employs fifteen permanent employees. The original creation of Oxfam[12] goes back to four Englishmen and a German immigrant in Oxford, who helped the children who were in famine in Greece as early as 1942. Due to the large number of war refugees at that time, the commitment not only expanded to all of Europe. As early as 1953 is also Oxfam Australia founded. The German representation of Oxfam is the youngest member to date in the network. After a seven-year observation period, she has been a permanent member of the umbrella organization since November 2002 Oxfam International. In a “probationary period” that varies over time, the new members each have to prove their commitment and target conformity. Above all, they have to be able to finance themselves as soon as possible after initial financial donations in the first years of establishment by the umbrella organization. Full membership is only granted after these criteria have been met. The relatively late establishment of the German Oxfam - Representation is surprising, but explainable. It was the German reunification and the accompanying growing influence of Germany on European politics that led to the establishment of Oxfam Germany propelled forward. It was rightly assumed that Germany had a higher weight in international bodies such as the European Parliament, the World Bank and the WTO.[13] So it was less the willingness of Germans to donate than the chance of improved political influence that they wanted to take advantage of.

Oxfam Germany consists of only twelve members (to which I will come back in Section 3.3) and has almost as many permanent employees. It is important to differentiate here, however. Next to the club Oxfam is also the 1995 Oxfam DeutschlandShops GmbH was founded, whose sole shareholder is the association. While the GmbH has eight employees, there are only three permanent employees in the association Oxfam to find. Donated clothing and books are sold in their own second-hand shops in order to use the proceeds to provide development and disaster relief. The stores have become a major trademark of Oxfam have become, which is why they will now be discussed in more detail.

3.2 Second-hand shops as a financing concept

The idea for this financing concept arose more out of necessity. After the end of World War II, the British wanted Oxfam Help the German civilian population with collected clothing. However, these aid deliveries have been banned by the British government. However, since the clothes had already been collected, they started selling them directly in England and donating the money they earned to those in need in Germany. As a result, several hundred were created around the world Oxfam - Shops that, in addition to donated clothing, now also sell used household goods, toys, books and music CDs or records. To date, the number of UK stores alone has grown to over 700. In December 2003, the 17th Oxfam Store opened. Further stores are already being planned. In addition to the "liquefaction of the superfluous"[14] do business with other key advantages. On the one hand, they serve as public information and contact points with regard to the project and campaign work of Oxfam. On the other hand, they offer the solidarity community the opportunity to get actively involved (and not just by regularly debiting a donation) for a social cause without being given a great deal of responsibility. As a salesperson, you help in the shop and you can divide your time freely. The number of almost 800 volunteer helpers in Germany alone, who generate an annual turnover of almost two million euros, makes it clear that there is definitely the willingness and will to actively help in the population. For many, it is not feasible in terms of time alone to go directly to the disaster areas as a helper, so that the cooperation in one Oxfam Shop can be seen as an ideal opportunity for social engagement.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Figure 2: A Oxfam -Shop in London (source:

Learned by the high number of volunteers Oxfam also the necessary legitimation to act, which organizations with insufficient membership often do not achieve. They thus justify their right to have a say in socio-political issues vis-à-vis parliament, the government and the public and can appear as serious partners or opponents. The external appearance is strengthened and, in turn, it simplifies the acquisition of donations, since one is present in public and at the same time a serious image is conveyed. The name becomes the brand and, accordingly, is presented in a uniform manner, which seems to be more important than ever in today's corporate identity.

Another argument in favor of goods being sold in industrialized countries is the possible destruction of jobs in developing countries by textile exports. Because of this it works Oxfam also with the club Fair evaluation together who control the export of used clothing so as not to undermine the local industry with these aid supplies. In addition to its function as a source of finance, the shop concept has other considerable advantages. Above all, however, the aspect of gaining legitimacy is important for their membership and influence logic.

3.3 The membership and influence logic

Oxfam Germany has only twelve members. This is surprising because it is generally assumed that NGOs finance themselves to a large extent from membership fees. The reason that Oxfam Germany Recruiting permanent donors instead of voting members is the size of the association. With a democratic organizational structure, the diversity of interests and opinions would increase in line with the number of members, and the bureaucratic effort would be correspondingly higher and more cost-intensive. This could become an organizational problem for the still young and relatively small NGO and reduce its effectiveness. In order to avoid this possible scenario, membership is limited from the outset and the decisions regarding the projects to be supported in the developing countries are made by the board (Oxfam Annual report 1996, page 8).

As a rule, new members are recruited from a group of advisors who meet twice a year. This group of around 30 advisors consists of the association members and competent personalities, "... who share the values ​​and goals of Oxfam support and have the knowledge and experience necessary for the work of Oxfam important are [.] "(Oxfam Annual Report 1997, page 8). The advisory group does not have any decision-making rights in the association, but its influence should result from the "soundness of its advice". The advisory group is legitimized by the endeavor to appoint “... members of different sex, age, income and assets as well as diverse ethnic origins, nation, political and religious beliefs ...” to this forum (ibid.). Together with the large number of voluntary helpers in the second-hand shops justifies it Oxfam thereby the striving for parliamentary influence. This lobbying work is always tied to specific issues and takes place nationally by sending position papers and reports to the relevant ministries as well as through direct personal discussions with high-ranking representatives of parliament and the government. At the European level, lobbying is carried out by a delegation of representatives from the national organizations. Oxfam International also has four legal offices in the politically important cities of New York, Washington, Brussels and Geneva.[15] These offices are used by all national Oxfam -Organizations jointly funded. The influence ranges from providing information about the conditions in developing countries to personal participation in international contract signing and agenda settings.[16]Oxfam Germany is always trying to resolve the situation in developing countries in two ways. On the one hand, the need should be alleviated in the short term through disaster relief (e.g. drinking water supply or accommodation) and, in the long term, an improvement in living standards should be achieved through self-help projects. On the other hand, by means of intensive public relations work, attempts are being made to educate the German population and government representatives about living conditions and their causes in the Third World in order to gain solidarity and political consideration.

4. Conclusion

NGOs face several problems these days. On the one hand, the “time of innocence” ended, in which the still young NGOs were looked for in organizational policy errors, and it is now a matter of formulating a consistent strategy for action in addition to the idealistic programs. On the other hand, the exponential increase in NGOs in the high phase of the 1990s resulted in a struggle for resources, i.e. for donors and helpers. Oxfam Germany It was possible to solve these problems in a relatively short time and, in addition, to establish legitimation for action despite the low membership base as well as a coherent influence logic. A key factor here was the concept of thrift stores, which Oxfam Germany also makes it independent of economically fluctuating donations. As a result, there is no need to fall back on state funds, even in times of possible shortfalls in donations, which is beneficial to ideological stability. At the same time, the organization name is established and the high number of voluntary helpers creates the legitimation so that important political bodies can be heard or exerted an influence. Furthermore, by professionally filling the key positions of the association, a consistent target strategy and a coherent system with regard to acting in the institutional environment have been developed, which will also endure in the long term. The prospects for further participation in development policy agenda settings are promising, as the previous contributions by Oxfam distinguished by in-depth expertise and realistic assessments.[17] The area in which Oxfam Germany committed, will continue to be explosive in the future, especially due to the ongoing globalization process, and requires strong representation. The organizational political basis required for this has been established Oxfam Germany sufficiently created so that one can have promising expectations in the future. However, it remains to be seen whether Oxfam Germany remains flexible and powerful when the organizational effort increases due to the expansion at the shop level. The organizational policy should respond to the associated higher requirements in good time, but this is based on the experience of the other national Oxfam -Organizations in this field are no problem for Oxfam Germany should represent.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Reading list

Anheier, Dog Themudo, N. (2002). Leadership and management in international member organizations, in C. Franz, A. Zimmer (Eds.), Civil society internationally. Old and new NGOs. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, pp. 303-328.

Well diggers, A. and walk, H. (1997). The expansion of network theories: non-governmental organizations amalgamated with market and state, in E. Altvater et al., Networked and entangled. Non-governmental organizations as a social productive force. Münster: Westphalian steam boat, pp. 65-84.

Well diggers, A. and walk, H. (2001). NGOs under pressure to economize and adapt, in A. Brunnengräber et al., NGOs as a legitimation resource. Civil society forms of participation in the globalization process. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, pp. 95-114.

Heins, Volker (2002). Citizens of the world and local patriots. An introduction to the subject of non-governmental organizations. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Holtmann, Everhard (1991). Political Lexicon. Vienna: Oldenbourg.

Janett, Daniel (1997). Diversity as a strategic advantage: On the competence of non-governmental organizations to act in complex social environments, in E. Altvater et al., Networked and entangled. Non-governmental organizations as a social productive force. Münster: Westphalian steam boat, pp. 146-174.

Small, Naomi (2001). No logo!. Munich: Riemann Verlag.

Lahusen, Christian (1997). The organization of collective forms of action and possibilities for international campaigns, in E. Altvater et al., Networked and entangled. Non-governmental organizations as a social productive force. Münster: Westphalian steam boat, pp. 176-195.

Martens, Kerstin (2002). Old and new players - a definition, in C. Franz, A. Zimmer (Eds.), Civil society internationally. Old and new NGOs. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, pp. 25-50.

Nohlen, Dieter (Ed.) (2001). Small lexicon of politics. Munich: Beck.

Oxfam Germany (1997). Annual report 1997. Acrobat document to be downloaded on October 14, 2003 at

Oxfam Germany (1996). Annual report 1996. Acrobat document to be downloaded on October 14, 2003 at

Oxfam Germany (1995). Annual report 1995. Acrobat document to be downloaded on October 14, 2003 at

Oxfam International (2002). Annual Report 2002. Acrobat document for download on October 14, 2003 at

Sutherland, Peter (2003). "Globalization is good for the poor", Interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung dated November 12, 2003, p. 22.

walk, Heike (1997). “A little bit never hurts”: The dual strategy of NGO networks, in E. Altvater et al., Networked and entangled. Non-governmental organizations as a social productive force. Münster: Westphalian steam boat, pp. 196-223.

Other sources of information

Kalinski, Jörn (2003). Oxfam -Büro Berlin - Advisor for communication and projects, responsible for lobbying, press and project work at Oxfam Germany in a telephone interview with the author on October 15, 2003.[18]

Homepage of the Naturschutzbund Germany (2003) at

Homepage of WWF Germany (2003) at

World Trade Organization homepage (2003) at

World Bank homepage (2003) at

Homepage of the band Coldplay (2003) at

Homepage of the Oxfam -Trade campaign ‘Make Trade Fair’ (2003) at


[1] The common abbreviation NGO goes back to the synonymous English-language terminology "Non-Governmental Organization". From the actually correct German abbreviation NGO is disregarded in the context of this thesis because the abbreviation NGO has also largely prevailed in contributions in the German language.

[2] The term QUANGOs stands for Quasi-NGOs; GONGOs is the abbreviation for Government OrganizedNGOs

[3] in the version dated January 28, 1994

[4] see. Anheier and Themudo 2002, P. 318

[5] see BGB §§25, 26 and 56, as of January 10, 2000

[6] For example, at the NGO Friends of the Earth in most country sections the board is elected by grassroots democracy. In Canada, however, members do not have voting rights. The board appoints itself there.

[7] See. Janett 1997, P. 150

[8] OECD stands for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organization of the western industrialized countries.

[9] The environmental protection organization WWF provides the household appliance manufacturer AEG, for example, with its panda logo to identify energy-saving devices. There is also a cooperation between WWF and the fund company DWS, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank.

[10] In cooperation with the keyboard manufacturer Cherry, BUND has developed the first ecologically optimized keyboard.

[11] To Oxfam -Family includes national representations in Great Britain, Belgium, Spain, Holland, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Quebec, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the USA and Germany.

[12] The name Oxfam is an abbreviation for "Oxford Committee for Famine Relief", in German for example: Oxford Committee for the Relief of Famine.

[13]World Trade Organization, the World Trade Organization founded in 1993.

[14] Slogan of Oxfam -Shops, see

[15] New York is the headquarters of the United Nations Secretariat. The headquarters of the World Bank are in Washington and the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. The European Parliament has its seat in Brussels.

[16] A representative of Oxfam Germany participated as an official member of the federal German government delegation in the signing conference of the treaty for a ban on anti-personnel mines 1997 in Ottawa. (see. Oxfam Annual report 1997, p. 3)

[17] The former WTO Director General Peter Sutherland attests this in an interview with Oxfam Süddeutsche Zeitung dated November 12, 2003: “Since the WTO conference in Seattle in 1999, Anglo-Saxon non-governmental organizations in particular, Oxfam, for example, have changed their position. You now recognize that the WTO and the free trade principle are of vital interest to the world's poor. "

[18] Unfortunately, the phone call could not be recorded for technical reasons. Only the conversation notes can therefore be used as a verifiable source of information.