Can NGOs and social movements be authentic allies?

Can NGOs and social movements be authentic allies?


About This Session

Campaigning organisations are moving beyond the question of ‘if’ they should engage with movements to asking ‘when’ and ‘how’ – reflecting an understanding of systems change as complex, nonlinear and unpredictable in which NGOs can have little impact on their own. However, these institutions have a completely different DNA to movements, with heavy layers of decision-making to manage risk, protect a brand, and ensure consistency across staff and offices.

If this weren’t enough to stifle timely, creative collaboration toward shared goals, many NGO staff rightly have an overwhelming fear of causing harm to movements by acting in ways that are (or appear to be) self-serving or co-opting. They also fear causing harm to their own organisation through legal risks or supporter attrition. That said, inaction during a ‘movement moment’ also risks an organisation’s relevance and impact.

In this lively panel discussion, we’ll hear the perspectives of life-long activists and NGO senior leaders, as well as those with a foot in both camps, as we aim to explore whether it is truly possible for NGOs and social movements to work together as allies, while both remaining loyal to their cause, true to their supporters and achieving their stated goals.

This Session Is Aimed at:

  • Employees at campaigning organisations
  • Activists
  • Senior leaders
  • Funders
  • Anyone involved in social movements

What You Will Learn

  • A better understanding of what sets NGOs and social movement apart
  • A deeper understanding of the issues faced by both NGOs and social movements when they try to work together
  • Steps that can be taken on both sides to make these ‘partnerships’ more effective
  • How to convince your colleagues or fellow activists of the importance of NGO/movement collaboration
  • What can be achieved when NGOs and social movements manage to collaborate effectively






Michael Silberman (USA)
Global Director, Mobilisation Lab
Masana Ndinga-Kanga (South Africa)
Crisis Response Fund Lead, CIVICUS
Madhuresh Kumar (India)
National Convener, National Alliance of People's Movements
Carys Afoko (UK)
Co-Founder, Level-Up
Kirsty McNeill (UK)
Executive Director for Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Save The Children