Negotiating the Boundaries of Voluntarism: Values in the Indian NGO Sector

Tanya Jakimow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Values are an essential part of the identity of non-government organizations (NGOs), distinguishing them from other sectors and contributing to their legitimacy. Values are neither uncontested nor wholly self-determined, but rather are products of the broader social and political environment. The meaning of values must be negotiated with multiple actors, such as funding agencies, the state, and the general public including their "clients." This paper looks at the ways that the meaning of a particular NGO value-voluntarism-is negotiated and contested in India. I argue that conceptualizations of voluntarism are neither singular, nor static, and that NGOs draw on these to claim legitimacy, or contest them through counter-narratives. These struggles over the meaning of voluntarism are in themselves productive, shaping organizational identity, and functioning. Values can thereby be a useful analytical tool to understanding NGOs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-568
Number of pages23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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