SP333      Half Unit
NGOs, Social Policy and Development

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Timothy Hildebrandt OLD.2.56


This course is available on the BSc in International Social and Public Policy, BSc in International Social and Public Policy and Economics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course is only available to third year undergraduate students.

Course content

While the study of social and public policy has traditionally been concerned with actions taken by governments, the wider non-governmental sector is increasingly recognised as playing a key role. This course focuses on both international and local ‘non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) that have emerged around the world to address a wide range of social, political and environmental concerns. It offers a critical perspective on NGOs in the context of development and social policy, covering both theoretical and policy issues. The focus is on two main inter-related themes: how NGOs serve as vehicles through which citizens organise, and how NGOs are instruments through which states, businesses and funding agencies pursue their interests.

Most of the examples in the lectures and the readings will relate to the Global South, but many of the issues covered are also relevant in rich industrialised countries. Topics covered include definitions and history of NGOs; the changing policy contexts in which development NGOs operate; conceptual debates around ‘civil society’ and third sector; competing theoretical perspectives on NGOs; the domestic, international and global dimensions of non-governmental action; shifting relationships with other policy actors; service delivery and advocacy roles; international humanitarianism; challenges of NGO legitimacy and accountability; resource dilemmas; voluntarism and volunteering; and NGO organisational growth and change.


Courses in Social Policy follow the Teaching Model outlined on the following page: https://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/Current-Students/teaching-in-the-department-of-social-policy


All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Michaelmas and/or Lent terms". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.


This course is taught in MT.

Formative coursework

Students will write one essay (1500 words) during Michaelmas Term, and will receive written feedback in preparation for the summative assessment.

Indicative reading

Banks, Nicola, David Hulme, Michael Edwards (2015) ‘NGOs, states, and donors revisited: still too close for comfort?’ World Development, Volume 66, pp.707–718.

Keck, M. E. & Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Cornell University Press.

Lewis, David (2014) Non-Governmental Organisations, Management and Development. Routledge.

Schuller, M. (2012) Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs. Rutgers University Press.

Swidler, Ann and Susan Cotts Watkins (2016) A Fraught Embrace: The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa. Princeton University Press.

Wallace, Tina, Fenella Porter and Mark Ralph-Bowman (eds. 2013) Aid, NGOs and the Realities of Women’s Lives: A Perfect Storm. Practical Action Publishing.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2021/22: 12

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Capped 2021/22: Yes (15)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication