No. 29




Internal Democracy in Non-Governmental Organisations: Involving Members and Target Groups in Policy Shaping

  • Maiu Uus

    Analyst, PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies

The role of Estonian NGOs in policy-making processes has become increasingly visible in recent years. Due to that the questions related to their internal democracy are gaining importance. A recent study by Praxis Center for Policy Studies explored how internal democracy in NGOs works and how the members are involved within NGOs to obtain input for policy-making. The article presents the main conclusions of that research.

The study focused on the evaluation of internal democracy in non-profit organisations engaged in advocacy, acting in public interest, and participating in policy-making processes. Regarding such organisations, there are heightened expectations to ensure the democratic nature of their internal processes. Theoretical part of the article offers an overview related to the concept of internal democracy – its connection to NGOs’ different roles and functions as well as its relation to different approaches of democracy are explored.

During the study, a quantitative poll was carried out among advocacy, umbrella and member organisations in Estonia. The article focuses on the results of the poll, although three case studies and a focus group debate of experts were also carried out.

The results of the study can be regarded as novel information for NGO leaders and members, officials, politicians, and donors of NGOs. The findings presented in this article will help the public, officials and politicians to understand better the internal processes of NGOs. The information is useful also for NGOs themselves, as they may learn about different practices related to facilitation of the participation of organization’s members.

Full article in Estonian