Introduction: What are non-governmental organizations?
The acronym ‘NGO’ has become part of everyday language in many countries. It has entered the vocabulary of professionals and activists, and that of ordinary citizens. Images and representations of NGOs and their work have also become mainstream. In the UK, NGO fundraising leaflets fall from the pages of the Sunday newspapers each week, more often than not featuring a photo of a young, wide-eyed African or Asian child. NGOs also feature prominently in cultural life, such as in movies and books. In the Hollywood film About Schmidt (2002), the central character, played by Jack Nicholson, finds redemption when he sponsors an African child after seeing a television appeal. In Helen Fielding’s novel Cause Celeb (1994), the heroine escapes an empty London working life when she joins an international NGO and works with African famine relief (Lewis et al. 2005).