Making sense of post-Soviet NGO activism: committed activists, transnational institution-building and neoliberal reforms in Ukraine Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Gutnik, Arseniy
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • Following Ukraine's independence, Westerners and local reformers transformed the system of social services. More weight was put on individual efforts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to meet citizens' needs. Critiques of NGOs highlight their self-serving orientation, which hinders service provision and social change. However, using data from my pilot study of Ukrainian HIV/AIDS organizations, I show that: 1) Looking inside organizations reveals a contingent of highly committed activists. 2) Yet, even among activists with the best intentions, individualistic notions inherent in neoliberal reforms and Western civil society models influence their activities in complex ways that potentially sustain a less egalitarian system. NGO critiques thus do not fully address the underlying assumptions and broader context of the NGO project. I also suggest that scholars should devote more attention to investigating supposed NGO advantages of limited corruption and less bureaucracy. Finally, I briefly outline an extension of the findings to transnational activism.
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  • Aldrich, Howard
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