Driving Internal Change by External Means: The Paradoxical Mission of Development NGOs

Carolin Johanna Waldner, Stephanie Schrage, Andreas Rasche

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


In this study, we analyze the dynamics of the paradoxical mission of development NGOs, who as external actors from Western welfare states aim to drive internal change in local communities in developing countries. This paradoxical mission is particularly interesting in order to contribute to paradox theory as it constitutes of two poles, where one is fixed and the other is dynamic. While NGOs can adjust their practices as external actors, they cannot influence the internal nature of their objective to drive change that comes from within local communities. Based on a 15-months ethno graphic case study of the German development NGO Viva con Aqua, which works with their par adoxical mission of implementing water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in rural Uganda, we find that the organization applied different strategies to cope with the paradoxical tensions of their mis sion and meet their desired end: (1) adjusting external means, (2) supporting internal means, and (3) working with universal means. This way, we contribute to the literature on organizational par adoxes by analyzing a paradox that unfolds between means and end of a process by introducing the paradox response of ‘working with universal means’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021: Bringing the Manager Back in Management - Online, Virtual, Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021
Conference number: 81


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Internet address


  • Paradoxial processes
  • Development NGOs
  • Ethnographic case study

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