Common Framework NGOs Report
Political Institutions

A Common Framework for Understanding Non-state Organizations

Author(s): Lindsay Heger, Danielle Jung, Sarah Stroup, Wendy Wong
Date: May 1, 2014
Publication Type: Research Report


This paper serves as an introduction to conceptualizations of non-state organizations (NSOs) and, in particular, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multinational corporations (MNCs), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and dark networks. We focus on those groups here as they constitute a sizeable portion of contemporary NSO activity and we anticipate a useful synthesis from a narrower approach.

This paper highlights the challenges faced by scholars and practitioners in understanding NSOs, and to bring to relief themes and concepts that might run across more than one of these types of actors. Through a comparative analysis of organizational structure, we hope to advance our knowledge of both individual types of NSOs as well as the category as a whole.

Key Findings:

  • Intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and violent groups all operate alongside states and are all important players in global politics, but we understand little about the characteristics that unite them as a category.
  • A fertile exchange between researchers and practitioners will help hone the conversation toward issues and topics that are relevant to real-world advances in understanding and interacting in our increasingly complex global arena.

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