Working Paper

IDS Working Paper;339

Thinking Big, Going Global: The Challenge of BRAC’s Global Expansion

Published on 1 September 2010

Since 2002, BRAC, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) of Bangladeshi origin, has gone global. It has expanded its programme of ‘microfinance plus’ (education, health, enterprise support, etc) to Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Pakistan. It has established organisations in the UK and the USA to raise funds and its international profile.

It is believed to be the largest NGO in Afghanistan, is growing fast elsewhere, and has long been the largest non-governmental entity in Bangladesh. BRAC’s global expansion appears to be part of a trend of the ‘South in the South’, marked by the expansion of Chinese business in Africa, but also, it seems, by new forms of Southern non-governmental organisation transplanted across Southern contexts.

This paper explores two challenges of BRAC’s global expansion. The first is the challenges BRAC faces as it seeks to break new ground as the first International NGO of Southern origin to take its programme and manageria expertise to other countries. It is an ambitious agenda. A critical challenge is the need to attract financing and carve out regulatory room for service delivery programmes within new political spaces that are sometimes unfamiliar with and unwelcoming of NGOs on the BRAC scale.

The second challenge of the title is the challenge to thinking about NGOs in development: discussions about NGOs in development currently emphasise disappointment with their performance, and a withdrawal, including among aid donors and discourses, from their ‘magic bullet’ heyday of the late 1990s. While BRAC’s global expansion is facing challenges, its ambitious expansionary programme counters disappointment around NGOs, raising new questions about the roles of NGOs in development.


Naomi Hossain

Research Fellow

Publication details

published by
Hossain, N. and Sengupta, A.
IDS Working Paper, issue 339
1 85864 908 0


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