NGOs involved int international development (NGDOs) face unprecedented conditions that call for thoughtful responses. Three major dynamics are combining to shape NGDOs’ policy and operating environments. First, in a relatively unstable and insecure world order, NGDOs must deal with demands generated by a comprehensive, interlocking architecture of international aid. This construction could homogenise NGDO thinking and practise along official lines and induce negative competition. It can also increase tensions between service delivery and governmental roles. At the same time, the aid framework promotes more complex relationships that can help or hinder resourcing opportunities. All these possibilities have implications for NGDO effectiveness, accountability, identity and sustainability.
A second set of pressures stem from developments within civil societies. Here, Southern NGDOs need to contemplate displacement by social movements as agents of structural change, while Northern NGDOs would do well to consider the growth of domestic, migration-driven diasporas as potentially more effective international civic resource providers, intermediaries and advocates. As a contribution to such processes, the paper unpacks and analyses key dimensions of contextual dynamics. The results are used to identify issues and critical questions that NGDOs could be asking about their futures and choices. The paper also indicates related topics for reflection by funders. To assist discussion, ideas about possible forward-looking options for NGDOs and donors are provided.