Formation of inter-NGO networks in Japan

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Abstract

Research of NGOs generally concentrates on such practical aspects as development cooperation and advocacy work and has mainly been geographically focused on overseas fields. However, the necessity of paying attention to domestic activity and organizational management of NGOs can be pointed out so far as one unnoticed aspect. Especially in Japan, organizations striving for a network between NGOs (network NGOs) are noteworthy. This paper clarifies the formation of inter-NGO networks: how they function and assert their influence, and their meaning and role in the geographical context of Japanese politics and economics. The data used were obtained from directories, various reports on NGOs, and interviews with nine network NGOs. The findings can be summarized as follows. The number of NGOs in Japan has consistently bee n increasing, and geographical distribution shows monopolar concentration in Tokyo. Large-scale and specialized NGOs are remarkably unevenly distributed because of the concentration of politics and economics in Tokyo and the vertical and hierarchical Japanese urban system. Network NGOs, establis hed since the mid-1980s, have played an important role in the promotion of networks between NGOs, including the following types: issue, field, object country / region based on speciality, and national and local that engage in comprehensive activities. The "national type" covers the entire country, and the "local type" is confined to a specific geographical scope. Investigation revealed that local and national type network NGOs have been established in the entire country from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Many local type network NGOs have been established in rural areas, despite the monopolar concentration situation in Tokyo. In terms of the location of member NGOs, the geographical scope of the local and national type networks stretch away from various scales from city to national levels without exclusive territories. Depending on objectives, the activities of local and natio nal type network NGOs can roughly be classified into three types. The first is the capacity building of NGOs in such areas as information and experience exchanges, job training, and study meetings. The second is such activities for the citizenry as development education and enlightenment programs. The third is discussion and advocacy work with the national and local governments. Local and national type network NGOs play a local role by managing the local needs of NGOs, utilizing local resources, and strengthening the influence on the area's citizens and government. Moreover, they also strengthen local legitimacy by functioning as a window for citizens and government and developing trust between NGOs based on face-to-face contact. Such a local role is one of the main factors of network NGOs established not only in Tokyo but all over the country. Analysis of the construction process of the nationwide network called the "national platform" shows that local and national network NGOs recognize their national role and function by relativizing themselves in relation with the organizations of other regions within Japan. In national platform debates, the organizational form of hierarchies / networks and the spatial structure of centralization / decentralization are discussed, and pros and cons are also described with the above. The positions of network NGOs based on location (Tokyo / non-Tokyo) are reflected there. From here, it is pointed out that spatial formation plays a crucial role in the organizational formation of networks. By functioning within the existing spatial structure of the monopolar concentration in Tokyo, the national role of network NGOs differs, and they are sometimes opposed to each other. Especially, local network NGOs are concerned that the centralization of the organizational process and form will undermine the autonomy not only of each organization but also of each region. Moreover, such a national role is deeply concerned with the legitimacy of the entire NGO sector. The national platform, representing the diversity of domestic regions, will assert the national legitimacy of inter-NGO networks, just as "multinationality" is the source of the global legitimacy of international NGOs. Within the remarkably uneven geographical distribution of monopolar concentration in Tokyo, the legitimacy of networks is spatially asserted through a commitment from various regions geographically and hierarchically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalJapanese Journal of Human Geography
Volume57
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Japan
  • Legitimacy
  • Monopolar concentration in Tokyo
  • NGO (non-governmental organization)
  • Network
  • Network NGO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development

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