in: van Wessel, Margit / Tina Kontinen / Justice Nyigmah Bawole (Hrsg.), Reimagining civil society collaborations in development: starting from the South, London: Routledge, 281-295
Organizational autonomy is assumed to be a crucial prerequisite for well-functioning civil society organizations (CSOs). While the literature largely concentrates on how donors and governments constrain professional CSOs’ autonomy, this chapter focuses on sub-national organizations’ day-to-day engagement with the state and with the intermediary organizations that are funding them. By comparing how a Ugandan CSO and a provincial chapter of the Women’s Union in Vietnam practise autonomy, the chapter shows that autonomy, in itself, has no set value. Practising autonomy is relational, changes over time, and can take on different meanings. The observed relationships with state authorities were not exclusively constraining; they also enabled the organizations to implement politically sensitive projects at the community level. The chapter thus proposes that scholars and practitioners pay more attention to modes of collaboration at the intermediary–sub-national level nexus. This could, among other things, enable actors to capitalize on the advantages provided by adaptive management approaches.