Winning global policies: The network-based operation of microfinance NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1996--2002

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Margaret G. Hermann


Microfinance, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nongovernmental organizations

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


In the context of transnational politics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their international donors may hold conflicting policy preferences and objectives. Such differences however do not prevent them from forming policy networks and inter organizational coalitions.In the case of the microfinance sector of post-Dayton Accord Bosnia and Herzegovina such transnational networks have evolved into distinct political units of global policy development and implementation. Much contemporary literature cautions against close NGO integration with such international state-centric institutions, out of concern for the NGO's independence and the associated threat to its political accountability to the populations it serves. An important corollary is a concern regarding NGO susceptibility to donor-induced commercialization pressures.

Drawing from the microfinance issue area of post-Dayton Accord Bosnia and Herzegovina, this work is a comparative study of four NGOs and their supporting transnational networks designed to examine the consequences of NGO interactions with a other public policy actors. Using the Constant Comparative Method of Qualitative Research, this work identifies four types of transnational networks comprised of NGOs and international agencies. Two sets of network attributes in particular emerge as consequential. The first is the degree of coherence in the policies and objectives among network members. The second is the degree of diversification of the collective resource base of the network, also referred to as the degree of power concentration within the network.

This study concludes that NGOs are most successful in achieving balanced social and financial performance when operating within networks characterized by low levels of policy coherence among network members and by low degrees of power concentration within the network. Such arrangements allow the NGO to insulate its implementation processes from dominant donors, while drawing upon the resource base such donors provide. This condition of 'insular embeddedness' within donor structures helps the NGO to balance policy engagements with political objectives and public accountability. In summary, this work affirms that transnational networks profoundly affect global policy, and they do so by diluting and mediating the policy objectives of international donor institutions for the final policy outcomes as delivered by NGOs. These conclusions are at the core of a framework developed in this study, the Network-Based Theory of the NGO Sector.


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