01/24/2013 08:43 am ET Updated Mar 26, 2013

The Future of NGOs

Today I participated in my first Open Forum in Davos. The topic was the future of NGOs and the panellists represented persons from the impact investment community to foundation directors to representatives of government institutions.

The main discussion centred on whether NGOs are really serving their purpose of solving a social problem or whether the large bureaucracies that exist in today's large NGOs have smothered their initial mission. There was lots of discussion on whether an NGO should have an exit strategy that focuses on winding its activity down and closing itself after it has solved the particular social challenge it is attacking. Many participants felt that NGOs try to seek unsustainable solutions to the problems they are seeking to solve because they want to perpetuate themselves into the future. If they solve the problem too quickly they will no longer need to exist and many NGO jobs will cease to exist.

There was talk about the smaller NGOs and social entrepreneurs being more efficient at finding effective solutions and less concerned and obligated to raise money to fund large overhead costs and exerting the extreme energy required to do so.

It was fascinating for me to be present because I have often found small NGOs and social entrepreneurs in Guatemala to be very focused in achieving a sustainable solution and most energy and strategy can be directed in this direction.

Is the large NGO and its need to be focused on fundraising making it less effective at finding sustainable solutions in the areas it is concerned with? What will be the new models that emerge for solving the social and environmental challenges of tomorrow? It is clear to me that social entrepreneurs have the potential to play a large role here in the future!