Making civil society work: Contracting, cosmopolitanism and community development in Tanzania

Claire Mercer, Maia Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The work that NGOs now do has undergone significant change since they came to prominence as development actors in the 1980s. NGOs in Africa are shaped by a development donor civil society template that provides the resources and the training to produce a distinct sector made up of recognisable and formalised organisations which are to be organised in country-wide networks to play anticipated roles in pro-poor policy-making and holding government to account. Realising this template in the forms of organisations demands specific kinds of work through which civil society comes to be enabled as an actor in development. This work can be characterised as contracting, volunteering, and scalar work. Civil society work demands the performance of certain subjectivities amenable to interstitial positionality. Contracted cosmopolitanism plays an important role in the constitution of civil society working and in the differentiation of civil society actors from the communities which are the object of their endeavour. This paper examines the scope and constitution of civil society work in two rural districts in Tanzania.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-115
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Africa
  • Civil society
  • Contracting
  • NGOs
  • Tanzania
  • Volunteering


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