Explaining the Role of Culture and Traditions in Functioning of Civil Society Organizations in Kazakhstan
Recent studies find that Western-style professional nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries are weak and unsustainable. Most of these NGOs developed strong dependency on foreign donors for funds, and did not develop local network of support. This study is conducted to understand the lack of effectiveness of NGOs in Kazakhstan and to test popular sentiments toward NGOs. The interview with local and foreign social science experts and public figures confirm that NGOs in Kazakhstan are weak and unsustainable. The explanations of institutional ineffectiveness lay in disconnect with local traditions, low visibility of NGOs, and unsupportive government. Survey of general population suggests that people in Kazakhstan know very little about NGOs and do not appreciate their utility. We explain the inability of civil society organizations to reach out to local people by cultural mismatch. By using the Hofstede national culture model (Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 1984), we argue that local culture is in striking dissonance with the culture of donor countries, which created the NGO agenda in Kazakhstan.