Defining and Researching NGOs >> Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following FAQs were for the benefit of NGOs who wanted to know more about the questionnaire.

  1. What benefits can my organisation gain from sending back the DANGO questionnaire?
  2. Why do you want information on my organisation?
  3. Why are you interested in our organisational papers?
  4. What about the confidential papers that my organisation keeps?
  5. What are archives?
  6. Is it free to be registered in DANGO's database?
  7. Will I have to pay to access the database once I have given you some information?
  8. What are your plans in regard to maintaining the database?
  9. When will the database be available for research?
  10. What do you mean exactly by records or archives?
  11. I would like to describe my collection in the most useful way. Are there any standards in the matter?
  12. What is the deadline for sending back the DANGO questionnaire / survey?

Q. What benefits can my organisation gain from sending back the DANGO questionnaire?

A. We hope that participation in our survey might bring some benefit to your organisation. By facilitating research into the cause a given body advances, it will be helping to raise awareness of that cause. Also, and this is particularly the case with smaller groups, inclusion in our database could help to raise awareness of the NGO itself. Finally, donor confidence would surely be increased by an NGO making steps towards openness and transparency (even though we understand bodies will wish to protect confidential records).

Q. Why do you want information on my organisation?

A. Historians and other researchers have recognised the growing importance of new social movements and civil society organisations in changing British society and politics. Access to their archives, however, remains haphazard, with only a relatively small number of NGO materials held in public institutions. Currently no research tool exists specifically to assist a growing number of researchers examining questions relating to NGOs: our searchable database will provide information on the institution's history, the condition and accessibility of its archives, as well as its catalogue and organisation.

Q. I am rather puzzled why anyone would want to look at our organisational papers, as distinct from the information available in our library. What types of research can it be useful for?

A. Organisational papers are very important to historians or political scientists to understand how an organisation works and exerts influence or pressure. They complement other sources of information such as publications, lobbying material, etc. For example the historian Tom Buchanan used Amnesty International internal papers extensively to write an article on this organisation ('Amnesty . . .', published in the journal Twentieth Century British History in 2004).

Q. What about the confidential papers that my organisation keeps? Do you also want to know about them?

A. DANGO only aims to establish a rough list of your records / archives. You may list confidential papers in the questionnaire you return to us; it does not mean you will have to grant access to them. Similarly, you remain the owners of your own papers and will decide under which circumstances bona fide researchers may or may not have access to them. In fact, DANGO aims to act as an interface between researchers and NGOs. Thus, if you tell us that you do not want to grant access to your archives, researchers will be able to see this information on the entry relating to your organisation on our website and are thus less likely to bother you with their request. Filling in our questionnaire can thus help you to save time in the long run.

Q. What are Archives? Do the records that we hold in the office of the NGO I work or volunteer for constitute an archive?

A. Yes. For a definition of what an archive is, see the Access to Archives website.

Q. Is the inclusion of my organisation / NGO / voluntary organisation in your database free of charge for me?

A. Yes – absolutely (see also next question)

Q. Will I have to pay to access the database once I have given you some information?

A. No - absolutely not. Our project will result in the creation of an online database that will be entirely free to use; access will be open to anyone wishing to consult the database. DANGO has been granted funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to undertake this project and is therefore not looking for money. The database aims to work as a research tool for Academic or non-Academic researchers interested in writing studies on NGOs. You can thus be assured that you will have free access to the information we publish on the website about your organisation.

Q. What are your plans in regard to maintaining the database?

A. The DANGO project will run for 2 years. Beyond this, the University of Birmingham has agreed to maintain the site for another 5 years (thus the database will be accessible until 2012 at the very least). Depending on circumstances, the project may continue after this date.

Q. When will the database be available for research?

A. We plan for the database to go "live" online some time during this Autumn (2006). It will of course not be complete by then, but will be expending and is expected to as complete as it will be towards the end of October 2007.

Q. You are asking about our records or archives. I am not too sure what you mean. Would you like me to send you a list of the holdings of our library? I can send you a catalogue of our books if you want to.

A. While it is always useful to mention in the questionnaire that you have a library or some bookshelves, with, possibly, an estimate of the number of books or the main subject of your collection, we are not so much interested in the printed books that your organisation might keep (unless they are rare books - eg. published abroad - closely related to your organisation). Because all publishers in the UK have a legal obligation to deposit every volume they publish with the British Library, books can usually be found elsewhere easily. For more information on what we mean exactly by archive, please see above.

Q. I would like to describe my collection in the most useful way. Are there any standards in the matter?

A. There are several standards for describing records/collections. The Archives Hub provides some interesting links presenting their own standards of description, and they also present the International Standard for Archival Description ISAD(G). See their page at: http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/arch/ead.shtml

Q. What is the deadline for sending back the Dango Questionnaire / Survey?

A. As the project is currently ongoing, there is no formal deadline for returning the questionnaire. However, it would be a great help to us if you could return them as soon as possible (i.e. within one month of receipt). The sooner we will be able to enter information about your organisation in our database, and the sooner it will be displayed on our website.

 

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