International Non-Government Organizations: The Pangea Network

Pangea Network Logo

            International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs) are not-for-profit organizations that operate at the international or transnational level. Some of the social domains in which INGOs participate in are human rights, environment, disaster relief, education, health care, development, and many more. Some view INGOs as a core to developing a global civil society. However, there has been many critiques and conflicts associated with INGOs. This essay will explore the history and background of INGOs, including their growth trends and critiques. Then, we will look at a particular INGO, the Pangea Network, and discuss it’s origins, programs, beneficiaries, and their outlook for the future.

INGOs: Background and Critiques

The first INGO was founded in 1839 (Christensen, 2007). Since then, the sheer number of INGOs have grown dramatically. According to the Annuaire de la vie international, the first collective report in INGOs, there were 374 organizations in 1909 (“International Nongovernmental Organizations |,” n.d.). The two world wars stunted the growth of INGOs for awhile until during the post war period when they began to grow once more. Those INGOs founded before the world wars were mainly based in Europe, and it wasn’t until afterwards that more non-Western INGOs began to pop up in the Global South (“International Nongovernmental Organizations |,” n.d.). In 2000, there were more than 37,000 active INGOs and 1/6th of that number are INGOs that were formed in the 1990s (Christensen, 2007). Of the 37,000 INGOs, 27% were associated with economic development and infrastructure, 23% with research, and 11% with social service (Christensen, 2007). The growth of INGOs can be attributed to globalization, the declined faith in governments’ abilities, knowledge of global problems, and increased development in information and communication. The internet has made communication easier and more efficient. Due to this, there has also been an increased amount of INGOs forming associations or coalitions in order to tackle large global problems that they are all trying to alleviate. Although INGOs have critiques against some International Government Organizations (IGOs), cooperation between INGOs and IGOs is also common, especially in the disaster relief, development, and education fields.

Christensen, R. K. (2007). International Nongovernmental Organizations: Globalization, Policy Learning, and the Nation-State. Intl Journal of Public Administration.

            As INGOs grow in numbers and spread farther, it is not uncommon to see conflict occur. Clashes between cultures, religions, and countries can lead to strained relationships between INGOs and the local beneficiaries, NGOs, and/or governments. There are differences between Western and non-Western INGOs, the most notable is the difference in social problem priorities.  Western INGOs put an emphasis on civil and political rights whereas non-western INGOs prioritize social and economic rights such as clean water, health care, and food accessibility (“International Nongovernmental Organizations |,” n.d.). The differences between Western and non-western INGOs do not end there, but it a distinct characteristic that they have. Critiques of INGOs include lack of accountability, representativeness, and transparency (“International Nongovernmental Organizations |,” n.d.). One critique of INGOs, especially large ones in less developed countries, is that they often fail to gain knowledge and understanding of the culture and society of where they are trying to build a program. This is a foundational flaw that guarantees program failure if an INGO does not have adequate cultural knowledge. Many of these INGOs that don’t have that cultural and societal knowledge, may also exacerbate the existing inequalities or social issue that they are trying to diminish. Some INGOs are not as transparent as IGOs about internal operations, which leads to a transparency issue. On top of that, extreme professionalization in INGOs has led to lack of cooperation with local NGOs. Many of these critiques are rooted in the unyielding western viewpoints that some INGOs bring with them to their various locations. This is dangerous because it undermines the local society’s viewpoint and efforts in addressing the social problem.

The Pangea Network

            The Pangea Network is an INGO that is dedicated to empowering women in Kenya and the United States (Texas) with knowledge, skills, and support. It’s cause areas are international economic development and youth development programs (“PANGEA NETWORK – GuideStar Profile,” n.d.). It was founded in 2005 by Nicole Minor and is headquartered in the Woodlands, Texas. It reached tax-exempt status in 2006 (“PANGEA NETWORK – GuideStar Profile,” n.d.). The story of how Nicole Minor founded the Pangea Network began in 2001 when she read about the concept of micro-lending to alleviate poverty in the book, Banker to the Poor by Muhammed Yunus, Phd of Economics (VoyageHouston, 2017). The concept of microlending was to provide small loans to impoverished, entrepreneurial women in the pursuit to improve her life, her family, and ultimately her community. Minor was inspired and decided to research and reach out to other NPOs that dealt with poverty alleviation/reduction (VoyageHouston, 2017). Since the creation of the Pangea Network, many educational, income-generating, and skill building programs for women in Kenya and Texas have been facilitated. The Director of all Kenyan Country Operations since 2009 is Dorothy Ombajo, a human rights attorney who began working with Pangea in 2007 (Meet the Team | Pangea Network, n.d.). The US Programs Director is Ivana Situm who is in charge of all US-based program operations. (Meet the Team | Pangea Network, n.d.). The Pangea Network’s two largest programs are the Kenyan Women’s Network and the Young Women’s Leadership Challenge (YWLC).

Operations Director for Kenyan projects, Dorothy Ombajo

            The Kenyan Women’s Network’s mission is to economically and socially empower impoverished women in Kenya through educational training in leadership, business skills, human rights, health, and more.  The Kenyan Women’s Network works with groups of women at a time. It is a 4-year program that aims for the women to be well trained enough to become mentors for future groups of women. Before the program begins, Grameen’s Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) and a Pangea survey as given in order to determine baseline income, power in household decision making, and more ( Kenyan Women’s Network | The Pangea Project, n.d.). Then the six-month comprehensive workshop begins. The workshop’s curriculum includes health and wellness, financial literacy, personal development, human rights, business skills, etc. After the workshop, the women create a small enterprise and the first round of revolving micro-loans begins. After 18 months starts the second round of revolving micro-loans. Within the 2nd and 4th year, the Pangea Network facilitates quarterly training, monthly check-ins with the group, and annual surveys and PPI to assess progress ( Kenyan Women’s Network | The Pangea Project, n.d.). After the fourth year, all of the objectives should have been learned and the women can now be mentors for new groups. The website states that the reason for their effectiveness lies with their approach. They approach poverty alleviation and development through a sustainable lens ( Kenyan Women’s Network | The Pangea Project, n.d.). They achieve this through education and a long-period program that ensures the financial, professional, and personal growth of the women they serve. Other reasons for their effectiveness include having a homegrown approach, motivated groups of women, cultural awareness, and their network ( Kenyan Women’s Network | The Pangea Project, n.d.). From 2005-2017, over 1000 women have been trained in their program, 488 small enterprises were created, and average weekly income for these women increased by 31% from 2015 to 2016 (VoyageHouston, 2017).

            The Young Women’s Leadership Challenge (YWLC) is a year long program that aims to empower young high-school women into become confident leaders, social entrepreneurs, and individuals (VoyageHouston, 2017). The first pilot YWLC was hosted in Missouri City, TX at Ridge Point High School. However, the first official YWLC occurred in the summer of 2012 at Rice University (About YWLC, n.d.). Currently the program is hosted in Houston, Austin, and Dallas and is open to all high school girls. The year long program begins in the summer with a six-day conference. At this conference, there are daily guest speakers and leadership/team-building exercises. This conferences also gives the girls knowledge of leadership, social entrepreneurship, self esteem and body image, financial and media literacy, social etiquette, career exploration, and much more (About YWLC, n.d.). During this conference, the girls are given time to create a Take Action Challenge (TAC) and present their plan to execute their TAC on the last day. They have 10 months to complete their TAC. During these ten months, there are two workshops and monthly meetings. At the Fall workshop, a progress report of the TAC is given and there are speakers and mentors present to help with the next steps of execution. The final results of the TAC are presented during the Spring workshop where presenters are also given feedback on presentation and public speaking. After the program finishes, all alumni become apart of an online network where they are encouraged to keep touch, ask/give advice, etc. There are also lectures on leadership, entrepreneurship, and empowerment hosted throughout the year. As of 2019, there are a total of 300 alumni from 117 various schools across Houston, Austin, and Dallas (About YWLC, n.d.). According the a survey taken in spring 2019, participates said that the greatest take away was harnessing their assertiveness to achieve their goals and 100% felt more knowledgeable about leadership (About YWLC, n.d.)


            As more and more INGOs appear, they have a responsibility to be culturally knowledgeable and participate in sustainable practices in the various locations that they are located in. If a global civil society is to be achieved, these INGOs must take accountable, responsible, and sensitive steps when creating and facilitating programs in various countries. It must be acknowledged that not every program or operation management style works for every country/society. These programs must be adaptable and inclusive to the social and cultural ways of the beneficiaries to which the program is aimed towards. The Pangea Network’s Kenyan Women’s Network program is founded based on the thought that economic development must be sustainable. The program assists women in gaining the education and skills that they need to create and run a business. All cooperatives that the Kenyan Women’s Network works with are made up of local women. More INGOs need to look at their programs and critically assess their effectiveness, sustainability, and inclusivity.


Christensen, R. K. (2007). International Nongovernmental Organizations: Globalization, Policy Learning, and the Nation-State. Intl Journal of Public Administration.

International Nongovernmental Organizations | (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2019, from

mike. (n.d.). Meet the Team. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from The Pangea Network website:

Pangea Network. (n.d.). Kenyan Women’s Network | The Pangea Project. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from The Pangea Network website:

PANGEA NETWORK – GuideStar Profile. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2019, from

VoyageHouston. (2017, August 9). Meet Nicole Minor of The Pangea Network in The Woodlands—Voyage Houston Magazine | Houston City Guide. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from

ywlc2016. (n.d.). ABOUT YWLC. Retrieved December 10, 2019, from Young Women’s Leadership Conference website:

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