Researching how to get started on your NGO career will obviously involve delving into research reports, journal articles and scrolling through web pages, blogs and podcasts. Sometimes it is helpful to take a break from research and lose yourself in a story – to see how someone else got started in their NGO career or what they found out along the way. Here are our top tips for helpful books to read:
On climate change
- No one is too small to make a difference, by Greta Thunberg. Published in 2019 by Penguin
This is a tiny book full of big ideas. It will not take long to read and is a collection of the ground-breaking speeches of the Swedish climate activist as she rose to fame through her campaigning work. From street protest to speaking at the UN, Greta’s words have inspired a movement of young activists across the world.
Quote: 'Everything needs to change. And it has to start today'
- There is no Planet B, by Mike Berners-Lee. Published in 2019 by Cambridge University Press
An overview of the environmental challenges we face today, this book is easy to read but packed with data to back up the findings. Well laid out chapters mean it is easy to start with the section that interests you most. Choose a chapter on Food, Climate, Energy, Travel, Growth and Money, People and Work or Business and Technology and you will find the segment divided up by a series of questions that we all need to explore, such as
- How can we fly in a low carbon world?
- How can we sort out urban travel?
- Should I buy an electric car?
Quote: “We have the chance to live better than ever. But as humans become ever more powerful can we avoid blundering into disaster?”
Activism through Craft
- How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, by Sarah Corbett. Published in 2017 by Unbound
Sarah tells us “This book is a manifesto for quiet activism: how to tackle issues not with shouting and aggression but with gentle protest, using the process of ‘making’ to engage thoughtfully in the issues we are about, to influence and effect change”.
If you are interested in becoming an NGO campaigner but don’t enjoy protest marches signing petitions or heckling politicians in public, then this is the book for you. Ideal for NGO introverts but accessible for everyone this book has plenty of practical suggestions for quiet but effective campaigning using art and crafts.
Rights to education for girls
- Book: I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai, co-written with Christina Lamb. Published in 2013 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK
The book starts in the Swat valley, Pakistan where we meet a girl and her father, both convinced that education for all is the way forward for their home country. The story of what happens next is truly remarkable - a compelling read for anyone interested in NGOs working on education and women’s rights. This powerful true story provides the shocking reminder we all need that campaigning for justice is both vital and dangerous.
Quote: “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”
Working with communities
- Book: Dreams of my Father by Barack Obama. Published in 1995 by Times Books
Wisdom from the years after university when Barack Obama was working for a non-profit in Chicago as a grass-roots organiser. Obama shares strategies and approaches for encouraging community participation whilst looking back on his time as a community organiser. His role involved helping to establish a job training program, a college and a tenants' rights organization in a struggling housing project.
This book is particularly helpful if you are at the beginning of your NGO career because it does not shy away from talking about the challenges of community organisation, including reluctant community elders and slow official systems.
Quote: Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
We hope that these stories will encourage you to keep going in your NGO career, to learn from the experiences of others and to feel re-energised to go out and be the change that is needed to make our world a better place.