Assessing the social licence to operate of the work of humanitarian and development cooperation organizations: A case study of Mercy Corps in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia

David Jijelava, Frank Vanclay

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We examine the applicability of the concept of Social Licence to Operate (SLO) for international humanitarian and development cooperation organizations. We review the relevant literature on SLO and derive criteria that can be applicable to the work of development agencies. We also examine the case of the international NGO, Mercy Corps, in the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia, specifically its Market Alliances against Poverty project. Using focus groups and key informant interviews, we sought to understand what would constitute a SLO for the local community in the context of a development intervention. Themes that emerged included: transparency and accountability; access to information; the potential benefits and dangers of innovations; the inspirational effect of the presence of an external organization; risks associated with loans and grants; and the reliability of intermediaries. Our results can be utilized by development practitioners and humanitarian organizations as well as academics who want to explore the applicability of SLO in the domain of non-governmental organizations and other non-commercial settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-317
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Epistemology
Issue number3-4
Early online date31-Jul-2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Humanitarian aid, development assistance, Corporate Social Responsibility, stakeholder theory, rural development

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