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The role of Northern-based civil society organisations has undergone dramatic changes in recent years. In particular, their principal role as ‘redistributive’ agencies working in the South has come under criticism, leading them to seek new ways of defining their part in eradicating poverty. One widely adopted strategy has been an increasing emphasis on advocacy for social justice, while another is the creation of partnerships with non-state and state actors, including the private sector. Such partnerships raise some difficult questions relating to the underlying values and civic legitimacy of the action, in particular of Northern based development NGOs. This paper examines the question of partnerships between civil society organisations and business through a case study of the ‘Economy of Communion’, a global project bringing together small businesses and church-based organisations whose shared aim is that of eradicating poverty.

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