Emerging Roles of Nonprofit Organizations: An Introduction
Jackson-Elmoore, Cynthia, Hula, Richard C., Policy Studies Review
Nonprofit organizations and voluntary associations have a long and varied history in American society. Their leadership roles in service delivery, policy advocacy, and social movements have been well documented both by scholars and insightful popular observers. We would argue, however, that an increasingly important role of nonprofit organizations demands greater scrutiny. We refer to the way in which nonprofit organizations and voluntary associations initiate, shape and respond to changes in their political environment. In particular, we are interested in the process by which these organizations attempt to sculpt the landscape of urban policy and political action. We need to know when and where such efforts are effective, and when they are not. We are curious about the potential of such activities, as well as limitations. The seven articles in this symposium all explore these and related questions. Variation in theme and focus across the papers reflects the variation and complexity within the nonprofit sector itself. (1) Nevertheless, each paper successfully maintains a focus on what we see as an emerging political or policy role of nonprofit organizations and voluntary associations.
The symposium begins with Smith's review of changing roles played by nonprofit organizations in American cities. In particular, his discussion links examples developed in other symposia papers to the broad issue of sector change and evolution. The Ferman and Kaylor article highlights how nonprofit organizations and voluntary associations build social capital in neighborhoods, largely operating apart from both city politics and government. The two articles by Hula and Jackson-Elmoore, and Orr look at how specific voluntary associations and nonprofit organizations function and shape their immediate locales. The next two articles by Cordes, Henig and Twombly, and Koschinsky and Swanstrom discuss how the federal political context influences how nonprofits behave, who benefits and possible implications. Finally, the article by Clarke considers the potential and limits of nonprofit organizations in promoting democratic governance. Each article highlights emerging roles of nonprofit organizations and voluntary associations.
Trying to understand the emerging roles of nonprofit organizations leads one to reconsider why a nonprofit sector even exists at all. Obviously this has long been a fundamental issue for those interested in nonprofit organizations. Salamon (1992) has persuasively argued that the development of nonprofit organizations is actually driven by several broad social forces including history and societal development, market failure and government failure. (2) He traces some elements of the contemporary nonprofit sector to early voluntary associations that were created to resolve community problems even before the advent of formal government institutions. Another force promoting the nonprofit sector emerges from popular dissatisfaction with the failure of markets to allocate resources efficiently. Such failures are widely thought to occur because of the attributes of public goods or as the result of market information asymmetries. Service delivery is sometimes been taken up by government, and at other times by the nonprofit sector in response to such market failures. An important attraction of the nonprofit sector in such cases is that it permits elements of a market system to be retained while simultaneously establishing a new set of public responsibilities. A final factor driving the expansion of the nonprofit sector is a social response to perceived government failure. Here the public perceives the operation of government as unresponsive, cumbersome and inefficient in the production of some good or service. Since there is often no viable market alternative to the production and distribution of such goods and services, nonprofit organizations are often seen as the most likely alternative.
Without question …
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Publication information: Article title: Emerging Roles of Nonprofit Organizations: An Introduction. Contributors: Jackson-Elmoore, Cynthia - Author, Hula, Richard C. - Author. Journal title: Policy Studies Review. Volume: 18. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 2001. Page number: 1+. © 2000 Policy Studies Organization. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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