Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

The Project-Funding Regime: Complications for Community Organizations and Their Staff

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

The Project-Funding Regime: Complications for Community Organizations and Their Staff

Article excerpt

In Canada, social services to the public are delivered through a mix of state and non-profit initiatives, with the federal and provincial governments often contracting community organizations. Community organizations perform four key functions in society: serving the community; providing public education and advocacy; mediating to bring individuals together to work on common concerns; and providing government services to citizens. (1) Their mandates not only include delivering social, health or community services to the general public but also to special populations in need.

The government plays a major role in funding the activities carried out by these organizations. In the past, governments provided "core-funding" in return for services; now, these organizations typically only receive funding for certain projects. This new funding environment has been coined the "project-funding regime." (2) There are three key distinctions between core-funding and project-based funding. (3) The first is that core-funding allows organizations to cover their basic administrative and organizational costs, in addition to covering the costs of programs, whereas project-funding is project-specific. The second is that core-funding allows flexibility and autonomy on the part of the organization, whereas project-funding allots more control to the funder over the content of projects. The third distinction is that core-funding is sustained, whereas project-funding is short-term and not secure. According to Paul Leduc Browne, "From a bureaucratic point of view, the service contract is a vehicle for increasing government control over non-profit associations." (4)

The roots of the new project-funding regime, and the off-loading of social services from governments onto community organizations, have been associated with conservative political movements (i.e., neoliberalism/neoconservatism, terms that are often used interchangeably). Neoliberalism has been defined as "classical liberalism, rejecting social rights, social citizenship and the welfare state." (5)

In this article, we use the term "neoliberalism" to refer to an underlying system of governance ideals and values, woven, in varying degrees, throughout various branches and levels of government (e.g., municipal, provincial and federal), that exerts control over the way contracted community organizations will provide and deliver services.

Neoliberal philosophy advocates for the provision of services within a capitalist framework and promotes the idea of privatization. This means that the provision of public services often involves the private sector, since the neoliberalized state does not engage in much service delivery itself. In addition, the neoliberalized state provides less funding to social services, often requiring that clients pay some of the fees. Lastly, if the neoliberalized state continues to provide and fund services, it tends to organize and manage them like a private enterprise. The change towards neoliberal policy in our society means that responsibility for social services is shifted onto individuals and communities. This shift is called "off-loading." (6)

Consequences of the new project-funding regime extend to the organization, their workers, clients, their families, and the communities. (7) For example, organizations are limited in the number of clients they can serve, and there are growing waiting lists and staff layoffs, decreased numbers of volunteers, and increased staff burnout. Other additional consequences are that organizations need to be more accountable to this neoliberalized governance system, often at the expense of being accountable to the community. Furthermore, organizations can allot fewer resources to trying to influence policy and promote activism, since funding for projects is often directed by the agenda of the neoliberalized state or other funders. Lastly, in being pushed towards a capitalist model of service delivery, these organizations often have to adopt a fee-for-service model, which means they cannot provide services to the community's most vulnerable populations as liberally as before. …

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