Accountability, Responsibility, and Public Trust in Non-Profit Institutions: Linking Conceptual Pillars for the Construction of a “Bridge” of Virtuous Managerialism

Accountability, Responsibility, and Public Trust in Non-Profit Institutions: Linking Conceptual Pillars for the Construction of a “Bridge” of Virtuous Managerialism

Renato Civitillo (University of Sannio, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7715-7.ch013

Abstract

This chapter assumes that there is a gap between the request for non-profit sector managerialism and the need to ensure that it continues to represent the economic actor (probably the only one, in this sense) able to ensure the provision of goods and services of high social value for citizens and communities. In this perspective, we should abandon the idea that the non-profit sector can be a mere tool to “fill” the residual spaces left by the two “giants”: the market and the public administration. In this sense, the main aim of the research is to identify a possible link between accountability, responsibility, public trust, and communication in NPIs, possibly through a potential multidimensional managerial model in which these conceptual elements can be represented in a coordinated and systemic way.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

In 1989, Peter Drucker wrote:

Twenty years ago, management was a dirty word for those involved in nonprofit organizations. It meant business, and nonprofits prided themselves on being free of the taint of commercialism and above such sordid considerations as the bottom line. Now most of them have learned that nonprofits need management even more than business does, precisely because they lack the discipline of the bottom line. (Drucker, 1989, p. 89).

Since that time, almost 30 years ago, much has changed on the subject of Non-Profit, and Non-Profit Institutions (NPIs), especially concerning:

  • Their nature,

  • Their functions,

  • Their management models.

The importance of NPIs is considerably increased in both developed and developing countries (Salamon & Sokolowski, 1999).

In this sense, nowadays, Non-Profit is so complex, multifaceted and articulated to represent one of the main actors in the supply and provision of certain categories of goods and services, as well as being one of the main employers of a very high number of workers (Salamon & Anheier, 1996).

Consequently, this means that the awareness and the need for managerial or “professionalization” of the Non-Profit Sector is considerably increased: as just highlighted, given the role of NPIs, it is absolutely indubitable that the related governance models and management must necessarily be based on levels of efficiency and effectiveness that can guarantee that the functioning of these organizations can ensure the supply of those goods and services, in many cases, of vital importance for the communities and citizens.

NPIs, in effect, could be considered as the direct result of civil society as they are able to improve government effectiveness and ensure higher levels of economic development and community satisfaction: some scholars (Putnam, 2001) claim that the value of NPIs consists precisely in:

  • Their ability to support and promote in their communities,

  • Their role in promoting and sustaining the commitment of local communities and their citizens,

  • The creation of networks to exchange information from/to the resident population and, in general, extensive forms of social and professional networking.

In other words, NPIs have to do daily with what we could call “civic-engagement objectives”, which makes it very complex:

  • Their management (and necessary activities);

  • The correct reporting and demonstration of the value that they are able to generate.

Top

Background

Given these premises, we can clearly note that the need for NPIs’ managerial techniques inevitably clashes with the absence of traditional for-profit price mechanisms, creating important potential confusions (Moore, 2003), as well as lead to an “overload” of managerial schemes (Skelcher & Smith, 2015).

This paper assumes that there is a gap between the request for Non-Profit Sector managerialism and the need to ensure that it continues to represent the economic actor (probably the only one, in this sense) able to ensure the provision of goods and services of high social value for citizens and communities. In this perspective, we should abandon the idea that the Non-Profit Sector can be a mere tool to “fill” the residual spaces left by the two “giants”: the market and the public administration.

Consequently, this chapter aims to answer the following research question:

  • Does the social function and social purpose typical of Non-Profit Sector necessarily require a business-style managerialism?

or, similarly,

  • Does the evolution of NPIs governance approaches (aimed at inevitably improving their efficiency and effectiveness) poses the introduction of principles, tools and techniques borrowed from private-business organizations as essential for them?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Non-Profit Institutions (NPIs): Organizational entities that must be coexist in a conceptual space that is intermediate between business and public government and whose value system implies a very complex performance behavior because the achievement of their goals is conditioned by values pursued within their mission and vision. They are characterized by the following fundamental features: 1) organization; 2) private nature; 3) self-governing; 4) non-profit-distributing; 5) voluntary to some meaningful extent.

Public Trust: The level of public trust in certain types of organization, especially for those in the public sector and for those in the non-profit sector. This level can be weakened by negative phenomena such as mismanagement, wastefulness, or fraud.

Professionalization (or Managerialism): The legislative, scientific, and doctrinal attempt to introduce approaches, methodologies, criteria and tools typical of the for-profit organizations in the Public Sector or in the non-profit sector in order to increase their levels of efficiency, effectiveness, or quality and quantity of services for the community.

Responsibility: Conduct of an action that is rational with respect to the purpose it sets out and which measures the relationship between the means and targets as well as the consequences that the action can produce.

Accountability: The duty to act responsibly and to be accountable to others for every action, guaranteeing transparency, correctness, adequacy, and compliance between the management and the clear representation of the results achieved by an organization.

Civic-Engagement Objectives: A kind of social objectives which are characterized by high levels of social value and greater complexity of their measurement (e.g., politics, religion, ethics, voluntarism, philanthropy, compassion, etc.).

Social Value: The value produced (or destroyed) by an organization through social action in relation to a public service. This value is hybrid in nature since it is not intended exclusively in financial terms. For this reason, its measurement is particularly complex, although very important and useful for the evaluation of public organizations or non-profit institutions.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset