Conceptualizing and Researching Governance in Public and Non-Profit Organizations: Volume 1


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Research on public and non-profit organizations has recently shifted towards the main body of research on governance of organizations and many public and non-profit scholars focused on that. Actually, public and non-profit organizations are important elements of the whole spectrum of organizations. But in the meanwhile, their study, within the governance research, has kept aside. Moreover, with the scope and the aim of the governance research, public and non-profit governance research fitted to this new environment, focusing on performance issues, as private organizations do.

Purpose – The “governance” term has gained ground both in the academic debate and in the political rhetoric. A growing use of the term is perceived to go hand-to-hand with a loss of conceptual accuracy. A theoretical reference able to provide a context for the development of empirical governance research is needed. The research aims at systemizing the literature developed around the governance term, identifying its building blocks; this would allow the term to become a reference point in the theory and practice of public administration.Design/methodology/approach – The chapter is of a theoretical nature and based on literature review, both exploratory and synoptic, covering substantive and methodological material.Findings – Different public governance research clusters have been compared: Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, and Italian. Important differences, with reference to contents or related to research approaches in use, are found to exist between and within these clusters. Nonetheless, some common elements are included in the “public governance” concept.Research limitations/implications – Linguistic barriers make different literatures accessible at different degrees to the researcher, resulting in different depth of analysis. This limitation has in part been dealt with research assistance kindly provided by native language colleagues.Practical implications – The clarification of the different meanings of governance facilitates a more precise use in the policy and public management discourse. Having identified interdependencies between the different levels enables a better design of public management reforms.Originality/value – Original features of this chapter are the international comparison of different administrative traditions and the analysis of different disciplinary approaches.

As public service deliverers, funded by public money and performing tasks on behalf of government, many non-profit organisations (NPOs) are under pressure to increase their performance. More and more NPOs have to prove they work efficiently, effectively and in line with the overall mission. As a result, the challenges these organisations are confronted with put pressure on their management. For NPOs, innovation and performance are managerial key issues. Ultimately, the question is what the factors are that lead to innovation and/or improved organisational performance in NPOs, given their important role in public service delivery, often acting as agents of government. For academics, this creates an ambitious research agenda. With a risk to oversimplify the picture, we could summarise this agenda as consisting of some crucial descriptive and explanatory questions. Major descriptive research questions concern the level of innovative behaviour of NPOs, their performance, and their organisational governance characteristics. In terms of explanations, there is a possible relationship between organisational governance features and organisational performance, between organisational governance features and innovation, and between innovation and organisational performance. In this chapter, we discuss the recent academic research concerning these issues, and, secondly, based on the assessment of this literature, we will propose some directions and challenges for such a research agenda.

Purpose – Starting from public and corporate governance literature, the chapter aims to evidence the opportunity in exploring board of directors in public organisations, where the focus is on a behavioural perspective.Design/methodology/approach – Presenting two levels of analysis: (a) the relationship between the board and ‘external’ stakeholders, and (b) the relationship between the board and managers, a framework is proposed evidencing which factors (variables, constructs and concepts) logically should be considered as part of the explanation of boards’ role in public organisations’ innovation.Findings – The chapter provides support for a board model in public governance, evidencing both the opportunity to assume a multi-paradigm perspective and the existing similarities and differences between boards in public and corporate governance approach. It is possible, for example, to empirically apply the framework both to different national context and to different levels of public organisations.Originality/value of chapter – The chapter presents theoretical perspectives on governance research, and both some pioneer studies in public sector research and some of the major contribution in corporate governance studies. All of them have been put together, introducing a new stream of research in the debate on the micro (organisational) level of governance in public sector.

The chapter contributes to the theoretical understanding of how corporate governance affects organizational processes and outcomes in not-for-profit organizations. The contribution claims that cooperation is not only a good proposition held by the variety of actors relevant to corporate governance of non-for-profit organizations, but it also determines the wealth maximization of organization's stakeholders. Theoretical results, according to the common agency framework, are driven by the case study of the largest humanitarian organization’ corporate governance: the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Purpose – The chapter aims to analyse specific management tools which can be used to facilitate public governance practices, such as the process of stakeholder involvement.Methodology/approach – By means of both a theoretical discussion and an empirical research conducted on Italian local public utilities (LPUs), the chapter attempts to understand: (a) the degree of application of quality management, sustainability mechanisms and stakeholder's involvement; (b) the correlation between the application of these tools stakeholder involvement processes.Findings – Not all the tools imported from the private sector have the same ‘attitudes’ for stakeholder involvement evidencing a gap of Italian LPUs in quality management systems in ensuring that stakeholders and their contribution to product value is considered. These results give support to the necessity to move beyond New Public Management. Therefore, governance becomes a new process for developing and implementing public policies: this requires original mechanisms of coordination among institutional actors, public authorities and stakeholders.Research limitations/implications – This study gives rise to new research path in LPUs corporate governance research. Looking for the creation of a series of suppositions and considerations as to why LPUs actively venture into the practice of good corporate governance trough stakeholder involvement. Accordingly, it is necessary to invest in the debate on the tasks of the board of directors.Originality/value of paper – This study gives a new path of research, asking board of directors to move toward a stakeholder-conscious governance model, with broader input and ongoing engagement, as an important aspect for a better corporate governance in public administrations.

Purpose – Grant-giving foundation leaders are increasingly concerned with understanding the primary role their institutions are pressured to play in financing the growing nonprofit sectors. The main objective of the chapter is to determine whether effective governance plays a major role in driving foundations’ innovation and value-creation processes.Methodology – Building on the idea that foundations should act as financial partners, managerial experts, and innovator facilitators who deal with the projects proposed by nonprofit organizations, this chapter uses a survey and the annual reports of Italian grant-giving foundations to isolate their records in term of governance, innovation attitude, and performance.Findings – The results of this chapter contribute to improving understanding of the drivers that help foundations to improve the sophistication level of the grant-giving process. In particular, the analysis of governance provides relevant insights about the path foundations follow to incorporate selected tailored methods and practices from the “for profit” competitive arena to improve foundations’ output and nonprofit grantees’ outcomes.Social implication – Many academics, political leaders, and practitioners expect foundations to play the unique dual role of merchant bank and venture capitalist to foster the positive impact of nonprofit organizations on societies and people. The findings of this chapter facilitate this process.Originality/value of the chapter – The main contribution of this study lies in proposing and testing a theoretical framework that foundations can implement to disseminate liquidity and managerial expertise efficiently among selected grantees and to improve grantees’ social outcome.

Purpose – During the last decade, several nonprofit governance codes have emerged in Germany and Switzerland. In contrast to the corporate sector, where one code exists in each country, the nonprofit sector has not unified its initiatives on governance guidelines. This research study searches for reasons of this heterogeneity by analyzing the content of the governance codes.Design/methodology/approach – Based on a comparative content analysis of 15 governance codes from Germany and Switzerland, this survey gives some insight about the different range of issues and levels of detail.Findings – The findings report a great variety among the nonprofit governance codes. Three different clusters are defined in order to classify the governance codes regarding their information detailedness. Some codes present the basic principles, others give detailed information on focused subjects, and some others function as soft law with a large scope. Additionally, the kind of the producers does have an influence on the content of nonprofit governance codes.Research limitations/implications – The survey is limited because of its geographically focus. However, several implications for further research can be drawn, that are of international relevance. Better knowledge is necessary about the implementation of the governance codes. Additionally, further influence factors on the content of governance besides the kind of the producers have to be analyzed. Finally, it would be interesting to test the acceptance of the codes and the participation process of development among a larger group of organizations that complies with a governance code.Originality/value – For the first time, a complete list of all nonprofit governance codes in the two countries was conducted as a basis for this study. Former studies used a smaller sample of governance codes without clarifying the reasons for the selection.

Purpose – The chapter aims to understand what kind of policy approach has been more successful in facilitating the involvement of patients and the public in the design and provision of health-care services at the local level and the explanatory factors justifying the implementation outcome.Methodology – By applying Richard Matland's ambiguity/conflict policy implementation model, the chapter analyses the impact of a number of policies introduced after 1997 in the English National Health Service that targeted final users and the local population in decision-making processes.Findings – The evidence shows that policies emphasising the importance of context-specific contingencies can be more effectively implemented when room for interpretation and discretion in selecting the appropriate means for involvement is given. In this way, the overall aims/purposes of health policies can be locally reshaped by allowing the adoption of flexible strategies within the implementation process.Practical implications – A strong leadership at the top of public sector organisations and, in particular, from the board of directors is needed to steer and facilitate a consensus oriented outcome in organisational decision-making processes that aim to incorporate the views and opinions of patients and the public.Social implications – Local initiatives in increasing participation, for specific purposes, are bound to be more successful than a general initiative, expecting comparatively uniform implementation.

Purpose – The aim of this study is to examine the impact of co-operative governance structures on citizen participation in public service provision.Methodology – Using a multiple case study-approach, we analyse and compare five examples of co-operative public–citizen partnerships in Austria and Germany.Findings – The study clearly shows that co-operatives can be a tool for both, (1) the bottom-up self-organization of citizens (co-operative as ‘contested space’) and (2) the top-down organization to canalize citizen participation (co-operative as ‘invited space’). Co-operative public–citizen partnerships therefore represent a balancing act between dependency through public funding and autonomy through community-based decision making.Research implications and limitations – The chapter underlines the importance of context-sensitive qualitative research. Limitations might stem from the fact that municipal areas might differ in other countries than Germany and Austria, for example, due to legal prerequisites.Practical implications – If regional government representatives are supporting a bottom-up initiative, they are more inclined to provide crucial resources for the public–citizen partnership and tensions between different stakeholders involved are weakened.Social implications – Co-operative public–citizen partnerships might enhance participatory democracy and seem to strengthen solidarity and social cohesion on the neighbourhood level.Originality/value of chapter – In showing that co-operatives are a suitable governance structure for community organizations, which enhance democratic decision making and foster social innovation in public service delivery, we support the findings of other studies. The chapter suggests that in order to enhance our understanding of citizen participation, context-sensitive research that goes beyond merely descriptive governance analysis is needed, taking into account the historical trajectories of public–citizen partnerships.

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Book series
Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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