chapter  3
Civil society organization governance: more than just a matter for the board
Pages 17

Introduction In France in the 1980s, relations were rather harmonious between civil society organizations (CSOs) and the state (Archambault, 2001, p. 205). To begin with, associations accomplished missions that the state did not want to be involved in, while at the same time the state agreed to fund them. Yet recent political and economic changes have disturbed this harmony, leading (in some subsectors) to more adversarial relationships, state direction of programs and loss of funding. During the 1980s and 90s, the decrease in state funding of CSOs was offset by increases in funding from local and regional authorities (Tchernonog, Prouteau, Tabariès and Nogues, 2013). Today, local authorities are also affected by cuts in public spending and are less generous in their financial support and grants to CSOs. As a result, most of the recent regulation of the nonprofit sector enhances instrumental accountability – “an organization’s accountability to resource suppliers . . . both internal and external to the organization” (Knutsen and Brower, 2010: 589) – at the expense of more comprehensive forms of accountability. Furthermore, a new legal framework (Warsmann, 2009) is helping to drive this trend towards a rational and instrumental accountability. Nowadays the challenge for the French state seems to be moving from a subsidy culture to a new public management culture in its relationships with the nonprofit sector. Two recent parliamentary reports announce a “cultural revolution.” The first one refers to the concept of “nonprofit enterprise” (Langlais, 2008) and the second one asks for more assessment and control of subsidised nonprofit organizations (Morange, 2008). Implicitly, these reports encourage CSOs to make their governance similar to those of private companies. In that way, the situation in France is not very different from that in other countries (Maier and Meyer, 2011). Effective governance is crucial to the viability of civil society organizations (Kreutzer and Jacobs, 2011). However, most of the research on CSO governance emphasizes corporate governance as a model for more effectiveness even if the authors notice its inadequacy to really fit the specificities of the organizations in question (Brown, 2005; Ostrower, 2008). Such research focuses on the role of the board in terms of control and accountability (Bradshaw, 2002; Brown, 2005;

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Callen et al., 2003; Herman et al., 1996; O’Regan and Oster, 2005; Ostrower, 2008; Ostrower and Stone, 2010; Taylor et al., 1991; Zimmermann and Stevens, 2008). Some authors deny that more instrumental accountability is necessarily better (Ebrahim, 2005). They focus on the values shared by the volunteers in a community and point out the importance of expressive accountability (Knutsen and Brower, 2010). They stress the role of governance structures in enabling managers to act as compliant stewards of the organization and as “boundary spanners” in connecting the organization with important players in its environment (Kreutzer and Jacobs, 2011). Other authors emphasize political issues (Richards and Smith, 2002; Rosenau and Czempiel, 1992), public interest (Stone and Ostrower, 2007) and democratic governance (Hoarau and Laville, 2008). Little existing research explores or criticizes the board-based approach. However, most CSOs are not exclusively board-governed. Different governance bodies oversee CSOs’ decisions and daily activities. Alongside the board, other bodies play a major role in the governance of CSOs. Thus, members of CSOs have a legitimate voice during the annual general meeting or general assembly. For this reason, the general assembly has a role to play to support internal democracy and is the body that can approve the CSO budget (Kreuzer, 2009).1 Funders and economic stakeholders also play a major role in fostering the accountability of CSOs (Szper and Prakash, 2011; Thompson, 2010; Young, 2011). This diversity of governance bodies requires conceptualizing governance as a complex and multi-layered process involving a wide range of different actors (Steen-Johnsen, Eynaud and Wijkström, 2011). Indeed, the governance of nonprofit organizations can be described as a kaleidoscopic picture drawn from different disciplinary, theoretical and empirical points of view (Maier and Meyer, 2011). Our aim in this chapter is to explore the respective roles of two specific governance bodies (the board and the general assembly) in the governance process. The research discussed in this chapter explores the context of French CSOs that previously underwent a transformation in their governance. Based on a quantitative survey of 715 French CSOs, we propose a typology of CSO governance styles that reflects a broad view of governance. Our results show that nonprofit governance practices are more robust and diverse than what is accounted for by the conventional, board-centered model (Ostrower and Stone, 2010). The chapter is organized as follows. After a literature review on governance mechanisms, we describe in the second section the method of data collection and statistical treatments used to construct the typology. In the third section, the styles of governance are analyzed from a theoretical perspective on CSO governance. We conclude by offering suggestions for further research.