DOI link for Introduction
DOI link for Introduction
The third sector or non-profit sector 2 has increasingly gained, in recent years, policy recognition and attracted academic attention. Researchers have analysed non-profit organisations from different perspectives, usually emphasising specific roles this set of institutions is assumed to perform (Anheier, 2014). The most prominent among them are:
Service-providing role: In the wake of government failure, non-profit organisations are seen as complementary or substitutional elements in the public service systems. As governments with limited resources seek to serve the average voter under conditions of demand heterogeneity for public and quasi-public goods and services, non-profit organisations meet a broad range of minority preferences (Ben-Ner & van Hoomissen, 1991; Weisbrod, 1975, 1998). In response to market failures, non-profits signal trustworthiness in terms of service delivery under conditions of information asymmetries that make profiteering likely and monitoring expensive (Hansmann, 1980, 2006; Young & Steinberg, 1995).
Comparative research has shown that tendencies towards government and market failure depend on the type of welfare regime (Esping-Andersen, 1990), the variant of capitalism involved (Amable, 2003; Hall & Soskice, 2001; Schneider & Paunescu, 2012), and correspond to different non-profit regimes (Anheier, 2014; Anheier & Salamon, 1997; Salamon & Anheier, 1992). Such patterns and tendencies also vary over time, especially in terms of state capacity in respect of an effective regulation (Anheier, 2014; Hansmann, 1996; Hertie School of Governance, 2013).
Advocates and value guardians: Apart from investigating the non-profit organisations’ service-providing role, research has focussed on the issue of to what extent non-profits engage in advocacy activities to protect or advance the position in society and welfare of people needing help, e.g., disabled or poor persons or members of neglected communities. Non-profit organisations are hypothesised to be an important element 4of social self-organisation, to ‘give voice’ to those otherwise unheard, and to support those who would otherwise find little or no attention.
The research on the topic has explored cross-national differences as to the advocacy and the values-related role of the non-profit sector, and observed that—just as the service-providing role mentioned previously— they not only vary by the kind of welfare regime but also by the kind of democratic and administrative system and, more generally, the civic culture and civic-mindedness of local populations (see, e.g., Almond & Verba, 1963; Halman & Nevitte, 1996; Putnam, 2000; Putnam, Leonardi, & Nanetti, 1993).
By implication, third sector service provision and advocacy are often linked in ways that go beyond combining the economic with the social, as it has traditionally been the case in social economy organisations such as cooperatives, mutual and employee-owned enterprises (Borzaga & Spear, 2004; Pestoff, 2012). By contrast, non-profits are co-producers and engage in product bundling as they combine service provision and values (Anheier, 2014; James, 1989), which are social values, of course, but frequently also religious, political or humanitarian values in a profound sense. They are “likely to seek out and include the target population for purposes of value formation, and long-term commitment and loyalty” (Anheier, 2005, p. 213). Thus, non-profits deliver services with a ‘plus’ (Salamon, Hems, & Chinnock, 2000, p. 23).In addition to the identification of the sector’s functions it has been mapped, both conceptually and empirically: The Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector project (CNP) has made a seminal contribution to mapping the sector in an international perspective with a special emphasis on its scale, scope, structure and financing (Salamon & Anheier, 1999). This effort has been followed up by the United Nations’ Handbook on Non-profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts, developed by Anheier, Tice and Salamon with the UN Statistics Division, which resulted in a satellite account on non-profit organisations (SNA) that has since then been adopted by a growing number of countries.