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The latest book by EMES member and #8EMESconf co-chair, Dr Tracey M. Coule and Dr Carole Bain entitled “Organizing Logics, Nonprofit Management and Change – Rethinking Power, Persuasion and Authority” will be published in February 2021.

Book description

Nonprofit organizations are conventionally positioned as generators of social and cultural forms of capital for the common good. As such they occupy a different space to other types of organizations such as corporate firms that exist primarily to generate economic capital for private owners/shareholders. Recent years, however, have seen professionalization promoted widely by funders, policy-makers and nonprofit practitioners across the globe. At the same time, there has been an increasing cross-over of employees from private and public bodies into nonprofits. But do such shifts open up space for the wholesale importation of managerialism into and commercialization of the nonprofit sphere? Are nonprofits at risk of being reconstituted as primarily economic entities, serving the interests of a leadership elite? How are such changes in an organization’s trajectory brought about? What are the consequences for trustees, staff, members and the nature of managerial work? The authors engage with critical questions such as these through a unique insider account of one professional institute experiencing unprecedented changes that challenge its very reason for being. Drawing on a three-year ethnography, they narrate organizational inhabitants’ struggles in their search for purpose and analyze the myriad of changes within different aspects of organizing including structure, strategizing, pay and reward, governance and leadership. The book will enable readers to reframe and rethink organizational change as a process involving power, persuasion and authority, and will be of value to researchers, students, academics and practitioners interested in managerial work, organizational change and hybridity in non-profit organizations.

Relevance to the EMES community

Many scholars in the field are engaging the concept of hybridity to account for both the “entrepreneurial turn” in many “traditional” charities and the upsurge in “social enterprises” and “social entrepreneurship” more broadly. In other words, much nonprofit and social enterprise research presents hybridity as a means by which managers can effectively balance market and community logics. Often, this multiplicity of logics is seen as an inevitable and permanent characteristic of nonprofits, which possess the ability to blend and synergise them in a relatively unproblematic way. By (re)organizing work and (re)structuring organisations to better accommodate divergent logics, nonprofit hybridity is seen as “win-win”; making organisations more financially efficient and socially effective.

Dr Coule and Dr Bain show, however, that nonprofit hybridity can serve as a powerful discursive resource to justify the (irrational) pursuit of maximum financial return in organisations that are intended primarily for the production of social “goods”. Their motivation in writing this book was to chronicle, with unswerving fidelity to inhabitants’ experiences, the often unspoken, unrevealed aspects of organizing and managing work in nonprofits. The shadow side of organization is usually only ever witnessed and documented by those simultaneously living and researching life in organizations over extended time periods. Yet, such accounts are powerful, and perhaps unique, in returning us to the potential for (in)humanity in organization. The authors hope their story of the institute prompts engagement with the bigger questions (and a profoundly human view) of nonprofit organization among those who manage, govern and study nonprofits. We should not concern ourselves with what “good” is being done by nonprofits at the expense of considering the ethics of how things get done in nonprofits.

Hearing other colleagues’ opinion

Dr Angela Eikenberry, D.B. and Paula Varner Professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and former President of ARNOVA, says

angie eikenberryOrganizing Logics, Nonprofit Management and Change: Rethinking Power, Persuasion and Authority” is about the battle for the soul of an organization. In this engaging and highly readable book, Drs. Tracey Coule and Carole Bain masterfully describe a struggle over two visions and realities of nonprofit organizational life: one guided by community logic and one by corporate logic. Together, they create a formidable team conveying a critical analysis that is truly enlightening, and that contributes to broader scholarship while being eminently practical. If you have ever worked in an organization where you felt a sense of unease or even angst that the organization’s practices didn’t seem to line up with the mission or purpose of the organization, or what the organization communicated to outside constituents did not coincide with what was communicated internally, this book is a must read. Drs. Coule and Bain help us to see that what is at stake in such differences is about organizational values.

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