Nonprofit governance and accountability : broadening the theoretical perspective

COULE, Tracey M. (2015). Nonprofit governance and accountability : broadening the theoretical perspective. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 44 (1), 75-97.

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Drawing on comparative case studies, this article critiques the positioning of accountability as a benign and straightforward governance function. From a critical management studies perspective, I offer a conceptualization of the relationship between governance and accountability in which issues of power, beliefs about the nature of organizing, and social relations are integral features. The article clarifies how principal-agent governance assumptions, based on a central logic of unitarism, can drive narrow compliance-based interpretations of accountability. Such an approach appears at odds with the values embedded in the social missions of many nonprofits insofar as they prioritize small sections of powerful stakeholders over sustained periods of time. Conversely, a pluralist logic appears to create space for broad accountability to multiple stakeholders. Here, expressive, values-based accountability is seen as a source of legitimacy and can produce complex relationships, which challenge the instrumental orientation to social relations that principal-agent theories assume.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Business School Research Institute > People, Work and Organisation
Departments: Sheffield Business School > Department of Management
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Tracey Coule
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2015 10:42
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2017 13:28

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