“Growing Diverse”: Managing complexity in hybrid NPOs at the crossroads of sports and social services
Forschungsproblem und Fragestellung
The institutional environment for nonprofits has experienced substantial shifts, which spurred organizations to develop hybrid forms encompassing multiple institutional logics. The boundaries of the sectors become increasingly blurred and hybrid organizational forms are on the rise.
Across different research perspectives, hybrid organizations are defined as particularly complex organizations with a combination of institutional elements that would conventionally not go together. These types of organizations are still unexplored and little understood. With my research project I am to clarify the empirical puzzle how hybrid organizations are able to manage their pronounced complexity.
New public management reforms have contributed to a shift towards the market with respect to governance and financing modes of the public sector. Market-based coordinating measures were introduced which led to the emergence of quasi-markets. Particularly, in the social services the trend towards marketization is strong. But also in the field of sports, members are increasingly seen as a commodity.
In sum, NPOs are pushed to commercialize their activities and hybridization in the nonprofit world can be mainly conceptualized as an adoption of market-compatible forms and practices. The NPO literature has identified that especially logics associated with professionalization and with an increased business orientation are incompatible with self-organization at the grass roots level as well as with community-oriented and “collectivist style” of volunteering. NPOs are particularly prone to tension or even organizational dysfunction when the community logic and the entrepreneurial logic collide.
On the other hand, research has also pointed out that NPOs are particularly apt to meet different institutional demands. NPOs master distinct coordinative mechanisms which allow them to survive in complex environments. Against this background, NPOs apply hierarchic, market-based and community-based mechanisms of coordination. The vast array of available governance measures capacitate NPOs to collect different types of resources, ranging from collective goods related to the mission, to preferred private club goods and to non-preferred private goods which cross subsidize mission activities. In this context, research has highlighted that hybridity is an inherent characteristic of NPOs which has to be the analytical frame of reference in order to understand their functioning.
This dissertation project aims to close the research gap regarding the conditions under which NPOs are able to make use of their “comparative advantage” in mastering pronounced organizational complexity, even in light of highly incompatible institutional demands.
In a nutshell, the research centers on the question of how hybrid organizations respond to divergent institutional demands and how conflicting demands can be managed. It sheds light on practices that enable organizations to be “resilient” in economic terms, surviving in turbulent markets, and likewise maintain unique civil society qualities.
The institutional logic approach provides the analytical frame which forms part of the neo-institutional theory.
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