"Exploring Civil Society, Voluntary and Not-for-profit organisations as a crucible for creative alternative, democratic imaginaries"
• Daniel King, Nottingham Trent University, UK email@example.com
• Frederik Claeyé, Lille Catholic University, France firstname.lastname@example.org
• Angela Eikenberry, University of Nebraska at Omaha, email@example.com
• Richard Lang, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria, Richard.Lang@jku.at
• Christina Schwabenland, University of Bedfordshire, UK Christina.Schwabenland@beds.ac.uk
• Frances Tomlinson, London Metropolitan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Richard Hull, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, email@example.com
It is often said that there is no alternative to managerialism (Parker et al., 2014). Indeed better management; that is, management that emanates from the corporate world, it is claimed should be applied to every aspect of life to become more rational and entrepreneurial (Hancock and Tyler, 2009). Furthermore within civil society and the voluntary or not-for-profit sector, a whole range of approaches (such as social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy, microcredits, bottom-of-the-pyramid marketing, etc.) have emerged, which promise a new union between the common good and the capitalist market economy.
Civil Society and voluntary or not-for-profit organisations have a long history of producing alternative ways of organizing. From mutual aid and community self-help organizations to the collectivist, non-hierarchical and counter-cultural groups of the 60/70s (Parker et al., 2007) the third sector has often been at the vanguard of alternative practices. Many of these have emerged out of feminist and anti-racist struggles, as a materialisation of less oppressive practices. At the same time, civil society, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations (CSOs) have long been considered, particularly within the Tocquevillian tradition, cradles of democracy. The presumption is that they encourage collective action and civil engagement in ways that retain social modes of mediation between people (Putnam, 2000; Warren, 2001). Indeed many CSOs have, for a long time, been seen as pioneering alternative ways of organizing. From trailblazing collectivist and democratic organizations such as the Rape Crisis Centres of the 1960/70s through to recent innovations in funding mechanisms such as the member-run Edge Fund, such organisations have led the way in innovating alternative, democratic organizations for a social purpose. Similarly, new co-operative and community-led initiatives, such as the community land trust movement, are not always directly linked to the co-operative tradition, but clearly exhibit co-operative principles in their governance (Moore & McKee, 2012; Moore & Mullins, 2013; Somerville, 2007). These innovations often come from the margins of organizations ‘below the radar,’ outside of conventional funding patterns, and from the Global South. Even in traditional welfare state contexts, the emergence of new types of CSOs reflect the ongoing skepticism with respect to real community participation in urban and regional development as political elites and larger, traditional non-profit organisations are increasingly delinked from interests and needs of residents (Lang & Roessl 2011).
However, recent empirical research suggests that, by and large, contemporary CSOs are not doing a as good a job as they might or we expect as “schools of democracy” (Van Der Meer & Van Ingen, 2009). Coercive and mimetic pressures from commissioners, funders and regulators, and the target culture, mean that many not-for-profits often mirror standard business practice, thus mitigating against the creation of alternative forms of organizing (Sanders and McClellan, 2014). Indeed many not-for-profits use conventional management practices imported from mainstream for-profit businesses (Land and King, 2014).
Our stream invites proposals from scholars, practitioners and activists interested or working within civil society and the voluntary or not-for-profit sector. We are applying an inclusive definition of the sector, encompassing charities (national and international), community and campaigns groups, faith based organizations, social enterprises and activist movements. We welcome submissions on any, but not restricted to the following questions:
• What can we learn from the history of pioneering alternatives that emerged within civil society and social movements?
• What are the conditions, possibilities and effects of democracy in CSOs?
• How do CSO governance arrangements contribute to the democratic socialization of stakeholders, in the sense of CSOs as “schools of democracy”?
• What is the relationship between organizational democracy and the external democratic role of CSOs in society? Is it possible to strengthen democracy in society through CSOs that are not democratically governed themselves?
• How, in a practical and applied sense, can CSOs make organizational democracy work?
• What is the relationship between CSOs and social movements for democracy? What can CSOs learn from past or on-going social movements that apply democratic means and aim to achieve democratic ends (e.g. the Arab Spring, Occupy, Gezi Park, Indignants, the Right to the City movement, etc.)? How do CSOs foster or inhibit the effectiveness and sustainability of such movements?
• What can we learn from feminist and anti-racist struggles, as a materialisation of less oppressive practices, of alternative practices. What can we learn from their, success and failures?
• What is the democratic capacity of place-based governance practices of CSOs in different territorial contexts?
• How can CSOs build linkages with public decision-makers and key resource holders at different spatial scales to leverage resources and concerns of citizens?
• What is the role of voluntary organizations in creating new forms of professional social action (such as social working, hospice care, befriending)?
• What can the future hold for alternatives within Civil Society? In what ways can new organizational forms be produced within civil society and how might these lead to more creative and emancipatory or less desirable practices?
• What potential and dangers do new organizational forms (for example NHS nurses setting up workers’ cooperatives) create? Can the pursuit of alternatives go too far? Indeed would we rather more conventional organizational (and state run) forms?
Notification of paper acceptance: 15th February 2015