On Civil Society Governance: An Emergent Research Field

Co-editors of this special issue: Kari Steen-Johnsen;Philippe Eynaud;Filip Wijkstöm

The scholarly interest in governance has peaked remarkably within the social sciences in the last couple of decades (Kitthananan, 2006; Kjaer, 2004; Pierre, 2000). The multifaceted usage of the governance concept found in the study of civil society indicates that more than one phenomenon is in fact being addressed, and that several different approaches are taken at the same time. For students of civil society organizations (CSOs) in particular, two main strands of research dealing with the idea and concept of governance seem to be of interest. The first one focuses on what we may call “external governance” and is concerned with the processes through which societies are governed. Increasingly, institutional mechanisms other than those of the state, such as civil society and the market sector, are involved in processes of external governance (Bozzini & Enjolras, 2011; Rhodes, 1997). This has entailed an increased political and scholarly interest in how civil society organizations are involved in governance. The second strand of governance scholarship deals instead with organizational (“internal”) governance. Here questions are typically raised about particular modes of internal governance and their efficiency, with a particular interest for the role of the board (Ostrower & Stone, 2006). While in the first of these two genres there is a dominance of political scientists, scholars with a background in management studies, law or economics, tend to dominate the other. Both strands of literature are quite rich and well-developed in their own right, although the concept of governance might not always be the one preferred by the authors. It is however less common for governance scholars to engage in debate across this field border, or to address issues seen as central in the other field. In this introduction to this special issue we want to emphasize that the sphere of civil society is unique in that these dimensions of governance are closely intertwined: the internal governance game shapes the conditions for the organization‟s positions and actions in the external governance environment, and vice versa. Therefore these two dimensions need to be analyzed together or at least with the other aspect in mind while conceptualizing governance. In this, the cross-disciplinary field of civil society research differs from the way in which the governance concept has been applied both in the study of politics (where researchers tend to lean more toward the external aspect of the concept and much less toward the organizational dimension) and in business studies (where focus is often placed on the internal dimension). Stone and Ostrower (2007) have argued along similar lines for a broadening of the scope of the nonprofit literature in order to address the interaction between nonprofit governance and the wider society. From this standpoint they develop a range of implications for future nonprofit governance research: the need to analyze the interaction between nonprofits and their environment, the need to conceptualize governance as a complex and multi-layered process involving a range of different actors, and the need to analyze the outcomes of different modes of governance in more specific ways (Stone & Ostrower, 2007).

Introduction to a special issue on Civil Society governance in the International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit (Voluntas)

Co-editors of this special issue: Kari Steen-Johnsen;Philippe Eynaud;Filip Wijkstöm

https://www.academia.edu/935059/On_Civil_Society_Governance_An_Emergent_Research_Field
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