Language and power in nonprofit/for-profit relationships : a grounded theory of inter-sectoral collaboration

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Concerns over the future of the nonprofit sector due to increasing resource pressures and an economic rationalist political climate in Australia have led to increasing public and private interest in partnerships between nonprofit organisations and the private sector. The purpose of this research is to describe, understand, map and analyse the experiences of nonprofit staff in organisations that are linked to businesses in a variety of funding relationships. The major questions that drove the research were: 1. Does the language used by nonprofit staff and in organisational documentation relating to relationships with for-profits reflect the status of and contribute to the reproduction of the power relationship between the organisations? 2. Do nonprofit/for-profit relationships affect the organisational capacity of nonprofit organisations and the social agency of individuals? If so, to what extent can balanced power-sharing arrangements contribute to increased organisational capacity? 3. Does the media aspect of the institutional context of relationships in which nonprofits operate affect the social agency of individuals and the capacity of nonprofits? The thesis presents a grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss 1967; Strauss & Corbin 1998) of language and power in inter-sectoral relationships, using five case studies, a media analysis and a quantitative component as the data from which to draw theoretical implications. The work develops an innovative methodological tool called 'linguistic threads' and uses Clegg's circuits of power model (1987) to culminate in static state and process theories of language and power in relationships between nonprofits and for-profits in the Australian context.
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