Grasping the nettle: espousing economic values in the value plural operating context of not-for-profit social services

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2012, pp. 1149 - 1157
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Not-for-profit community services have an age-old history of social justice values based service provision. It has been the reason why people choose to work with these organizations. It is the reason donors give. However, in the current neoliberal economic climate in western democracies the emphasis on competition, contracts and compliance has significantly changed the operational context. Defining an economic approach to service delivery is as important as the services delivered. Transparency in that approach particularly in relation to the values of the organization is essential in order to keep faith with workers donors and stakeholders. This study explored the views of 22 leaders of not-for-profit community service organizations particularly in relation to organizational values and economic approaches and challenges. The in-depth interviews are analyzed through the lens of value pluralism. Originally a political philosophy, it recognises that completely different values can operate in the same domain yet be of equal merit and importance. Typically, the different values coexist harmoniously, however in difficult decisions they can be mutually exclusive resulting in irresolvable conflict. The analysis identified that the organizations were operating from a plural values base that included both the espoused social justice values and unespoused, unacknowledged economic values often disguised as imperatives. They were, in effect, the silent partner, highly influential but not clearly identifiable. The implications of this are explored from a strategic management perspective.
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