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Abstract

An extensive literature identifies conditions under which markets and states work efficiently and effectively towards their stated missions. When these conditions are violated, these institutions are deemed to show some level of failure. In contrast to the study of market and government failures, scholars have tended to focus on non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) successes instead of failures. This is probably because they view NGOs as virtuous actors, guided by principled beliefs rather than instrumental concerns, not susceptible to agency conflicts, accountable to the communities they serve, and working cooperatively with each other. A growing literature questions this “virtue narrative.” When virtue conditions are violated, NGOs could exhibit different levels of failure. In synthesizing this literature, we offer an analytic typology of NGO failures: agency failure, NGOization failure, representation failure, and cooperation failure. Finally, given NGOs’ important role in public policy, we outline institutional innovations to address these failures.

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... However, NGOs are perceived to be morally good organizations. Studies have highlighted that NGOs are overall positively perceived compared to other types of organizations (Aaker, Vohs, and Mogilner 2010;Dolšak and Prakash 2021;Farwel, Shier, and Handy 2018;Grønbjerg 2009;Hansmann 1980Hansmann , 1987Handy et al. 2010;Hornsey et al. 2020;McDougle and Lam 2013;Salamon 2002). Burt (2014) notes that when an organization is categorized as an NGO, it is considered a good organization simply in virtue of this categorization. ...
... According to other scholars, the general distinguishing feature of NGOs is their predisposition to do good (Frumkin 2002;Minkoff and Powell 2006). They are also referred to as do-gooders (Hilhorst 2005;Raelin 1994), caring and warm (Aaker, Vohs, and Mogliner 2010), altruistic (Rose-Ackermann 2016), and selfless (Dolšak and Prakash 2021). ...
... Nonprofit scholars argue that recent examples of NGOs' deviant behavior have resulted in a growing research agenda on the topic, when previously such literature was "virtually non-existent" (Beaton, Erynn, and LePere-Schloop 2021: 2). Others note that in contrast to the study of market and government failures, scholars have historically tended to focus on NGOs successes, however they show that there is a growing literature on NGO behavioral failures (Dolšak and Prakash 2021). And a systematic literature review found that research on NGO's deviant behavior has grown exponentially between 1990 and 2020, with more than half of the 71 empirical articles in the review published between 2017 and 2021 (Chapman et al. 2022). ...
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Multiple types of deviant behavior take place in and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), even though NGOs are perceived to be morally good. Research explains NGO’s deviant behavior in spite of their moral goodness. In this article, we conceptualize how NGO moral goodness can cause NGO deviant behavior. We propose that the three inherent characteristics of NGOs—the nondistribution constraint, being private, and voluntary—can lead to the perception of NGOs being morally good. This perception can lead to a halo effect within NGOs, whereby NGOs believe themselves to be morally better than they are. We conceptualize how the three characteristics can lead to the glorification of an NGO’s mission, its knowledge of what is good, and its people. We define this as the NGO halo effect. We propose three conceptual mechanisms—moral justification, moral superiority, and moral naivety— to explain how the NGO halo effect can lead to NGOs’ deviant behavior. We discuss our model’s implications for theory building and future research.
... Organizational growth and associated changes, such as bureaucratization and professionalization, have been identified as antithetical to the professed identities of TNGOs as authentic and independent civil society organizations. With rapid sector expansion since the 1970s ( Bush andHadden 2019 , 1135), TNGO growth is associated with a greater focus on organizational survival at the expense of their missions ( Cooley and Ron 2002 ;Dolšak and Prakash 2021 ), falling prey to elite capture ( Dill 2009 ;Stroup and Wong 2017 ), and shifting attention from local needs to global aspirations ( Balboa 2018 ). These analyses propose a fundamental paradox: as TNGOs become larger and more successful, they also become less principled, collaborative, and effective at advancing their missions. ...
... This literature has explored not only TNGO competition ( Bob 2010 ), but also the failure of TNGOs to adopt deserving causes ( Carpenter 2007 ). This literature established a theoretical basis for explaining TNGO struggles, especially issues of mission drift driven by donor demands, competitive behavior, and power differentials privileging wealthy TNGOs and their agendas ( Jordan and Van Tuijl 2000 ;Dolšak and Prakash 2021 ). ...
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... Examining the validity of the NGO halo effect contributes to the growing literature on NGO unethical behavior (e.g., Dolšak & Prakash, 2021) and shows whether NGO unethical behavior can be seen as congruent with the positioning of NGOs as moral organizations (Greitemeyer & Sagioglou, 2018). Our research also responds to calls for empirical research to understand how (un)ethical behavior within organizations is promoted (Mitchell et al., 2020;Treviño et al. 2014;Treviño et al. 2006). ...
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This article explores the emergence of nonprofit self-regulation in long-established and emergent nonprofit sectors in Europe. An application of agency, resource dependence, and institutional theories to specific national cases reveals three predominant self-regulation types, compliance, adaptive, and professional models, conditioned on varied market, political, and social antecedents. The compliance system predominates in the Western European cases (Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria), where the nonprofit sector is long established and public regulation of the sector is weak. The adaptive model is evidenced in the United Kingdom, where the nonprofit sector is well established but self-regulation design shifts in response to changes in public regulation and the resource environment. The professional self-regulation type occurs when the nonprofit sector and its legal system both are emergent, as in Poland, with self-regulation emerging to shape philanthropic, civil society, and nonprofit practice. An analysis of the European context more broadly reveals that as self-regulation is emerging across a number of contexts, there is evidence of isomorphism.
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Recent assaults on foreign-funded civil society groups in Egypt and Russia reflect a worrisome trend: Since 2002, twenty countries have updated their laws to restrict foreign funding to NGOs. Under what conditions do governments set these restrictions in place? Using original data from nearly 100 countries and case studies of regime behavior in East Africa and the former Soviet Union, we find that vulnerable governments restrict foreign support to civil society when they feel vulnerable to domestic challenges. Yet, worries about international retaliation can restrain such behavior if governments believe that clamping down will cost them more than it is worth.
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Journal of Democracy 6.1 (1995) 65-78 As featured on National Public Radio, The New York Times, and in other major media, we offer this sold-out, much-discussed Journal of Democracy article by Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone." You can also find information at DemocracyNet about the Journal of Democracy and its sponsor, the National Endowment for Democracy. Many students of the new democracies that have emerged over the past decade and a half have emphasized the importance of a strong and active civil society to the consolidation of democracy. Especially with regard to the postcommunist countries, scholars and democratic activists alike have lamented the absence or obliteration of traditions of independent civic engagement and a widespread tendency toward passive reliance on the state. To those concerned with the weakness of civil societies in the developing or postcommunist world, the advanced Western democracies and above all the United States have typically been taken as models to be emulated. There is striking evidence, however, that the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades. Ever since the publication of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the United States has played a central role in systematic studies of the links between democracy and civil society. Although this is in part because trends in American life are often regarded as harbingers of social modernization, it is also because America has traditionally been considered unusually "civic" (a reputation that, as we shall later see, has not been entirely unjustified). When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, it was the Americans' propensity for civic association that most impressed him as the key to their unprecedented ability to make democracy work. "Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition," he observed, "are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types -- religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. . . . Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America." Recently, American social scientists of a neo-Tocquevillean bent have unearthed a wide range of empirical evidence that the quality of public life and the performance of social institutions (and not only in America) are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement. Researchers in such fields as education, urban poverty, unemployment, the control of crime and drug abuse, and even health have discovered that successful outcomes are more likely in civically engaged communities. Similarly, research on the varying economic attainments of different ethnic groups in the United States has demonstrated the importance of social bonds within each group. These results are consistent with research in a wide range of settings that demonstrates the vital importance of social networks for job placement and many other economic outcomes. Meanwhile, a seemingly unrelated body of research on the sociology of economic development has also focused attention on the role of social networks. Some of this work is situated in the developing countries, and some of it elucidates the peculiarly successful "network capitalism" of East Asia. Even in less exotic Western economies, however, researchers have discovered highly efficient, highly flexible "industrial districts" based on networks of collaboration among workers and small entrepreneurs. Far from being paleoindustrial anachronisms, these dense interpersonal and interorganizational networks undergird ultramodern industries, from the high tech of Silicon Valley to the high fashion of Benetton. The norms and networks of civic engagement also powerfully affect the performance of representative government. That, at least, was the central conclusion of my own 20-year, quasi-experimental study of subnational governments in different regions of Italy. Although all these regional governments seemed identical on paper, their levels of effectiveness varied dramatically. Systematic inquiry showed that the quality of governance was determined by longstanding traditions of civic engagement (or its absence). Voter turnout, newspaper readership, membership in choral societies and football clubs -- these were the hallmarks of a successful region. In fact, historical analysis suggested that these networks of organized reciprocity and civic solidarity...